Overcoming Pain (Endurance)
Someone wrote to me recently telling me of the pain they are enduring and asked me how I deal with things and manage the low times? Since my accident, I receive this type of question frequently. Below is my response. Perhaps it will be helpful to someone.
How do I manage the low times since my accident? Brother, the truth is, that it is hard. I have days that I really struggle. I will see something that triggers a memory from the past, and it takes me to a low place. It may be something simple like a blue Toyota pickup truck passing me on the road, and instantly I’m seeing myself riding around in my old truck. I recall, jumping out quickly and putting gas in it. Washing and waxing it. I miss those things I could do when I was able-bodied. It might be something as simple as looking up at the ceiling fan and remembering how I dangled off the ladder holding the fan in one hand while wiring it with the other. It almost brings me to tears thinking about what I’ve lost. Sometimes it’s deeper things. Occasionally, my iPhone will send me “photo memories” that it has collected and turned into videos. I’ll see trips with Sheri and my kids, and it takes me lower than I ever go. Sometimes I bite my lip trying to hold back the tears. Often times, they flow anyway.
At other times, it’s the pain. I deal with daily pain in my back and ribs. I manage it with medication and using my standing chairs. These things help, but there’s a certain amount that you just have to learn to live with. It wears on your attitude to hurt. It takes extra effort on my part to be kind and upbeat and positive.
I’m also constantly filled with self-doubt. I used to be full of confidence. I didn’t think there was anything that I couldn’t do. I know that’s not true now. I feel like I can’t be what I need to be to my wife. That hurts my heart.
How do I deal with it? First, I remind myself that it won’t last that long. Next year I’ll be 50. It has gone fast. It’s not all that long that we have to bear these burdens. “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). I try to take one day at a time. One thing that I have heard my dad say many times over the years is “I can do anything for a day.” Those are wise words. I can do anything for a day.
Secondly, I try to focus on the good things. Despite the losses I’ve endured and the pain I experience, I am still an extremely blessed man. “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). I have an absolutely amazing wife. I have three children who are all faithful to the Lord. I see my son at the Memphis School of Preaching, and it’s medicine to my heart. I am still able to work and earn a living. I get to stand behind my desk and do the work of a gospel preacher. (I stand with the help of a standing wheelchair behind a standing desk purchased for me by a friend). I’ve been blessed with some incredibly kind Christian folks who help me with the things that I cannot do. I go to eat lunch with my Christian brothers who wait patiently as I load and unload from my handicapped van. I have been allowed to hear and obey the gospel, and thereby be washed in the blood of Jesus. Because of that, all of the bruises of this life are temporary. I think about heaven more than I ever did before. I know that I’ll walk again.
Third, I try to stay focused on the work that I have to do. The old saying is “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” The more I stay busy, the better off I seem to be. I remind myself that I have been put here for a purpose, and it’s not to be comfortable. My purpose is to “fear God and keep his commandments” (Eccl. 12:13). Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). The Lord understood that He had a limited amount of time on this earth and that He had work to accomplish during that time period. The same is true for me. Keeping that in the forefront of my mind helps me avoid self-pity and stay focused on my task.
Since my accident, I think often of Job 14:1, “Man who is born of woman Is of few days and full of trouble.” Sometimes I think that what I’m enduring is the worst that anyone ever endures, but then I get a phone call from a brother who is on morphine just to make his pain tolerable. Then, I enter the auditorium at the church building, and I see a brother undergoing chemo treatment for cancer. He is thin and pale, weak and frail, but he’s there at worship. On another pew, there is a sister in Christ who has lost her mate of fifty-plus years. I can’t imagine the crippling emotional pain that that would bring. And I think of a dear sweet Christian lady who is isolated in a facility and suffering loneliness. The Covid dilemma keeps her from having company. Loneliness might be the worst kind of hurt. So, I call her. It helps her, and it helps me.
How do I deal with it? Sometimes, not that well. But, it won’t be long, and I have to keep things in perspective. Like the song says, “Just one glimpse of Him in Glory Will the toils of life repay.”
Stay strong brother!