Pain: an essay about my pain, and what it teaches me about this world

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

Romans 8:18-21

This is interesting. I have found myself, over the past few weeks, dealing with a great deal of pain. Not the temporary kind of pain like a burn from the stove, or a bad headache, or a visit to the dentist, but pain that hangs around, pain that camps out, pain that makes it difficult to sleep, or write, or enjoy a good conversation, or even cook a creative meal.

My first response, other than “ouch”, and “dagnabit”, has been to wonder to myself about the many people I know who have had been dealing with chronic pain and yet I failed to begin to understand.

And again, as is often the case when I suddenly develop “insight” into the human condition, I am struck by how my temporary (at least I hope so) journey into this experience is a lot like one of those mission trips into the city to feed the hungry. I coast in for a few hours, look at my watch when the sun starts to set, then coast out again; I have to guard against pretending that I understand.

Don’t be too concerned. My pain is likely manageable. It may be (might be.. could possibly be…) orthopedic, or related to some kind of a pinched nerve, or maybe – the exceptionally bad pain in my neck and shoulder – something like a pulled or torn muscle from being a little too ambitious in the garden.

But I am also an observer. At the same time as feeling overwhelmed and distressed, I am interested – curious about the pain. This is likely the journalist in me, wanting to know and to understand, trying to keep my mind and my heart open, and seeing what there is for me to learn in the face of something this difficult.

Doctor and tests:

So I did go to the doctor Wednesday. And she definitely is concerned. She ordered blood work, then gave me a huge shot that helped for maybe three hours before being blown out by the neck pain. She also prescribed a course of steroids and a series of X-Rays.

That’s where I took these photos, at the radiologist’s office. I also wanted to grab some images where they were doing the X-Rays but my phone was in my pants pocket and I certainly didn’t have those any more!

My ability to think clearly feels compromised by the constant throbbing ache, my cognition befuddled by the burning, my insight swamped by the nausea. At the same time I have this strong sense that severe pain is unnatural, not supposed to be a part of the human condition, and that it is evidence of the kind of imbalance and brokenness Paul was referencing when he wrote the following amazing words from Romans 8.

Paul offers “hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay...” And I think that this experience offers maybe some insight into the pain that any separation from our Creator causes.

Not that God causes, or intends, human suffering but that a kind of tearing apart is the natural consequence of a world that has lost touch with its fundamental purpose and allegiance.

This entire world is in pain. War, tumult, famine, conflict and more; sitting on a kind of precipice precipitated by wanton destruction and selfishness and greed. The pain is unbearable at times. But the word from God is this consistent, simple, winsome invitation:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46

It is not only me who stands in need of redemption (and you, and all of humankind), but this Good Earth where we make our home. To “be liberated from the bondage of decay, and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God…” – DEREK


  1. You had me at “pain”.
    First and foremost prayers for you, your pain, your healing, your questions (medical and existential) your (medical) guides on this path and for Rebekah (it is as hard to be the support as it is to be the patient.)
    This came at just the right time for me, having had back problems all my life, but two back surgeries this year, one very recently.
    Love the Romans reference.
    Preach it brother! There is real life and faith to share in your words.
    Right now I am (nerve, arm, leg & back) pain free. Now on to my knee 😀.
    I will be bookmarking this blog and revisiting often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. That’s a lot of body parts to keep pain free. Your story confirms my sense of being a visitor in the “world of hurt” you describe. Prayers for your healing too. And, thanks for your encouragement 🙏🙏


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