Chronic Pain - A Personal Story
I suffer chronic pain from a condition called RSD -- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. This disease, recently renamed Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, has been documented since the Civil War, yet still is little-recognized, even within the medical community. RSD is characterized by chronic burning pain that is often excruciating. I have swelling, color changes and temperature changes that accompany the pain in my dominant arm. My arm is hypersensitive. If someone lightly touches my skin, it feels like I've been slapped. Water from the shower makes me feel like I'm being pelted with rocks. Cool air from air conditioning is quite painful, so I keep a sweater with me regardless of the temperature. It's painful to lift anything that weighs over three pounds -- including my baby granddaughter on the day she was born. The pain increases with any activity that requires a gripping or grasping motion of the fingers, including writing, eating or brushing my hair. Any movement of my wrist that turns my hand palm up or down also increases my pain.
Chronic Pain - Why Me God?
As a Christian with chronic pain, I wondered why God allowed me to acquire this condition or why He didn't healed me from it. I believed He was capable of healing me. I guess every Christian at one point or another asks "Why?" In my case, I think I was fortunate to find the answer...
In talking to a friend one day, I remarked that I had been praying, prior to my injury, to have a more intimate relationship with my Savior. I had "religion," but I wanted a deeper relationship. I was a good wife, had been married for 32 years to the same man, and was a successful mother of two wonderful daughters - now grown women. And I had two wonderful grandchildren who loved their Nana. But something was still missing my in life.
As the charge nurse in an operating room (OR), I was at the pinnacle of success in my career field. I loved what I did and felt that I was very good at it. I had successfully filled every role there was to do in the OR after working there for 25 years. I knew my job well and was respected and knowledgeable. I was certified as an OR nurse, meaning that I had proved educationally my merits in my chosen field. But I still felt unworthy -- or unfulfilled.
So I had been praying for a deeper relationship with God. I wanted to hear from Him the way others said they did. Little did I know where this prayer would take me! First, I came into conflict with my boss, and after some pressure from her, I stepped down from my role as charge nurse and went back to a staff nurse position. Two days later, my husband suffered a stroke. Fortunately, I was no longer the charge nurse so I could take time to be with him through his extended recovery over the next several months. When it became apparent that he was incapable of ever working again, I became the wage earner/insurance carrier in our family. The security I felt in his ability to earn a wage was shaken.
A few short months later, I injured my arm. I spent many months doing therapy, but my arm only seemed to get worse. I was no longer able to work in the OR and was forced to search for another job. The responsibility I felt as family wage earner made me work frantically at my job search. But after two years of unsuccessful effort, it became apparent that I would no longer be working in any area of nursing. My knowledge, expertise, and years of experience were no longer of any value.
Chronic Pain - The Experience of a Lifetime
Chronic pain helped me to experience a significant truth in life… It's easy to give God credit for His blessings when things happen the way that you want them to, but far more difficult to realize that God is in control of every minute of your life when nothing is going in the direction you had planned or expected. But His Word says that He is there!
At first, I didn't realize that an amazing thing had happened to me during this time. I had always battled with issues of self-esteem and self-worth. Two years of unfruitful job searching may have really put me over the edge with depression. I won't deny that I struggled with it; I think anyone who has issues of chronic pain has some periods of depression. But God was at work in my life! I began to realize that this time in my life was meant for me to learn more about God and about His love for me. It was a time for me to spend sitting at the Master's feet learning from Him. I learned that Jesus is the big brother I had always yearned for, who wanted to be with me and help ease some of the troubled spots of my life.
The Bible says: But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).
Chronic Pain - A Deeper Relationship with God
The most important lesson that I learned from my experience with chronic pain was that my worth was not in me and who I am. It was not in my nursing degree or my education. It was not in my 25 years of experience as a nurse, or in my seniority. It was not in my physical capabilities or lack thereof. My worth was in God and in Him alone. As all the things I had previously valued were stripped away, I found my real strength and my real worth in God. In Him I found fulfillment and completeness.