Pain and suffering

I’ve had an interesting week. On Wednesday I had 5 hours of surgery on my right shoulder to repair a tendon I ruptured 8 months ago. I’d never had surgery before and almost never needed to go to a hospital til now. So it was all very new to me. I’ll pick up with what happened the next morning at the hospital, after the anesthesia wore off.

With my new shoulder sling

Basically I quickly began to experience pain like I’ve never had in my life. For 2 hours it got worse and worse to where I was moaning, crying and asking/begging the nurse to hurry up with boosting the dosage of pain killer. She was doing her job but she had others to attend to. Also I suspect it can get to be with nurses that they become desensitized to the suffering that patients experience after a while. But I was getting increasingly desperate and insistent.

We got to the point where I was asking/demanding that they either give me morphine or gas me out so I wouldn’t experience what was happening at that time. But around then the effects of what they’d been giving me the last two hours began  to work and the pain level came down from “10” to about “6.5”. I was able to bear that enough.

It had been pain that pushed me to get a better analysis of what had happened to my shoulder 8 months ago. I’d finally had an MRI done which the orthopedic surgeon used to show me where my muscle was detached from my bone by about 1 inch. That’s why it had been virtually impossible for me to sleep at night for months.

Back home that night, still taking the maximum allowed of pain killers and wearing the shoulder sling you  can see in the picture, I realized I’d have another night of no sleep until my fatigue got the better of my pain. All I could do was wait, pace the floor in my apartment and “draw nigh to God” (James 4:8). And in prayer I thought about a lot.

dad and sonI thought about how many people around the world are in pain all the time. The hungry, the sick, the dispossessed, the refugees, those with no hope. I thought about the Syrians, Iraqis and Kurds I’d talked with on the Macedonian border in December, or in refugee camps in Berlin in January. Women with children, young Syrian daddies who held their little son’s hand, all in the bitter cold of a Balkan winter. How was my pain compared to theirs?

Moscow beggarI thought of the year I lived in Moscow in the 90’s and the beggars I’d see there. Many were not alcoholics but former military officers or older women who looked to come from very distinguished backgrounds who stood with their hands out, a look of sadness on their faces that made me realize how great a personal loss so many had had with the collapse of Communism. Or the middle aged men I met in Aceh Province, Indonesia, after the tsunami disaster there in 2004. It was the men who survived. aceh survivorThey often were fishermen or truck drivers and were away from their families on the Sunday morning when 3 giant waves crashed into coastal communities for hundreds of miles. I remembered the many men I’d met who’d lost their wife and all their children and the utter sadness and profound despondency they had.

And I thought of my own United States of America and the social background I come from: middle aged to elderly, White and middle class. lost my jobWhile prosperity has increased over the last 20 years or so, the demographic I’m a part of has seen basically no gain in their standards of living and it’s been necessary to work all the more just to keep at the level they were decades ago. Alcoholism, drug abuse and suicide has steadily risen for the white middle class in the USA while in other industrialized Western nations, these things have all decreased. You don’t have to talk to refugees to find pain and suffering in our times.

So I hesitate to say I became thankful for my suffering because you might ask, “Oh, would you like some more of it?” And I’d say no. But it was a reality check that I’ve had it pretty good in my life. I’ve had some very strong pain in an emotional sense from personal family-related things in my past. Also decades ago when I was getting close to becoming a Christian, the Lord allowed me to feel severe anguish and torment of soul that helped drive me to salvation. But plain, outright physical pain is not something I’ve experienced so much of.

Around 4 AM my fatigue finally got the best of my pain and I slept 2 hours, sitting upright on my sofa since lieing down was impossible. Now, a couple of days later, things are improving. The worst of the pain has abated and I’m able to sleep in my bed at night with a good deal fewer pain killers than before.

feeling pain flatThe Bible says “in everything give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:18) and I can say, in some strange way, I’m thankful for this experience. It was a very good reminder of what hundreds of millions, if not billions of people experience every day. Even before I became a Christian, when I was growing up, I wanted to do something to make things better in this world. I’m so, so thankful that the Lord got a hold of me and brought me into a life of Christian discipleship.

