Hope for Chronic Pain is Found in Choice and Change


This is the 2nd post in a series on Hope When the Pain Doesn’t Go Away

Hope is found in God’s promise that we have the ability to choose, which means that change is possible. Few things are more hopeful than change when we are stuck in the never-ending cycle of chronic pain, certain things will remain this way forever.

In my own darkest moments of chronic pain, time stood still. It was easy to forget, easy to disbelieve, that any steps I took, that anything I did, mattered or helped move me forward. For months into years, every day was a repeat of the day before. Every day I would do the things that I hoped would bring life to my body and soul. Each week I would look back and see unrelenting, painful sameness, despite my persistent efforts to make ground.

Every day was a repeat of exercises, healthy eating, supplements, physical therapy and following the doctor’s orders. Every day the same prayers were cried out to God. Every day I would do the same things, over and over again, even though I was unable to believe or see that these small steps mattered.

But the small steps did matter, and God did come to my aid, just not in the way I hoped or expected. I began to see physical, emotional, and spiritual healing that was imperceptible when looked at over days and weeks but became clear over many months and years. The nature of chronic pain is that we are unable to see that the small steps have always mattered until we look back months or years later and wonder where we would be if we had remained still.

When it comes to chronic pain, I have observed that God most often works in the smallest steps of patience and perseverance that accumulate over time. Sometimes the small steps simply keep us from regressing, sometimes their function is to slow our rate of regression, and sometimes, when God has readied our bodies, they help us move forward. But whichever the case may be, I have learned that any time I stop those seemingly small and insignificant steps that are good for my body and soul out of exhaustion or hopelessness, I start to fade into dark places.

On the most practical level, this means we must start where we are. It means if we can sit up for 5 minutes today, we try to sit up for ten seconds longer tomorrow. It means if we can walk eight minutes today, after we have done that ten different days, we try to walk nine minutes. It makes no difference how small our steps must be at the beginning. Wherever we are, no matter how long we have been on bedrest, no matter how long we have been in a place of hopelessness, there is always a next microstep to complete that will take us one imperceptible step further than we were before. Every microstep matters.

The first rays of hope are found in our ability to take small steps each day. This is not just in the physical sense. Each time we make the choice to move forward in the actions Christ has called us to, not only are we being sanctified and renewed, but often, our lives gets a little better and a little easier as we move away from the actions that tear us down and towards those that build us up in Christ.

We always have the option to move from suffering to hope, from guilt to rest and from self-pity to service. We have the choice to either sit in our shame or move towards our Christ identity. Each and every day, we get to choose if we will remain in our loneliness or pursue a fruitful solitude and a life-giving community. Will we remain in anger, or move forward in repentance and courage? Will we seek out a godly mourning and joy, or will we wallow in our depression? In this lifetime, God has given us the capacity to move from fear to faith, from shackled pain into a glorious freedom.

We always have the choice to make the right decisions, move in the right direction, and run towards the right God when we are in pain. And when we move towards God, still we suffer, yet our suffering has been tempered. Still we cry out in pain, but in our pain we find purpose. Still we weep and mourn, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Hope is found when we move towards change and renewal in the Lord.

What choices are you making? Are you moving or sitting still?

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  1. ” We have the choice to either sit in our shame or move towards our Christ identity.”

    Wow, that’s a wonderful piece you’ve written. And those of us suffering from physical obstacles who are believers in Christ understand what you’re saying. I’m so glad this message came to me today, from one suffering yet overcoming soul to another.

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