Blog

...Like a tree (Psalm 1:3) Online Newsletter/Blog

Living with Chronic Pain

By Julie Ganschow

But I am afflicted and in pain; may Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high.
Psalm 69:29 (NASB)

This is a topic for which people commonly seek counseling.

No one wants to live in pain. Our society spends billions of dollars annually on methods of avoiding pain of all kinds. We refuse to have emotional or physical pain continue for more than an hour if we can help it! At the first sign of a headache many will run for the over-the-counter pain reliever and expect that ingesting 2 or 3 pills will make it stop. When their pain persists for another hour they become cranky and out of sorts and will sometimes take more pain reliever in an attempt to rid themselves of the pain.

When over-the-counter pain relievers fail or only serve to dull the pain, people turn to their physician for help. They ask for something stronger, longer lasting, or more effective than what they have been taking. If that does not take away the pain, they are referred to a Pain Specialist, a doctor who specializes in managing chronic pain of all kinds. Often, a visit to another kind of clinician is also arranged to help the patient “deal with their depression” or other emotional response living this way has brought about.

In short order, many patients become medicated zombies whose lives are ruled by what time the next pill is to be taken, and the management of the multiple side effects of all the medications being ingested. In some cases there seems to be no option except to take many medications to lower the pain to a manageable level for working or functioning in daily life.

While the medical profession is making gains in many areas, the causes of chronic pain are still often elusive. It is not as easy to understand as it looks! There are multiple systems of the body in play when a person has pain. The feelings of pain are realized when the sensory nerves in the various parts of the body send a message to your brain that you are hurt. If I am hit on the hand with a stick, the sensory nerves in my hand would send a message into my spine and my spine would relay that message to my brain. My brain would get the message, “OUCH!” and tell me to move away from the source of the pain.

The realization of pain is not only physical, it is also realized emotionally. You and I could both be hit by the same stick in an identical manner and we would feel it differently; we would respond differently.

Your thoughts about pain as well as your personal history of pain will also factor into how you respond and react to it. One person who has lived with pain for a period of time will be emotionally worn down from it; another will view it as a challenge to be overcome. Some will respond with depressive thoughts, and still others will remain upbeat and optimistic throughout.

What is not elusive is the effects of pain on the lives of the people who suffer.

Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable? Jeremiah 15:18 (NASB)

Your thoughts about pain as well as your personal history of pain will also factor into how you respond and react to it. One person who has lived with pain for a period of time will be emotionally worn down from it; another will view it as a challenge to be overcome. Some will respond with depressive thoughts, and still others will remain upbeat and optimistic throughout.

I am often asked to counsel women who are in chronic pain, and I see the effects of it on lives every day.

Like everything else, pain will reveal what is going on in the heart of a person. If the heart of the sufferer is on themselves rather than on God, how they respond to the affliction will be very different than when the heart is focused on glorifying God in spite of the pain.

The heart that is fixed on “self” will make relief from pain its focus. The person’s whole identity can become wrapped up in their pain and seeking relief. They live life through the perspective of being a victim. It would be common to hear them utter phrases like:

  • I must have relief from my pain
  • I must feel better
  • I deserve to feel better
  • I don’t deserve to be hurting like this
  • I will spare no expense to be pain-free
  • No one understands my pain
  • I can’t do (blank) because of my pain

As difficult as it is to understand, a person who is focused on relief from pain has become an idolater. It is idolatry because there is no room for anything in the heart other than “relief” and seeking relief becomes the object of worship. There is little to no room for worship of God in their heart.

It would be highly unusual for a person to knowingly seek out this type of idolatry, but remember, the heart is deceptive and wicked (Jer. 17:9) and often we deceive ourselves. A person’s thoughts, beliefs, and desires will reveal what the heart is focusing on.

If you are a chronic pain sufferer, I would challenge you to prayerfully examine your heart in light of Scripture. What thoughts do you think with respect to the pain you live with? Do you believe that God does not know how much you hurt? Do you desire relief more than you desire to glorify God in spite of your pain?

If you now understand that you have become an idolater there is hope for change! Jesus has come to forgive sin, and your release from the sin of idolatry begins with confession and repentance.

Jesus experienced every human suffering you and I do, and more. He suffered because we suffer; He hurt because we hurt; He grieved because we grieve; He has gone before us in suffering and pain that we might be encouraged in suffering and pain. He is also the answer to our suffering and pain.

The suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross have made it possible for our miserable pain and suffering to one day end. It has also made it possible for us to endure pain and suffering in the present. You see, the joy that was set before Christ (Heb 12:2) was our freedom from the curses of Genesis 3! Freedom from pain for all eternity in our future life!

This reality must become the lens through which we endure our present sufferings. Our pain today while not pleasant is purposeful. God is working in the midst of every painful episode you have today. Sadly, we disbelieve these truths because our experiences tend to dictate our reality. We believe that if something feels bad, it must be bad. If something hurts me, it cannot be good!

This is entirely backward from how the Christian is to respond as it is unbiblical. Regardless of how something looks or feels to us, God’s Word always trumps our feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Scripture must become our measuring stick; we must search the Word and allow those truths to reframe our painful experiences.

The unbelievable reality is: pain has a purpose in your life and its purpose is good.
Julie Ganschow is the director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center and a member of FCC.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

Leave a Comment (0) ↓