I remember the day I sat on the floor in our bedroom crying, telling my husband John, “I can’t do this anymore. Not one more minute.” What couldn’t I do one more minute was live with chronic unrelenting pain. My sympathetic nervous system was misfiring, and sending the wrong signals to my brain. My brain was sending messages to my upper extremities that I was having pain and lots of it.
I spent time in bed during this early part of my diagnosis. I had plenty of time to think and remember. God reminded me of a patient I took care of over thirty years ago. What I remember most is how I treated his parents.
I was late for work that day. When I got to the hospital, I went straight to the vending machine to get myself a can of Tab (diet soda). I got to the unit I worked on and my head nurse sent me directly over to the burn unit.
BURNS. A hard place to be alive, a hard place to die, and a hard place to work.
They stood at the end of the bed looking at their 19-year-old son. They clung to each other in utter disbelief unable to comprehend what they were seeing. Their only son was unidentifiable. The look of horror on their faces was unforgettable.
I remember thinking I wish “these people” would get out of my way and I made them leave the room. These people ended up being the patient’s parents. I realized it too late. I had wounded them, deeply.
Their son was going to die, they needed to be there, and I made them leave the room.
What does a 23-year-old know anyway, about tragedy and loss? In my case, absolutely nothing. I’m a parent now, the mother of five. Tears flow freely when I think of his mom looking at him in that hospital bed.
This was my first experience with pain and suffering. God reminded me of the importance of loving people well.
Since I live with chronic pain the danger is becoming consumed with myself to the point where the needs of others are overlooked. I decided I wouldn’t let pain define me, with God’s help I would press on, depending on Him for the strength I would need.
Chronic pain doesn’t get you off the hook for living an obedient life to God.
I was determined to love God and love people despite my circumstances.
How can you love people well?
Remember, every person you meet is battling their version of pain and suffering.
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ Jesus has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Choose your words carefully.
Don’t try to say something profound. It is rarely helpful.
“Kind words are like honey-sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)
Show compassion, comfort, and mercy.
“The Lord is compassionate and merciful…” (Psalm 103:8)
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” (2 Cor. 1:4)
Support and Encourage
“Share each other’s burdens…Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29)
Get out of your comfort zone. Most people who are suffering will allow you to pray for them.
“We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.” (I Thess. 1:2)
John Piper is one of my favorite authors. This quote by him is my experience.
“I’ve never heard anyone say the really deep lessons of life have come in times of ease and comfort. But, I have heard many saints say every significant advance I’ve ever made in grasping in the depth of God’s love and growing deep with Him, have come through suffering.” ~John Piper