“It’s like having a baby out your shoulder!” That is how my physical therapist described the pain associated with the shoulder surgery and subsequent therapy I have been through during the past six months. It truly has been excruciating, especially certain stretches and exercises he has subjected me to. So now when my wife says I can’t sympathize with the pain a woman experiences in childbirth, I can say, “Well, actually…” :).
Truth is, I have never really experienced pain before. Bad pain. Pain that requires taking serious medication for months on end. Pain that discourages. Now, I realize, what I have been through is insignificant compared to what many people face. But it has given me a new appreciation for what happens when people hurt. I’ve learned a few things.
- When people tell me about their physical, emotional, or mental suffering, I listen in a way I did not before. Pain is very personal, and is in the forefront of the sufferer’s mind. Listening to someone share their experience is a way to show love. And listening with genuine interest and concern can encourage them to persevere.
- Prolonged pain can bring discouragement and depression. A hurting person can lose hope. Even if a healing process is in place, one can wonder if he will ever get better. The person suffering from pain associated with extended or terminal illness may reach a point of despair, or fear even greater pain. Family members and friends who show love and speak truth encourage the sufferer more than they may realize. People who stay close, stay in touch, and stay in for the duration, are a source of hope.
- Little things mean a lot. It’s not bothersome for people to ask, “Hey, how’s therapy going?” I’ve been really encouraged by people who have helped me do things I couldn’t. The help is appreciated, the concern and gift of time mean even more. More than they know.
- Hard times are growing times. It’s always true, but I forget. And when God allows a hard time in my life, it hits me at some point along the way that He is growing me. Suffering matures a believer. Suffering that is the result of a cycling accident, like mine, or that comes with old age, or cancer, or grief, or financial loss. God uses these experiences to forge character, develop dependence on Him, tenderize calloused hearts, chasten His children, and bring us closer to people.
I’ve learned more, but these are a few things on my mind. I thank God that He “comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
4 thoughts on “Learning from Pain”
Thanks for sharing this great lesson you have learned over these past months. After suffering with chronic illness for 25 years, the last few getting worse, there are times I say to the Lord “have I not grown enough yet?!!” Surely I must have matured by now! 🙂 But I guess not in His eyes. Some of us are slower learners than others, I guess! We truly do become better listeners and have more sympathy/empathy with others when we have suffered too. God is good to continue to teach us as well as meet our needs and possibly even use us sometimes!
I don’t believe that everything God does can be captured in a formula, like “suffering is to grow us to maturity.” I believe some sufferers are already mature. Why the suffering continues, we may never know till heaven. But we do know the author of our salvation, and that He is all powerful and all good. So we cling to Him . . .
Thank you Pastor Dean, I too can relate with you and so many others. Having a chronic illness with times of great pain and fatigue can really get you down. Thanks be to God, we get new glorified bodies someday. Till then we press on, to the prize in Him! I have come to believe our temporary pain may also be for the growth and benefit of our family and friends. I don’t always represent the Lord as I should when in the middle of the flair up, but He gives more grace. I pray you will heal thoroughly and minister faithfully.
Having lived with 37 years of pain that has worsened with age and finally getting some diagnoses, I think you have some great insights and so do your earlier commenter’s. My prayer is He will use it all for His good. Not waste the time down in pain and fatigue…and may times, only He knows the good. I am to press on, not quit and keep looking up. Thanks.