“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)