I have lived a relatively pain-free life. Until recently. I can remember about a year ago when I was sitting at a meal with friends and the person next to me asked what was wrong with my neck. She went on to say that I seemed to be moving stiffly. I was surprised because I hadn’t even noticed.
Fast forward about three months and I did start to notice some pain in my shoulder. I pretty much tried to ignore the aching because I feared that perhaps I had injured my rotator cuff and my mind was full of horror stories of painful surgeries and even more painful therapeutic recoveries.
Then about six weeks ago at a routine checkup I mentioned to my doc how the pain seemed to traveling down my arm, seizing the bicep and causing tingly itchiness all the way down to my hand. I was having trouble typing on the computer, which all but put a halt to my writing.
My doc sent me for an x-ray of my neck and the findings supported her suspicion and diagnosis of degenerative osteoarthritis of the C5 and C6. Welcome to the perpetual pain club that goes along with getting older. Take your ticket directly to physical therapy and make friends with your nsaid.
Then I got sick, so-much-pain-I-couldn’t-move sick. Seems I had a wicked strep infection that my body responded to with an interesting, but non-life-threatening, condition called ermythia nodosum. I ended seeing a dermatologist and having a biopsy and a rheumatologist and gaining a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, along with several other multi-syllabic scary medical words.
Yesterday I wore tennis shoes to work. I was a little nervous about it. I work ten hours and the longest I had shoes on for almost a month was about a three hour stretch. Other than soreness in my shoulder, I’m feeling pretty normal. I’m quite happy to report that I wore the shoes all through the day, right up to bedtime!
Normal. Just what is that? And what will it look like in the future? How does one learn to live with pain? I have watched my husband be in chronic pain for thirty years. I have seen him cycle in and out of major depression because of it. I have made excuses upon excuses for his moodiness and the dark cloud of pain that has hounded him for so long. I don’t want to let my pain control my moods. I have seen it try…I didn’t like the way I responded.
As I pondered this, my thoughts seemed to automatically go to Paul’s prayer for the thorn in his flesh to be removed. Paul: God, take this away. I can’t do everything you want me to do with this. Others will see this problem and focus on how you seem unable to remove it. That can’t be good PR for an al- powerful and lavishly gracious God.
And God says: No. Nope. Not going to do it. See, the more dependent upon me that you are, the more you will find that I am all you need and that I will give you just what you need, right when you need it. Not one minute before. And it will feel like I’m late, like I’m not paying attention. Do not give into that lie. See, here’s the thing when you come to the end of yourself, your answers, your strategies, your strength, I AM there. When you’ve come to the end yourself I AM. And I will be. I will be your strength. And I will be your joy.
On the first Sunday back to church in a month, I had the blessed opportunity to sing a duet with my pastor, a godly man with a wonderful tenor voice. We sang the old hymn, “Day by Day.” Words that went straight to my heart. Psalm 84:7 describes how the followers of God go from “strength to strength.” There is no gap, no space where His strength is not available to us. No space whatsoever. None. Day by day, every hour, moment by moment, the Lord himself is near me, with a special mercy for each hour. For you too.
My prayer is that when the pain is bad, and the heart is weary, that God will make His strength known, both in my head and my heart, my feelings…because that’s the place where the gap sometimes forms for me. When what I’m feeling hurts and screams louder than what I know to be true from God’s Word, I need to lean hard on the One bridges the gap.
Have pain? Need strength? Leaning hard?