Have you ever experienced long-term enduring pain?
I have. And I am.
Pain can be debilitating and disheartening. Sometimes even pre-occupying. I’m glad it has an expiry date.
Two years ago I had surgery for a hernia on my left side that had gotten quite a bit out of control. Prayers were answered when during the whole covid mess I had my surgery date move up from October to July, 2020. My uncontrollable month started near the end of May and I had wondered how I was going to make it to October. Praise God that surgery came available in July.
Surgery was a tough go for me. Many guys I know breezed through similar surgery with minimal recovery time, but here I was 5 weeks after surgery just beginning some recovery stretches and exercises. And to this day my surgery incision area still aggravates me daily.
And then to top it all off, two weeks back I was diagnosed with another potential hernia on my right side shown by an ultrasound examination. It showed a smaller hernia than last time (at this point only 1.6 cm in diameter), but it is a very uncomfortable inguinal hernia just the same. Daily I feel limited in so many ways.
Discomfort had surfaced within weeks after my first surgery. I had started feeling a dull aggravating pain developing in my lower right abdomen and upper right leg. My lifting capacity had never completely restored. It’s amazing how much of daily movement and lifting goes through the abdominal muscles. I watch people lift their kids, lift packages, lift chairs, lift heavy objects… and I am so envious. It’s not possible for me right now… after all this time. Hopefully some day again.
That’s why I had gone back to the doctor for a check up. The pain and discomfort just wouldn’t go away. That’s why I ended up getting an ultrasound.
To confirm the ultrasound findings, a few days ago I went to Shouldice Hospital (the hernia specialist hospital I had gone to for my left side). The examination doctor there ignored my ultrasound report, and after a brief physical examination told me no hernia could be found. A second doctor was called in to confirm it — he also said no hernia was found. I walked out in utter confusion. I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad. Now what? I have an ultrasound report conflicting with the specialist and I’m not sure who’s right…and I’m still stuck with pain. (Come to think of it, when I was admitted last time to Shouldice for surgery, the examination doctor had also told me he could not find a hernia either — and it was far worse!!! After an agonizing examination room he finally said he found it. I am starting to lose faith in this “specializing” hospital.)
So pain continues to be an on-going annoyance that affects so much of what I do. I have this constant reminder that something isn’t right with my body and it’s frustrating. Some days I start doing some activities hoping that the pain will ease up and today would be that day that things improve… but then those old familiar aggravations show up. Another day of constant pain. Will it be the same as yesterday… maybe better? Or maybe slightly worse??
I look around at people doing all kinds of normal daily things, like walking or running, and I wonder if they are thankful for their freedom of movement… movement without hinderance or pain. I wonder too how many people suffer with some kind of on-going pain that debilitates them too. Maybe there are others who cover up their pain (which I attempt but don’t always do a good job of). And maybe there are those like me who look around and wonder, ‘Am I the only one suffering?? How come everyone else seems fine?’
Then it hit me.
Many are not fine. Many, if not most, experience pain of some kind.
Some have physical pain like me… and perhaps many even a lot worse. Some have emotional pain, mental pain, relational pain, and maybe even spiritual pain on top of physical pain…
And in the pain we mourn the loss of those things we used to do.
God, why does life have to hurt so much??? God where are you??? God why don’t you answer?? Why do you see me?? Won’t You do something?
Do you ever have thoughts or cries like this?
Let’s just pause in the pain. Our pain sucks. Our discomforts and brokenness suck. Our physical ailments suck. My hernia (or whatever it is), well… it sucks. I wish for, pray, and hope it would just disappear. You probably wish your pain would disappear too. And all the wishing and praying seems to do nothing.
Stop. Through it all PAIN does something to us. It brings us to a recognition of how dependent we are…how dependent we are on the very God we cry out to and ask, WHY?
We are dependent on His sustaining us in and delivering us from pain. Pain has an expiry date.
Pain also reminds us that something isn’t right. With our bodies, yes, but also with our world.
And whether we like it or not, God has a reason for our pain. There’s an old saying, “No pain is wasted.” In the pain we are called, even compelled, to shift focus. Life as it was cruising along took a shift. Things slowed, some things even stopped. Things taken for granted became greatly appreciated.
We do not have control over our health… even though the latest mantra tempted to compel us along the lines of “do this and you’ll be safe.” Don’t believe it. We can’t ensure our health and safety. Our health is not in our hands, nor in the hands of any doctor, surgeon, or any entity… including the government.
Our health is actually in the hands of the only One who understands our pain better than we ourselves understand or experience it… Jesus Christ. We are in His care. And He is the One who willing entered into this pain-filled vale of tears (i.e. this life) and took pain upon Himself.
