Stop the Pain: Doesn’t God Understand Physical Pain?

By Lisa Copen

God does understand how you feel when you want the pain to stop.

 

Physical pain is one of the most difficult things I believe any human being can cope with. Over seventy percent of suicides are said to have been because of physical pain.* And as far back as Biblical times, even the greatest burden God allowed Job to be given by Satan–the one that hurt the most– was boils on his skin (Job 2:7).

Many people have heard the story about how Jesus went up to the desert for forty days and fasted and prayed and Satan showed up for a bit with a few temptations (Luke 4:1-2). It is easy to start interpreting this time as some kind of endurance test; the challenge Jesus takes can sound more like someone we might see on a combined show of “The Biggest Loser” meets “The Amazing Race.”

When we cry out–literally–day after day, asking God to please stop the pain, it can be easy to question, does God really understand what long-term physical pain is like?

Look more closely at this scripture, “for forty days He was tempted by the devil.” Forty days! Satan was hanging around many hours–every day. Just a snippet of conversation is in the Bible between Satan and Jesus, but I would imagine their many words between each other could easily have filled an entire book on its own.

And yes, Jesus is God, but sitting on that mountain side He was also fully human. Verse 2 says, “He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” Hungry, just like you or I would be.

He didn’t fast as a human being, but then make His stomach feel all full as God had the power to do. He was hungry for food, tired, I am sure His back hurt, perhaps he suffered from a sunburn, yet was freezing cold at night. His stomach was growling and He thirsty. I am sure He dealt with great physical pain and kept His eyes out for scorpions. It was likely the weakest He had ever been in His lifetime, and this is when Satan kept appearing and trying to entice Him to make Himself more comfortable.

And when the forty days was up, Satan gave up, right? Nope. “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13)

Physical pain is weakening. It weakens our body, our ability to process information in our brain, and it is can tarnish the sparkle in our relationship with Christ. Jesus has walked in your shoes. I know some days it doesn’t feel like it, but don’t base your reality on your feelings. Believe God truly does understand.

It can be easy to become bitter when it feels like no one understands your pain, but there is no situation, no feeling, that we will encounter that someone in the Bible has not already experienced. And God always understands.

I hope the video below, song by Phil Wickham, reminds you of just how much God does hear your pleas for relief and cares about you. Many who are suicidal have shared that this song came on the radio just when they need reminded that God still had a plan for their life.

Lisa Copen has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for nineteen years, and has found purpose in her pain by reaching out to others with chronic illness. Her organization, Rest Ministries, serves those with chronic illness or pain through daily devotionals and other programs.

* Mackenzie TB, Popkin MK: “Suicide in the medical patient.”. Intl J Psych in Med 17:3-22, 1987

Why Not End My Life If I Have Nothing Left to Give?

By Lisa Copen

“I am exhausted. I am in so much pain. No one knows how hard it is to just get through each day. I am of no value to anyone. . . Why choose to live?

Have you ever felt that way? It can be hard to see value in life when you don’t feel productive, but even when we don’t have a list of accomplishments, we are still cherished by God. And you never know how your situation may actually be encouraging someone when you don’t even realize it.

When my grandfather was in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, my grandmother basically couldn’t see the need for him to keep living. She was–coldly–ready to move on and felt like he was holding her back. As she complained about him for the umpteenth time I looked her firmly in the eye and spoke my mind.

“Grandma, he may not know what is going on, but he is joyful. Every day, every single person that comes into his room has their day brightened by his joy. They love him. You don’t know what those people may have been going through. A nurse could have been beaten by her spouse last night; an attendant may be losing his own father to this disease but he lives across the country and he can’t be with him. Grandpa may be the only person in their life who makes them smile. You don’t know how God is still using him.”

I am not certain she understood. But even as I said the words, I realized just how true they were. Even while he was suffering and not completely aware of who people were, he radiated joy and passed that on.

I have heard the saying, “It all works out in the end and if it has not worked out, then it is not the end.” Perhaps you have asked, “Why choose to live when I have nothing left to give?” Maybe you wonder if you are of use because of your disabilities, mental health challenges, financial struggles, etc. But whatever it is, these are just your circumstances–not you.

We all have something to give, even though some days we can only give our tears. What? How can crying help someone? Each day I see people who are discouraged and downtrodden who live with physical chronic pain, and even as they share their discouragement, their needs, their depression, others step up and encourage them. Not only do people who woke up feeling useless feel needed, they also have their own sufferings validated.

Yes, inspirational, encouraging videos and words are always welcome, but some days we just need to know that someone else is suffering too and and it is not all rainbows and smiley faces. We are all in this thing called life together. You are always valuable to the Lord, but your willingness to be vulnerable, to share the real you, can make you vessel to reach someone else who feels unneeded, when no one else can.

In 2011, following a discouraging appointment with my rheumatologist and frustrated with the circumstances of my illness, I came home and made a “real” video. Instead of my typical “Latte with Lisa” this one was called “Lisa: Unfiltered“. . . And I cried. If you feel up to seeing a gal fall apart, but still see God in it, you may want to take a listen. It’s not pretty, but it is honest.

To date, this is the highest watched video I have ever done, but even as I pressed that publish button I wondered, “what have I done?” What I had done was just allow people to see me–the real me that gets discouraged sometimes like everyone else. If you ever wonder if your tears can encourage someone else, this video may help you see how that happens.

You may think: Why not end my life if I have nothing left to give? But that’s not true: your life itself is a gift, and there is hope.

Your life has value because you are you. Suicide is never the answer. You don’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to have it all together, you don’t need to be happy-go-lucky all the time. God loves you. . . just the way you are.

Lisa Copen has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for nineteen years, and has found purpose in her pain by reaching out to others with chronic illness. Her organization, Rest Ministries, serves those with chronic illness or pain through daily devotionals and other programs.