Today, we begin a new series we’re calling Learn, Grow, Share. We asked our writers to share something they’ve been learning recently that has impacted their lives and has made them grow—whether they wanted to or not. So for the next several days they will be sharing deeply personal ways in which they have been challenged and have learned during the process. We hope you will be encouraged as you read along with us!
“All arguments in justification of suffering provoke bitter resentment against the author. You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it. You need not guess, for I will tell you; I am a great coward.” - C S Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Ever since I was ten, I have had bouts of sicknesses that flood my memories of my childhood. But as they allowed me to stay out of school for long periods of time, I didn’t mind it all. Even the intense pain seemed much more bearable than attending the classes of some very strict teachers. I remember being able to handle the sudden attacks of pain well even though it was difficult for my parents to see me in pain.
As I got older it became more and more difficult. The inflammatory conditions that affected my joints and eyes would make sudden appearances putting me out of action for a few weeks each time. Without warning a dull ache would begin at the back of my eye and I knew it was a recurrence. Sometimes it happened at the most crucial times, just before Easter or just before a big event where I was responsible for so much. The fear of losing vision, of not being able to read, always lingered, as I had already lost vision in one eye.
But nothing prepared me for what I went through last year. I came back home from work one day and there was a slight pain in my hip. Since it was so minute I thought a good night’s rest would be enough and everything would be fine in the morning. As the night progressed the pain became excruciating and intense. No amount of painkillers or injections eased it. I couldn’t even take a step without the pain magnifying even more.
I cried out to God to take away the pain, even if it was for a couple of hours so that I could sleep. But it felt like was crying to the walls. I wanted an immediate release from the pain. But it didn’t come.
Of course, along with the pain were the thoughts, “Would I ever walk again?” and “Would the pain ever go away?” The first two doctors couldn’t even figure out what was wrong and then began conducting a multitude of tests. Waiting for the results seemed even worse, as I didn’t want the results to show that I had to live with a terminal illness. It was probably the worst week of my life, even as I think back I hope I never have to relive it.
So when I think of what I’ve learned through pain, what can I say? I’ve learned that pain hurts. You know it too. It feels unnecessary. It is not easy to go through at all. But the times of pain have been the ones where I’ve cried out the most to God. Where I have been vulnerable, helpless and had nowhere else to turn but to Him.
I’ve learned to accept that answers to prayer are not immediate. The pain went away, but not when I wanted. The correct diagnosis came, but after years and years of speculation and ignorance. The comfort was felt, but not always the way I hoped to feel it.
I’ve learned to trust God’s character even though circumstances seem to prove otherwise. It has pushed me to study suffering in the Bible. That God perfects our character through it. The founder of our salvation was proved perfect through suffering, and He suffered much more than I could imagine. I have to submit to God’s wisdom in allowing it to be the tool he uses, even though I may never fully understand why or how it does.
I’ve learned to be more thankful. For my family, who selflessly took care of me, pushing aside their schedules and duties, staying up through the night trying to ease my pain. It is the times my church community has been most like family to me. They have carried me through with their prayers and their acts of kindness.
And I’m thankful for every day that is pain free.
I still wish it would never happen again. That maybe the last time would be the last time. But then I read Lewis’ experience below, which so echoes my own, that I’ve learned to expect it. Pain is what drives me to think far above and beyond my own little joys and my little hobbies. It is what humbles me, when I’m pushed out of action and the world still seems to go on perfectly fine without me. It is what shows me that I am not in control and what allows me to rest in the One who is.
“I am progressing along the path of life ...absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends, a holiday or a new book, when suddenly a stab of abdominal pain that threatens serious disease, or a headlines in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction sends this whole pack of cards tumbling down... slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ... But the moment the threat is withdrawn, my whole nature leaps back to the toys... Thus the terrible necessity of tribulation is only too clear. God has had me for but forty eight hours and then only by dint of taking everything else away from me. Let Him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over – I shake myself as dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness... And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.”
- C S Lewis, The Problem of Pain