On Pain

I finally figured it out.

It will sound crazy to most people, I’m certain, but then, most of the time when one of us flawed humans utters the phrase, “I’ve finally figured it out”, the rest of us tend to don hard hats, hip waders, or whatever other analogy you like to signify the expectation of flawed reasoning, outright falsehoods, or else the kind of rhetoric once found primarily on internet sites like Angelfire and Geocities, usually centered 20 point Times Roman set to blink.  Nothing makes a crazy point crazier than blinking text.

So here goes.  For the last several years, I’ve been living with fairly constant pain.  I think I know why this is happening to me.

On the surface, the problem seems to be that I had some teeth extracted, and when I did, terrible things happened to my jaw, which has in turn caused me to suffer from TMJ.  That’s the non blinky text response.

The real reason, I think, is to teach me about character, and about parenting.

I don’t believe things happen for no reason.  I’m in good company; Einstein said that God doesn’t play dice with the world.  Of course, if He did, we’d be in for something of a bumpy ride, but I get the point Al was trying to make; we aren’t subject to random acts of a whimsical deity.  Scripture has a lot to say on this, and I feel that the Bible is somewhat more authoritative on this point.  I like Proverbs 16:9 most: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

We’re not always given to understand things.  Why a son commits suicide, why a father is lost in an accident, or why people suffer from terrible illnesses.  There’s always going to be someone who’s got it worse than I do, someone who’s situation defies even the most seasoned of silver lining detectors.  I can never explain why, and I don’t try.  You see,  I tend to look at these things like rainbows.

In order for a rainbow to be visible, you have to have just the right density of water vapor refracting towards the viewer at an angle of 42 degrees.  We see that rainbow because our viewing angle permits it, but that’s not what’s creating the rainbow; the rainbows are there all the time.  There are thousands of potential rainbows, viewable to anyone able to stand at just the right angle.  In fact, there are some angles which allow one to see a complete circle of a rainbow.

Along those lines, I believe that our lives, and the ultimate good to which our Father leads us are like those round rainbows.  We can’t see them all the time, but for an omniscient Being, able to see everything from every angle…well, you get the idea.  Rainbows everywhere, even in places that, from our perspective, seem dark.

But that’s not what I came to understand.  What I’ve learned is that I am a brat.  I am a terrible person who suffers from that most common of afflictions: I believe that life should be easy. And for the most part, it has been.

I get angry at the guy who cuts me off in traffic, forgetting that the universe was not designed to protect me from the actions of my fellow brats.  Rather than forgive the knucklehead in front of me, modeling the actions of my savior, I allow myself to act callously, and I shout and holler.  Pitiful, really, when my trivial first world problems compare to Christ’s forgiveness of his executioners, of us all, even from the very cross.

And so that brings us to these headaches.  I’ve learned a lot about myself in the course of the last four or five years.  For example, I’ve learned that our personas are not indivisible singletons.  We are lights, just as the Lord described us.  Those lights, like rainbows, are comprised of many different shades, different components, which vary in strength sometimes.  I have felt myself, that part of me which is me, shine on a few rare days like a torch, and gutter on my worst days like a votive candle in a high wind.

I’ve learned that pain is as multifaceted as our personas.  Some pain can be dealt with, can be worked through.  Some pain is as death; debilitating to points beyond reason, to lead to moments where the desire, the need for relief becomes the only coherent thought left.  Pain can affect you in ways that you would never expect.  I’ve lost balance, lost vision, lost the ability to reason, to control my emotions.

Through all of this pain, however, I’ve not yet learned the one lesson which I now believe to be the reason for this suffering.  I’ve never learned to suffer joyfully.  I’ve never learned to place others over my own torment, and I believe that I will continue to suffer at least until I do.  I may suffer beyond this lesson, but that’s inconsequential.

Rather than take to my bed, I must learn to continue working for my family, to continue to, at the barest of minimums, be there for these little people who are little for so short a time.  I must show them that suffering does not relieve us from the obligations to our Lord and to each other; I must show them that it is possible to suffer gladly, and to do that, I must stop attempting to find the strength within myself, but rely upon the strength of He who made me.  In Christ, all things are truly possible.

So, summary time, the pithy little wind up to send you on your way, like an after dinner mint.  Never been good at those, but I’ll take a swing.  Before I do though, I would say one other thing.  I don’t have the first clue of what kind of hardships that you, dear reader, are facing.  I hear stories, regularly, from people in all walks of life that shake me down to my boots from empathy.  I am in no way trying to tell you that what I’ve come to realize is an explanation for me in any shape or form applies to you.  I can’t see that rainbow that the disparate facets of your life, of your pain, are casting to glorify God.  I can only see a faint arc of my own.

Nietzsche said that that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  I think Nietzsche was ahead of his time; he’d have had a great page on Angelfire.  He didn’t think about celery, and he didn’t think about time.  Time both strengthens us all, and eventually kills us all.  Which time is doing to you presently depends on your point of view.  Like rainbows.

And celery, well.. Think about it.

Anyhow, summary: I suffer for the same reason that we forge steel; to strengthen me, to brighten me so that I may better reflect the glory of our Lord, and to teach me.  This isn’t crazy.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Vicki Arnold
    Twitter: Vicki_arnold
    February 14, 2013, 7:40 am

    Reminds me of Paul and his thorn in his flesh. God works all things for good for those who love the Lord, we just don’t always get (or let ourselves) to see the good here. Makes life hard at times, but it is His promise of this I’m clinging to right now.

  • Roberta February 14, 2013, 9:08 am

    Really enjoyed your commentary on the human condition…..I, too, have suffered through lots of physical pain, and emotional pain, and grief…..and if I had let it, it would have destroyed me. But, being saved by the blood of the lamb, and believing in God’s plan for my life has strengthened me, shored up my character, and made me empathetic towards my fellow man…. Thanks for the reminder today!!!!