Some of us are doing ok today. But if we have food in our stomach, a place to sleep, some friends and we’re pretty much staying above the waves and vicissitudes of this often dangerously raging world we live in, it’s good to remember those who aren’t doing so well and who could use some help.  I think that’s how Jesus taught us to look at these things.


9 thoughts on “Pain and suffering

  1. WOW – what a powerful testimony, Mark. I’m adding you to my daily prayer list. I understand totally what you’re saying; have experienced the same thoughts and emotions over the past month as I have been diagnosed with kidney cancer. This was a huge shock as I’ve been extremely health oriented for the past 35 years. God is teaching me that pride in one’s health is “not healthy” spiritually and that I need to place my total trust in Him. THANK YOU LORD! As you stated, I also would not ask for this but I’m thankful for it. I’m seeing so many good things happen already. I appreciate your prayers. Blessings, Bobby

  2. Amen, we don’t look for suffering or ask for it but when it happens it teaches us much when we walk a mile with sorrow…GBY and will now even pray more specifically for total recovery, as I was under the false impression that is was some kind of ‘minor’ surgery…hmm Maybe that was what it was supposed to be but turned out a bigger job…all is well that ends well!

  3. Thanks Mark, for giving us all a good shake, reminding us how truly blessed we are. It’s so easy to whine and complain about such trivial things (a “bad-hair day”) when we are living a life millions would give anything to live. Get well soon and keep in touch.

  4. From my own experience with physical pain, and from reading your testimony, I dare say the children of the Kingdom, us who follow Christ, we are just not wired for this particular condition of being mortals. By being born again, I guess we have come so near being free from pain that when it happens it feels so much more magnified and unbearable. A pale taste of how our Savior must have suffered. God bless you for sharing and I pray, body be healed, in Jesus Name!

    • I can agree with this. In fact, shortly after I got saved and feeling flying high in a bubble of love when experiencing my first soul pain I got so mad at God. I couldn’t understand how he could call himself love but then allow us to feel hurt. Well he did not give me more than I could bear at the moment, but that was not the last time I disputed with God about what is love and righteousness. But he finished the good work he had begun in me and helped me finally on my knees submitting to him that he knows best because, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:71)

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience and insight here, Mark. Well said. As I look back on my spiritual growth, drawing closer to the Lord, it has always been in the midst of some kind of pain, when I realize how powerless I am in my own solitary being, that I really do NEED the Lord’s comfort, strength, patience, eternal perspective, mercy and grace, that God does His greatest work in my heat and soul. So James 1:2-5 remains one of my favorite passages:

    2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

  6. So good to know you are getting slowly better, Mark! Definitely praying for you (and for Bobby after reading her comment). I have had this tiny little ridiculous appendix operation (you can´t even call it an operation, just 3 little incisions) and have admired the other people so much who had to go through these major operations. Of course it is only Jesus who gives each one the strength and endurance with each trial, but to see so many people waiting for hours and hours (it was a Saturday on emergency station) to get some help for their pains and sufferings made me really feel for them. The uncertainty, before the final diagnosis, the many different tests, some didn’t go well, because the nurse didn’t know how to take blood, then all the reminders about the operation and anesthesia about what could go wrong (they have to tell you so you sign the paper)—all that is not a normal and relaxed day, but puts us under stress, but makes us so thankful when everything is over and we can get slowly back to normal again. Prayers and words of encouragement during that time go a long way. The world needs Jesus’s love and the trust and faith in Him. TJ!

  7. Thanks Mark. The comments and reactions say a lot. There are so many kinds of pain – ranging from the emotional to the physical, as you pointed out, but praise God, he never gives us more than we are able to bare. And he’s there to comfort us through it all. I don’t know how anyone can make it without Jesus – I really don’t. Let’s give ’em Jesus while we can.

  8. That’s so true Mark. we just experienced it ourselves last year, to think about people worse off than us. We are having quite an easy lives compared to many people. It feels good when it’s over Ah!

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