On the positive side, we must acknowledge that we’d be in trouble without pain. Pain is the alarm that warns us of injury or illness. Pain causes a response to withdraw from the source of injury or to seek treatment when injury has already occurred. Oftentimes pain is the reason we seek the diagnostic treatment needed to reveal a systemic illness. Our body tells us when something is wrong, and that is a blessing based on God’s perfect design.
My niece Jenny knows well the danger of losing the ability to feel pain. She is a quadriplegic, and that loss of feeling carries risks. She has often suffered serious burns or chafing injuries because she can not sense the danger. There is no alarm to tell her to withdraw from the source of heat or remedy whatever situation is placing her body in danger.
However, those who struggle with chronic pain, a continual stabbing, screaming companion, know that on most days it’s hard to see pain as good. I am one of those; maybe you are too. And maybe, like me, you occasionally struggle with depression because of the oppressive nature of pain.
Approximately six years ago I sought treatment from Philadelphia’s top orthopedic surgeon. My hip joints were bone on bone, and I had struggled with intense pain for years because we were underinsured.
After examining my x-rays, this surgeon asked, “How have you stood it for so long?” I responded by telling him that medication dulled the pain. Then he said, “No, I mean the depression. How have you stood the depression?”
He then went on to explain that studies show depression is a natural, almost expected, result of an individual’s experiencing chronic pain for three months or more.
Wow. Three months? I had been a chronic pain sufferer for about 30 years at that point. While this revelation did not give me an excuse for a pity party, it did help me to understand my personal struggle. I was able to release that heavy yoke of guilt.
As a Christian, shouldn’t I walk in joy? Frankly, the answer is, “Yes, I should.” Joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and I am free to choose to walk in my spiritual giftedness. But I’ve also learned that unrelenting pain takes a toll, even on those most determined to shine.
The purpose of this blog is to encourage those of you who might be struggling with depression due to chronic pain or illness. Know that you are not alone. Know that you are not a failure. And remember, it is through our weakness that His power is demonstrated. (II Corinthians 12:7-10)
The following poem was shared with me by a friend years ago. It continues to bless me. I pray it will bless you as well:
Pain knocked upon my door and said
That she had come to stay.
And though I would not welcome her
But bade her go away.
She entered in; like my own shade
She followed after me.
And from her stabbing, stinging sword
No moment was I free.
And then one day another knocked
Most gently at my door.
I cried, “No, Pain is living here;
There is no room for more.”
And then I heard His tender voice,
“Tis I, be not afraid,”
And from the day He entered in –
The difference that He made!
For though He did not bid her leave,
(My strange, unwelcome guest),
He taught me how to live with her.
Oh, I had never guessed
That we could dwell so sweetly here,
My Lord and Pain and I,
Within this fragile house of clay
While years slip slowly by.
~ Martha Snell Nicholson
Joy in Jesus,