While we were still homeschooling, I was driving my kids to Park Day when my left arm and hand went completely numb. Thinking part of my body had fallen asleep, I tried to vigorously shake it awake while holding firmly onto the steering wheel with my right hand so the car wouldn’t swerve out of the carpool lane. The endeavor made it look like I was having a seizure.
“What are you doing, mom? Are you trying to kill us?” Lauren asked, while Brianna and Kaitlin giggled at the wild ride.
“Calm down, girls,” I answered. “I just can’t feel the left side of my body.”
When I realized that the numbness had spread all the way to the middle of my left ear, I tried to hide my panic because the girls were young at the time. I changed course and drove straight to the nearest urgent care, where the triage nurse said I was likely experiencing a TIA. She ushered me straight to the doctor, who examined me and said that he didn’t think I was having a mini stroke. Instead, he thought I was stressed. Call me crazy. But I think he was paying more attention to the three kids I had in tow than to my symptoms.
“I’d skip the park today,” he continued. “But you should be just fine.”
I didn’t skip the park because I needed time with my homeschooling friends, all of whom had stressful kid-filled lives and numerous nonspecific symptoms. Since we were all amateur armchair physicians, we felt qualified to discuss my course of treatment, which included lots of naps and massages. I left the park encouraged but still numb.
Unfortunately, however, even as I tried to shake them, the symptoms refused to subside. In fact, as the weeks wore on, they increased in severity until I could think of nothing except the fact that I was in pain and that I was unable to muster the strength to squeeze a tube of toothpaste. I won’t bore you with the details of my medical odyssey. Suffice to say it all came to a head when I begged a neurologist to order an MRI before I would agree to fill a prescription for medication he was sure could correct my “chemical imbalance.”
As soon as the MRI results arrived, the neurologist’s assistant called and asked me to come to the office immediately so they could schedule my surgery. It turned out that I had Spinal Stenosis and Disc Degeneration, which were crushing my spine from C-5 through C-7. Apparently, the condition is uncommon for someone in her 30s who wasn’t in an accident. Thankfully, surgery did the trick. Almost immediately following my discectomy and spinal fusion, the strength and feeling returned to the left side of my body.
People often ask me why I agreed to let a neurosurgeon slice into the front of my neck and remove some pretty important pieces—and then replace them with titanium mesh. My answer is simple: pain.
Consider your thoughts immediately after slamming your hand in a door, stubbing your toe or dropping something on your foot. If you’re like me, you probably don’t ignore the stabbing pain and focus on the original task at hand. I tend to yell, “Crap” (which, by the way, is something I am working to correct, since I am not a fan of the term).
I think the Lord uses pain to get our attention because we are so easily distracted. We’re human. So our immediate response is to cry about the throbbing and then do whatever it takes to stop the pain—at all costs. A prime example of this is the Apostle Paul, who was given what he referred to as “a thorn in the flesh as a messenger from Satan to buffet me.” Paul says he asked God three times that it might depart from him. But the Lord’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Indeed, God’s grace is sufficient. But it doesn’t always feel like that’s the case. After all, pain hurts. And if I’m being honest, I have to admit I’d rather avoid the whole messy business and live a carefree, easy life. But then I wouldn’t be learning how to glorify God for eternity if my life on earth was a walk in the park. And that’s why we’re here in the first place—to glorify God. Did you catch that? The entire reason we are here is to glorify God. I don’t know about you. But, for me, that’s a startling revelation.
Perhaps the Westminster Catechism summarizes the concept best: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
But that’s not all. The hypothesis appears repeatedly through the Bible:
“Also, your people shall all be righteous. They shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.”
“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me.”
“For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
I Cor. 6:20
“For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
I Cor. 10:31
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
I Peter 4:11
“If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability with God supplies, which in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
“Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
So what should you do if your pain becomes a distraction? I’m not just talking about physical tenderness, which we can attempt to tackle with the aid of physical therapy and medication. I’m talking about gut-wrenching emotional distress, which has the potential to knock our feet out from under us.
- Has someone you love hurt you so deeply that it rocked you to your very core?
- Did someone you love die?
- Is your son or daughter in rebellion against God?
- Have you lost a treasured friend?
- Are you lonely…lost… hurt…helpless?
If you’re in pain, I’ve got great news. God cares. Even though He fully expects us to follow the example of His Son’s journey on earth by glorifying the Father while we’re here, He also knows how difficult it is for us to maintain laser focus. And He offers to help us along the way:
“And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”
“As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
If you’re in pain, turn to God. There is no one more equipped to help than Jesus, the Great Physician.
~Bowling for Jesus