Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New Pain, New Gain

Do you suffer from some type of chronic pain or disability?  If so, then you know that fearful sense of dread and doom when a new pain or weakness arises. Perhaps you’ve gotten used to your “new normal,” whatever that may be, and you’ve come to accept—maybe even embrace—your limitations. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, some new pain arises, and you go into a panic.

I don’t know about you, but for me, it would go something like this: “Oh, no! Now what? Did I do something to myself? (At this point I’m wracking my brain for how I may have overdone it at some point recently.) Is this a further progression of my condition? Is this something new, separate from what I’m already dealing with? What new medication or therapy will this require, and how will I fit that into my schedule and budget?” As I’m going through all these questions in my mind, my emotions are revving up, and if I don’t get a handle on them, this will become a genuine panic!

Before I even know what I’m dealing with, I can let my emotions take over. When that happens, whatever twinge inspired the whole thing has become genuine pain because I have become so focused on it. Thankfully, by the grace of God, it has been a long time since new pain inspired such a vortex of emotion for me. God has given me many opportunities to grow in this area, so today I’ll share with you three things that may be helpful to you the next time some new physical affliction surprises you.

Don’t be caught off guard.
That very surprise is the first thing you must guard against. Even those who do not suffer chronic pain must always be prepared for the physical degeneration of their bodies. After all, we are all aging, and, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:18 (AMP), “progressively decaying and wasting away.” So, why are we surprised when something goes wrong with our bodies? Are we especially entitled to have no further pain or physical suffering, just because we already have a lot of it every day?

No, my dear sisters, we are not. Our chronic condition does not win us any special privileges when it comes to the decay of our bodies, so we should expect that these new pains will crop up from time to time. You will be pleasantly surprised at the reduction in fear and anxiety that is produced just by taking out the element of surprise. When you are prepared in your heart for the eventuality of more pain, it loses its power to frighten you.

Set your mind on things above.

Did you know that, according to Colossians 3, you have already died? If so, then what are you fearing right now? Think about it: Deep under the soil of panic over a health issue is that root fear of death. Yes, there are surface fears of medical interventions, increased pain, and decreased capabilities. But underneath those things is a common-to-man fear that inspires them all.  Christ came to take away that fear. Colossians 3 tells us that, as far as this world is concerned, we have died and our new, real life is hidden with Christ in God.

So why do we act as though we are still in bondage to that fear of death? I believe it is because we do not follow the instructions of Colossians 3. We don’t set our minds on things above. We have our mind firmly fixed on just one thing on earth: Our comfort. We forget that, because we have already “died,” we can now live our real life, which is hidden with Christ in God. We have put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge according to God’s image. We must train ourselves to put off fear and anxiety, and put on that new man, who knows that death is no longer a threat, and God can be trusted.

Get on with life.

As we set our minds on things above, we will be focused on bringing glory to God in our response to this new pain. Instead of focusing on symptoms and relief, we can look outside of ourselves, and into a world where there is pain and sorrow on a level that, by the grace of God, we will never know. How can we sit and stew over some new pain, when others are hurting so much more than we? This is the only time I would ever advise you to compare yourself to others. No matter how much you hurt, there is someone who hurts more. There is someone who has fewer resources than you with which to address her pain. There is someone who has less help; more responsibilities; and more limited mobility.

Begin today to train your heart and mind to fix your eyes on things above, not on things of the earth. Every new pain presents an opportunity to choose: Either you will trust in God, or you will trust in yourself. You cannot do both. God is far more faithful, trustworthy, and good than you or I could ever hope to be. Let’s be prepared. Let’s remember that our bodies will age, and let’s expect new issues from time to time. We can exercise proper care of our bodies, investigating the cause of new pain, but let’s take the fear out of it! The God of the universe, who created your body and knows it better than you ever will, is fully able to lead you through the process.

If you’re still having trouble trusting God, take a look at this video, where my friend Joni, who has been in a wheelchair now for 50 years, will give you some encouragement!