Almost ten years ago I took a short term position as a Physical Therapist Assistant in an outpatient orthopedic clinic. I remember this like it was yesterday. I can be skeptical of people who state they have back pain. With some patients I filtered their back issues and pain through my own experiences having thoracolumbar scoliosis. Honestly, at times I was so judgmental I would think to myself, “how can it be that bad?!”
Well, it was not long after I started this job that the Lord allowed me to experience back pain in a way in which I cannot describe. It was horrific! I learned empathy real quick, I can tell you that! I remember saying, “Lord, I repent!” as if my cry of repentance would make it go away immediately. The only thing that calmed me was muttering to myself, multiple times a day:
So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NLT).
God has also allowed me to experience digestive issues. I know what it is like to be afraid to eat because of pain. There is an emotional toll of knowing that you need to eat to live that gets mixed with the fear of having pain, making the situation more complicated.
Through these two painful experiences God taught me one very important lesson and one very important question to ask Him.
The lesson I learned was that it is easy to see that when someone has their leg in a cast, or their arm in a sling, or a brace around their knee, or using crutches that they have a physical issue. It is NOT easy to visualize a person’s problem when it is internal such as back, GI or neurological pain. We need to ask God to help us listen to a person’s pain rather than being dismissive or judgmental.
The life changing question that God taught me to ask Him was “is this real or perceived pain?” Is my back really hurting or am I being fearful that I will have pain? I have learned that the devil will use my fear of pain to distract me and keep me from stepping out in faith and trying new things. I literally have to ask God if the pain I am experiencing is real or perceived. While most times for me it is legitimate pain, there are times when it is not.
There are numerous times in my life where God has not taken my pain or healed me as I wanted; however, He has most certainly helped me endure. God has given me a greater appreciation for the times when I am pain free, and in my pain He taught me to trust and rest in Him.
Dear reader, I have NO clue what your pain looks like nor what the pain of your loved one looks like. I am in NO way minimizing or trivializing you or your loved one. I do know first hand that the devil loves to keep us worried, fearful and focused on our pain. The devil will NEVER point us to the Lord who will help us process our pain.
Father God, few things are as debilitating as physical pain, and the fear of it. Thank You, Jesus, that You know first hand the debilitating nature of pain. Lord God, I ask that You help us to discern if our pain is real or perceived. Help us to be vigilant and aware without being nervous and fearful. Lord God, help us to have empathy to those who are hurting. Help us to not add to people’s pain. Lord God, thank You that You are with us in our pain. Lord God, thank You for this reader. Lord God, give us wisdom, discernment and common sense when it comes to dealing with the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual toll COVID-19 is having on us all. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.