Unveiling God’s Love through Chronic Pain: Lessons Learned

Here's something I need you to know today. My body is rarely pain-free.

May 27, 2023

Unveiling God's Love through Chronic Pain: Lessons Learned

Here’s something I need you to know today.
My body is rarely pain-free.

Some of that is because this old girl has taken 46 trips around the sun. Some of it is due to hormonal fluctuations during this season of life that increase inflammation. But most of it is due to living in a body with a connective tissue disorder. In my body, chronic pain is a constant. 

I know that many of you in The Rescued Letters community also struggle with chronic pain, because you tell me when I hug your neck at a speaking event. You reply to my emails and share your story with me. And you comment on my social media posts or direct message me with prayer requests that my team takes seriously. We pray for you as soon as we see that message. And we also pray every week for those specific requests during our weekly meeting. If you have messaged us, you have been prayed for. And your chronic pain is often lifted up in those prayers. 

What I want to share with you today are not my top ten tips for dealing with chronic pain. I don’t want to give you my favorite products for soothing discomfort or resting with ease. No doubt, I have those. A lot of them. 

Today I want to share how my heart rests easy in a body that rarely does. What follows here brings me peace in my daily struggle with pain. And I hope it might for you too.

My current experience with pain

Generic connective tissue pain is difficult to describe. My EDS friends will affirm it is real and it can be life-limiting. It can be the difference between saying yes to a weekend outing but then sending your regrets Saturday morning. It’s often the reason why many of us in the EDS community are hesitant to commit to anything. The best way I can explain it is this: you know that feeling you get at the start of the flu? Achy muscles all over your body and just a general ill feeling? That’s what it feels like pretty much all the time in a body with connective tissue issues. And then there’s the joint pain. In the small joints, the large joints, and every joint in between. My joints are always angry. 

I also experience specific chronic pain due to known vascular weaknesses in my body. Nightly 2:00 am migraines because my one remaining carotid artery is working overtime to bring blood to my brain. Constant gnawing pain behind my heart as my dilated aortic root slowly grows. Sacral-Iliac instability + lower back pain that feels like grinding stones from a large Tarlov cyst at the base of my spine. This is how chronic pain shows up in my body these days. 

Chronic pain is defeating

Why am I sharing these details about my pain with you? It’s not for pity or attention and it’s not a request for potential solutions, although I do tenderly appreciate the intent from those that offer suggestions. I know how to take care of myself. My husband knows. My friends know. I have a village. And I am really good at setting protective boundaries when I need space to heal.

It’s because I want you to know that I see you. If you struggle with chronic pain, you are not alone. You are not forgotten. I know what it’s like to crawl into bed feeling defeated because it’s only 3:00pm and you haven’t finished your to-do list for the day. I know what it’s like to prioritize wellness solutions like it’s your day job. I know what it’s like to chase articles on the web, watch video after video from trusted doctors and experts, and search through support group posts on the chance that someone there might have a shared experience. I know the pasted smile on your face because you don’t want to miss life but doing life means doing it with pain.

It’s exhausting. I see you.  

Broken bodies in a broken world

When I experience pain, my first response is to assess its cause and then problem-solve. I can fix this. I have to fix this.

Have I done something to cause this pain? Did I forget to take my vitamins? Spend too much time sitting at my desk? Too much time on my phone looking down? Eat something that caused an inflammation flare? Not drink enough water? Drink too much water? Pick up one too many grocery bags at a time trying to get them in the house? 

And then how can I make it go away? More ibuprofen? More acetaminophen? More ice packs? More heat therapy? More epsom salt baths? More rest, more movement, more, more, more, more…..

Chronic pain makes you chase solutions. And most of the time there are no solutions. It just is. You might be able to alleviate it for a moment. Take the edge off with your toolbox of a thousand therapies and aids. But that’s the thing about chronic pain. It is…chronic. Or as a trusty google definition search reveals: “recurring, persistent, and difficult to eradicate.” 

When living in a broken body in a broken world, sometimes your only choice is to simply endure.

Peace in the pain

I want to pause this diatribe against pain for a moment and ask you to think for a moment about prayer. And no, I’m not about to tell you to just pray more so please keep reading if you’re still with me. (Although, yes, always pray more.) 

I’ve been thinking about the language of our prayers and the requests we lift up to God. In my prayer life, personally and collectively at church, there are often prayers for resolution, reconciliation, answers, wisdom, direction, and comfort. For the advancement of God’s will, for integrity, for protection, for deliverance from evil, for repentance, and for the heart to forgive others. And then there are prayers for healing. Always, always, always, there are prayers for relief from bodily pain for those in the hospital, at home, battling illness, and recovering from surgery.

Here me clearly on this: these prayers are right and good and God is mighty, powerful, and able to answer them all. We serve a God who heals. 

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits – 
who forgives all your sins, and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 
– Psalm 103:2-5

But I wonder if those of us with chronic pain might have a fast-track to glimpsing another side of God’s character. The one that endures.

The question I am asking today is not whether or not God can heal my chronic pain, but whether I am willing to allow it to deepen my relationship with Him.

Can God take away my pain with a whisper? Yes. Can God heal my connective tissue disorder? Yes. Will God give me a pain-free body when I see Jesus face to face? A resounding, absolute yes. I yearn for that day. Creation yearns for that day.

But until then, we endure. 

And we endure with a God who has already endured for us. Throughout the Bible, we see a God who endures with a chronically rebellious Israel. A Savior who endured with doubting and disbelieving people. A Savior who endured on the cross for our sins. 

Here is one of the lessons chronic pain is teaching me: God endures with me. He never leaves. He doesn’t abandon me in my pain. He stays with me. He provides space for me to rest. He provides tools for me to cope. He gives me loved ones who understand and encourage. And so He and I endure together. And I love Him more because of it.    

So I get up the next morning, welcome His new mercies, and realize that I am still here. God has not forgotten me. My body is bruised and broken, but my spirit is a little stronger because I know that God will not leave me.

He is faithful to endure with us. 

I am rooting for you. Always.

Heather Signature

If you struggle with chronic pain, I want to encourage you to lean into the God who endures with you today. So I created a simple journal page for you, with a few prompts to consider along with some of my favorite Scriptures to turn to when I am hurting. My prayer is that it helps deepen your relationship with God. He loves you so. 

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