The reason we suffer pain in the first place is because we live in a fallen world… fallen in that this world and all who dwell in it are separated from God. By rebellion. That’s right. God made the world very good and humans rebelled against Him and thus separated themselves from Him plunging the world into suffering, sin, and misery. But God’s plan continues unabated. So, our great need in this realm of pain is that we become reconciled to God, or you could say, that our sin account becomes ‘balanced’…. or paid in full.
What account? And how can it get paid in full?
Our account of sin and stain. Not pain… pain is a ripple effect, an after effect. No, our account of sin and stain. Filthy stains. Stains that are putrid in God’ sight and separate us from Him. Sin and stain have no place in the presence of a most holy God. But instead of leaving us isolated and lost in sin and pain, God did something about our desperate condition. He showed up Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. That’s right. God went on a mission of love and God showed up Himself to save us.
And when He showed up, He showed up to die. He showed up to pay our account of sin and stain off in full.
You see, all of the days of Jesus Christ, (who is Creator of the universe), on earth were an enduring suffering of one sort or another. He was separated from His Father, born in humility as a baby, He lived in utter simplicity (as opposed to heavenly glory), He was rejected by men, He lived in the realm of sin and misery where disease, brokenness, and death were prevalent, and ended up being nailed to a cross by the people He came to save. He died an immensely painful death on the cross… dreadful physically in that it was one of the most gruesome deaths a person could die, but dreadful spiritually in that He endured the full wrath of God against the sin of all humanity!! What a painful death He died indeed! All to bring you and me back into relationship with the God who made us…. all to deliver us eternally from this realm of pain…. including your and my personal pain. All we have to do is believe in Him.
So my daily pain?
Daily I have to remind myself that if Jesus lived a challenging life and died a gruesome and painful death for me, He must have some idea, no, He must have the complete idea of why I am suffering the PAIN that I am. And He must be fully aware of what He is doing in and through this, particularly when I don’t see it… or perhaps can’t see it. Some days all I can do is yell out, ‘God have mercy!’ or ‘God please take it away!’
But if I was important enough to die for, He must know what He is doing having me endure discomforts and pain while living this life.
Plus there is an old psalm that says all of my days are marked out before any one of them came to be. (Psalm 139 vs 16). So I will live out all the days ordained for me. And if I live them out in pain, even then they will not be cut short. And then there is also a writing from James, the half brother of Jesus, that says, “Count it all joy when you suffer trials of various kinds”, because it fits in line with the testing and purifying of our faith — which brings us back to things of eternal consequence, to keeping an eternal perspective. Wow, my suffering and pain need a constant recalibration in light of eternity — daily. Otherwise I lose sight.
So each day I must fix my sights… fix my eyes… on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith and life. He has this day, and my life (which He purchased with His blood), and my pain, in the palm of His hands. Yes, Mark, you can trust Him. Through the challenges and the pain He is displaying what His grace looks like to me through the pain. He has also promised that this world of sin, misery, and pain is a passing through. That’s right. We’re moving towards a new heaven and new earth. These former things will pass away. Along with all our pain. Pain has an expiry date… when we believe in this Jesus who came and secured this for us, by His suffering and pain. All we have to do is put our faith in Him right now, pain and all.
The only time pain does not have an expiry date is if we continue in the original rebellion and sin we had against God and disregard Jesus. Then the pain of this world will not only continue, but intensify forever into eternity. As the old saying goes, ‘Hell is where God is not.’ We do not want to go that pain route. That route ends in the lake of fire.
So can I count it all joy to suffer? No. Not alone. And that’s why it’s so amazing too, that Jesus gave us of His Spirit to sustain us while on earth. Because He knew ahead of time that things in this vail of tears…things of this current world, would be tough. And we’d only be able to count it all joy if it were He showing up in us.
Does all this make the pain go away? Sometimes. Sometimes Jesus will even heal us of our pain. Maybe by the power of prayer, maybe through the hands of doctors, or through a diet change and exercise, or sometimes through His miraculous healing touch. But often He leaves us in our pain also, to refine us by it. ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ Jesus said to one of His earliest followers.
We may dislike refining. We dislike pain. We want instant gratification. We hate being reminded of our weaknesses and incapacity. But then again, it is in weakness that God shows up the best. “When we are weak, He is strong,” is the Biblical reality. God is ready to act when we ourselves are at our limit.
So be encouraged. Our pain is seen and known by God and totally in His plan. And His plan includes an expiry date for pain.
Sometimes God delivers us in the here and now. Other times we must suffer to the end of life on this earth and experience full deliverance in the realm of eternity.
If His Son saved us through pain, that was done so that when we leave this realm of pain, we will never have to face pain again. And while in the pain He asks, “Knowing everything you know about Me, and what I’ve done for you in Christ, will you trust Me through the pain of this trial? Will you trust Me in light of eternity?”
With that eternal view, pain really does have an expiry date. And it is therein that we find purpose to endure.