Facing Pain

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I woke up this morning and promptly had a terrible spasm in my shoulder. I mean, the muscles were LOCKED UP. I tried stretching every which way, asked my husband for a shoulder rub, then sat against my massage cushion. Nothing touched it. Finally, about an hour later it started to loosen up.

When the pain hit, my initial response was to try and conquer it – hence, the stretching, which didn’t work at all. When my husband’s backrub caused more pain instead of less, my knee-jerk reaction was to look for an escape. That resulted in a lot of squirming around, but still no relief. So, I found myself sitting on the side of my bed, crying. But even as the tears streamed down my cheeks a little voice whispered, “This isn’t helping, you know.”

And I did know. If I’ve learned anything about dealing with pain this past year, it’s that tension in the body makes it worse. That idea makes total sense to me. So why did I end up sobbing? Well, the fact is that I really don’t get many of these spasms anymore. And while that is definitely a blessing, it meant that I wasn’t expecting to feel that kind of pain again. I got caught off guard, and I reverted back to some old coping mechanisms – namely, crying.

What is your first response when pain hits?

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Luckily, within a short time I decided that being upset was only going to prolong the problem. So I set up my massage cushion, leaned back and tried to calm my breathing. Sitting quietly, I began to talk to God, remembering scripture verses I’ve been reading this week. The vibrations and the heat began to work, and my back muscles began to relax as my mind settled.

It was a pretty clear lesson – trying to power through or run away from pain is almost never effective. The only real way past pain is to face it. But even more important, I’m not alone as I deal with life’s difficulties. God is always there, a prayer away.

That truth applies to every kind of pain we have to face. I hope I remember that more quickly next time!As it says so beautifully in Psalm 32:  “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”  

That truth applies to every kind of pain we have to face. I hope I remember that more quickly next time!

Peace At All Times

 

731625-tn_people-026Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”                                                                                       2 Thessalonians 3:16

My rheumatoid arthritis reared it’s ugly head again this week. It’s always in my awareness to some degree – stiff joints or a lack of coordination, perhaps. But I had what I call a full-fledged “flare up” for a couple of days. And I have admit, I’m sure I brought it on myself by doing too much. In my defense, the situation (of the clogged toilet variety) left me no choice, at least until Roto Rooter arrived. So, I did some plunging, which wrecked my wrists.

I expected some backlash, so when the pain hit that night I was not surprised. I was up most of the night, rotating from ice packs to the heating pad, and shifting my arm position every couple of minutes. It was, in a word, miserable.

At about 2:00 am I lay listening to my husband sleeping next to me, and memories of last year came rushing back. All those nights I’d spent this same way vividly replayed, and I could actually feel my emotions start to stir up the way they used to. Just then, a small voice in my head geve me a big idea: “Take a deep breath.” So I did. A full, from-my-belly type breath – and it felt good.

The pain level didn’t go down. It was just as bright and hot as it had been during those earlier nights. The difference was how I reacted to that pain. Before, each twinge made me fearful and angry. I complained and wondered if relief would ever come. The dark and quiet only made things seem worse. Simply put, my emotions ruled, and result was tighter muscles and catasrophic thinking.

This time, I chose to follow common-sense and prayer instead. I reminded myself of the times I’d already dealt with painful bouts – they’d come and gone, and I’d survived pretty much intact. And though I prayed that God might take away the pain, I also asked Him to help me behave better this time while I felt bad.

The next morning was a revelation. I had weathered a tough night without making it worse by a bad attitude. I was tired, but peaceful. Still hurting, but calm. I certainly would have preferred that God answer the prayer for healing, but He chose to give me peace instead. And actually, in some ways I think that was the better blessing to get – it will help me breath deeper and pray more quickly next time.