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« Carol | Main | Wandering Around Ohio »

Back Pain

468325_spine_curves_of[1].jpgThe raw material for every writer is personal experience. My raw material for this piece comes at the courtesy of raw pain. Back pain. Pain that, in one nanosecond, lunges from dull ache to intense stabbing; that spreads from vaguely regional to precision locations; that makes itself heard from low moans to blood-curdling screams; that finds relief only in rolling around on the floor seeking an unattainable position that makes it stop hurting. But you have little interest in hearing about my pain. My bouts with x-rays, spine manipulation, ice packs, hot pads, electrode stimulators, injections, muscle relaxers, Motrin, Darvocet and all the other related trials and tribulations, remedies and treatments would bore all but the most macabre among us.

What you want to know is why. Why pain? What good is it? Why doesn’t it go away when the one thing we beg God for is to make it go away? And, oh yeah, we beg alright. I’m the biggest baby of all, begging God for relief, however slight, and strongly hinting to him that I don’t deserve this (therefore, he should be ashamed of himself in permitting me to hurt like this). I never quite heard his answer because, frankly, I was too busy moaning and rolling around on the floor. Later, I wondered why he wanted to humiliate me by forcing me to roll around in a wheelchair in front of the whole congregation.

Pain is bad. It makes us lose time off work. It makes us extremely selfish. We obsess on it so much that we pay scant attention to anyone else. It makes us cranky and hateful. We become big burdens to family and friends. Our lives come to a standstill until we can get rid of the pain. It can get expensive. Medicine, treatments, or surgeries cost enormous amounts of money. Besides all of that, it just makes us feel yucky. It brings out the worst in us. A person in pain is a miserable human being.

Jeremiah asked, “Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?” The prophet must have had back pain. It seems perpetual and defies a cure. It even makes one think that the God who promises healing is a liar. But then Jeremiah makes an astounding revelatory statement: “ Therefore thus saith the LORD… if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth.” Jeremiah 15:18-19 KJV. He admonished the saints to take the precious from the vile. In other words, even vile pain has a precious quality to it that must not be cast aside with the pain.

Just because pain is bad doesn’t mean it is all bad. Like anything else that comes along unexpectedly in life, pain catapults us into a brand new dimension of thought. And the good of pain goes beyond the obvious incentive to pray. Everybody knows that. Far more important, pain makes us reflect. We reflect on all the hours we wasted when we felt good. We reflect on how fortunate we were when we were not in pain. Health takes on a virtue that cannot possibly be understood without the backdrop of pain that sharpens the contrast. Hours of pain make us appreciate the few delicious seconds or minutes of relief that trickles down to us. It also humbles us to know that vast numbers of people deal with far worse pain, whether physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual.

Pain belongs to this dimension. Even saints have pain. The scripture, “there shall be no more pain” is set in heaven, when time shall be no more. Until then, we will deal with our share of pain, knowing that Christ has the cure to relieve us, and is the cure for us, even while we find ourselves in the midst of the pain.

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