Health Suffering Well-being

Light and Momentary: Dealing with Chronic Pain

I have chronic chest pain. I’ve been living with it for a few years now. It feels like a few pounds of weight are constantly pressing into my chest and the pain often radiates to other locations: stomach, back, neck. It is there day and night. It makes some activities more difficult.  When I am anxious or stressed the pain magnifies.  The first time I felt it I thought it was due to a heart problem. But after many doctor visits and medical examinations, no cause has been found.

It goes without saying that the chronic pain has had an impact on my Christian walk.  In my weakest moments, it frustrates me.  In my best moments, it causes me to hold tighter onto Jesus.  This is the magnificent thing that has come out of it. It has forced me to pray more intensely. Sometimes I ask the Lord to take it away but most of the time, I ask him to teach me to have a steadfast heart that fears nothing because it trusts in Him. One of the most significant thing it has taught me so far is that my body will continue to grow and age and that more health problems will someday come my way. It has forced me to think of nothing as too dearly and to make nothing an idol but to trust in God alone. This is all temporary.  My pain is temporary as is my time on this earth.  My hope lies in someone far greater.

The bible does not shy away from dealing with suffering in all its forms.  Actually, it constantly deals with the issue and provides the hope that we can depend on in the midst of suffering. In fact, Jesus himself was referred to in Isaiah 53:3 as “a man of suffering and familiar with pain.” And in the New Testament, when faced with the grief of Martha and Mary following the death of their brother Lazarus, the bible  says in John 11:35 that “Jesus wept.” He does not deny any of our pains and He is not unsympathetic to them and the absolutely stunning truth is that Jesus presents himself as the answer and the hope in which we can trust. Moments before, in John 11:25, He said to a grieving Martha:

“…I am the resurrection and the life.”

In the midst of suffering, pain, persecution, illness, grief, death etc., Jesus presents God i.e. Himself as the answer. Jesus demonstrated this and proved it to all who were standing there at the tomb of Lazarus by resurrecting Lazarus from the dead.  And later, He proved it again by resurrecting Himself from the dead three days after his crucifixion. The wonderful news is that there is nothing impossible or difficult for God to do.

But back to my chronic chest pain, despite the fact that I know God can remove my pain at any second He wants, I don’t get angry at the fact that it’s still there. The point of the gospel message is that Jesus came so that we can have a relationship with God. He didn’t promise us an easy life, on the contrary, we are told to expect all types of tests and trials to come our way. God also uses our suffering for greater things. This really takes faith to believe because it means that in the midst of pain, you need to trust in what the bible says about the character of God: that He is good and faithful in all He does, that He is sovereign and in control, that He disciplines us for our own good and that is He is for us and not against us.  A close look at the bible shows how God has always been faithful to his people. Even in the book of Job, about a man who suffered all kinds of deep troubles, God is shown to again be faithful.

The Apostle Paul had what I love to call, an “eternity based perspective.” His eyes were fixed on Jesus and not on the temporary pains he was suffering or the problems he was forced to tackle.  When talking about his weaknesses and everything he has had to go through, he said:

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  (2 Corinthians 4:16-27)

You see? Eternity based perspective! He was full of hope because he knew it was all temporary. His hope rested in the promises of God and the resurrection. Whether I am dealing with my chronic pain or any of the other troubles I have had to deal with, I keep this verse close to my heart and ponder on it.  It is wonderful to know that no matter what has happened or will happen, all my troubles and pains are light and momentary.

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