  • Cindy February 14, 2013, 10:17 am

    You’re gonna love my post next week, Jesse. I SWEAR I wrote it before you wrote this.

  • Dawn aka One Faithful Mom February 14, 2013, 10:25 am

    I am just one little unknown mom in SC, working out my salvation in fear and trembling every day…um, I mean I have 10 kids and I am still homeschooling 8 of them. Yeah, that’s it.
    Anyway, I have this hip injury thing from a car accident 18 yrs ago, and it just gives me a fit sometimes. There are days when I can’t stand up, literally. So I don’t.
    But there are those “other” days…those days when it hurts like you know what, but the work must be done, the kids must be fed, the laundry must run, the food mustbe cooked, the schoolwork must be executed…etc.
    On those days, when I want nothing more than to crawl into my bed and take something for the pain; instead I must press on. I press on for THEM. They need me. They need a Mom who is with them, not doped up in bed.
    I have been praying for you, Jesse. Just getting to know your wife a little bit thru this crazy thing called internet, and I have been praying.
    Just wanted to encourage you that there are others who have pain, but somehow, we make it thru. I will be praying that God will give you the strength you need to be there for your little guys. And for Cindy.
    I really enjoyed the post BTW.

    • Cindy February 14, 2013, 10:36 am

      I particularly enjoyed the blinkie text. Jesse says he misses our Angelfire page. I can’t say I agree. Blogging is much better for making friends and influencing people. And it looks much saner, even when it isn’t. ;-)

      • Dawn February 14, 2013, 4:31 pm

        The blinkie text was awesome.

  • Rebecca
    Twitter: momsmustardseed
    February 14, 2013, 11:21 am

    suffering with joy – looking for the rainbow despite my perspective. Yes… those are things I have been pondering. The pain of the past, pain I have caused and have been caused at the hands of others. Physical pain, I watched my mother endure – it came between us. Kept us from a relationship, yet she was able to move past it for other relationships. Pain upon pain. Yet, my perspective as a parent – regarding that is different than it was as a child. I always look forward to your posts here and Cindy’s. you keep me thinking, pondering…keeping me out of the muck -

  • Rachel @ BubblyNatureCreations.com
    Twitter: BubblyNature
    February 14, 2013, 11:25 am

    I had GREAT pain in pregnancy… a chronic type of pain that afflicts a lot of women in pregnancy and even debilitates some who have it. At the time I just wanted to get it over with… I could barely walk for crying out loud! Now that I’ve lost another child to miscarriage I would take that pain in a heartbeat if I knew there was a living being inside of me. Of course I may need to be reminded of this next time around if God so chooses to bless us again! :P Perspective and asking God what he wants to teach us through the pain is so key! Thanks for that reminder!!!!

  • Amber Dover February 14, 2013, 5:05 pm

    ((hugs)) from a fellow being in pain. I think of it this way…..though some days I just want to whine lol….but back to my point….I think “Well, at least that means I’m alive. I wouldn’t want to be a Leper. ” Sometimes I pretend that I’m on this really kewl journey across mountains and forests. So naturally I hurt because I’ve been walking so long and fighting dragons etc…just comes with the job. I’m not just a Mom! I’m a warrior! ;)

    • Cindy February 14, 2013, 5:48 pm

      Woman of valor!

  • Linda
    Twitter: lindadifino
    February 14, 2013, 6:33 pm

    Thanks for a GREAT post, Jesse. I am currently suffering what I hope will be a short season of suffering. I am undergoing chemotherapy for the treatment of ovarian cancer. My side effects have become quite debilitating most of the time and I have found myself considering the same questions that you have asked. And coming to some of the same conclusions.

    There is a purpose in all of this and I believe the purpose comes down to what the Lord wants to do in my heart through the suffering. When Jesus suffered in the garden an angel came and ministered to Him. And it says that he strengthened him. But after the angel left, Jesus still suffered. I’ve been pondering that and realizing that my prayer should be to be delivered through the trial rather than from the trial. Exactly where you seem to be as well!

    So I’m praying with you and for you. Praying for HIS lessons in the midst of the suffering. That you (and I) will suffer well and through it all bring glory to the God who has allowed suffering to touch our lives.

    But also praying that in his time, you will be delivered FROM the suffering! Because that too would bring Him glory!

  • Kerry
    Twitter: kerrybeck
    February 15, 2013, 5:07 pm

    Cindy,
    Great post. Thanks for your honesty.
    I also live in pain that comes & goes. I believe God uses that pain to drive me to HIM.

    I could barely walk in November and He was the only one who could help me. I am glad he’s shown me some ways to alleviate my pain. However, I don’t take my health or pain-free days for granted.

    It’s amazing when I am thankful to walk upstairs or down the street.
    Thanks for reminding me of why I suffer.

    Kerry

  • Alana February 18, 2013, 1:17 pm

    Thank you. Just this morning I told my husband that it is so hard to have a pleasant attitude when I’m gritting my teeth because of pain… Then I read this. It was exactly what I needed to hear. :0)

  • Lucy February 18, 2013, 1:25 pm

    You’ve probably tried it, but there are many reports of progesterone therapy giving significant improvement to migraines.

  • Jen @ One Moms World
    Twitter: onemomsworld
    February 19, 2013, 10:14 pm

    I am sorry that you have to continue to experience this pain. I, understand all to well. I have been dealing with the jaw pain and TMJ since I was 12 years old. There is part of me that feels like the pain has put out the welcome mat and made himself comfortable since I have got so use to it. I hope you will be able to find ways to help your through this and you are right, we have to continue to serve our Lord and provide for our families.