I wonder if you are the kind of person who has a to-do list a mile long and will do everything in your power to finish the list? Even if your muscles ache and your head pounds? I also wonder if you might be the kind of person who will suppress the pain as long as possible, so you can fit in that one more fun activity?
In our families, both of these types of character traits are commonly represented. From the busy parent trying to get everything wrapped up, so everyone will have what they need for the next day. To the child who wants to play just one more match on the Nintendo Switch, even though his head is throbbing from too much screen time. I’ve noticed that with these types of personalities, pain is often seen as something we ignore or try to push past, so we can do the “important” or “fun” stuff.
In this season of life, I have learned to embrace pain signals as warnings from our Creator God, who lovingly shows us our bodies have limits and cannot be pushed to the max 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and all 365 days a year. Pain is a signal that we need to slow down and take stock of what is triggering our pain.
For me, the pain is very fresh from a recent herniated disc surgery. It turns out I am not the kind of person to do anything halfway, so instead of the typical disc surgery, my disc was shredded and fragments of the disc were bruising my nerve root and cutting off some of the blood supply between my foot, leg, and hip. Normally I am not a big fan of medical descriptions, because it makes me feel queasy. But I want to share all of this to show-if I kept masking the pain with medications, I might have missed the important pain signals which God put inside my body to let me know this was something only surgery could fix. Knowing my personality, I would have kept pushing forward, not wanting to let anyone down or be unable to fulfill my obligations.
As I experienced the first two days post surgery, I expected there to be some numbness and tingling as the nerves and my back healed. But oddly enough, I really only experienced pain from the incision and minor soreness in my legs. I thought to myself, “This isn’t going to be a tough recovery at all!”
That all changed on day 3. My body became overwhelmed once again with muscle spasms, nerve pain, and I couldn’t walk on my own. I felt so baffled. Why was this pain returning when several others shared they were instantly pain free after the surgery? I followed all of the doctor’s instructions and didn’t over do anything to cause this reaction.
As the days slowly rolled on, and I made it to one week post surgery, thankfully the doctor and physician’s assistants were able to help modify the medications a few times to give me some relief from the constant, almost unbearable nerve pain and muscle spasms.
When I was able to talk with the neurosurgeon one week post surgery, he said that my lingering pain was very normal for patients who had such a bad case of herniated disc and bruised nerves. What I am experiencing as deep pain is actually a good sign that the nerves are waking up and beginning the healing process. The muscle spasms are coming from a renewed source of blood flow that has been blocked for several months.
When the neurosurgeon shared these facts with me and thankfully also prescribed newer, stronger medicines, I couldn’t help, but to pause and thank the Lord for the pain. If it weren’t for the pain, I’m afraid I might have pushed myself too hard too fast while recovering. It has taken this experience of literally being unable to walk, to make me understand that I have to give my body the time it needs to fully heal.
I am thankful for the ways that being stuck and unable to move has allowed me to have special one-on-one bonding times with each of our children. I especially learned that although our Juliana is great at so many things, but I hadn’t realized what an amazing physical therapist, doctor, or nurse she could be. This girl makes the best ice cream and other sweet treats, but she also is very patient, calm, and loving. She is the kind of person who wants to be fully present with you as you recover and can literally talk to you for hours. Getting to watch her help me through the pain gave me another glimpse of God’s glory working through the painful parts of our stories. It’s hard to say now, but it’s possible this experience could open up doors that Juliana hadn’t considered previously for a future career. In the short term, this experience has created a deeper bond and appreciation between the two of us.
Am I still working through the disappointment and discomfort of this healing process? Absolutely. However, my hunch is that I will look back at this season of pain with understanding of the ways the LORD used this time to shape our family for the future good works He has created us to do. (Ephesians 2:10).
Friend, I am not sure what type of pain you are enduring today: physical, emotional, spiritual, or relational pain? I pray the LORD will give you eyes to see the bigger picture of how He can use pain to get our attention and help us find answers to fully heal us.