This is something I read at the beginning of each day.
“I do not believe that we are singled out for a pain worse than we are able to endure. I also believe we have the grace to grow as a result of that pain.”
For whatever reason, and I do not know why, just like happiness and laughter - pain and suffering seem to be one of those universal experiences of the “human condition.” There are many tales of suffering in the Bible – Job in particular, and I’m sure everyone out there has been through some sort of suffering. Mental, physical, emotional. The purpose of this epistle is to offer my exploration of that universal feeling of pain and suffering.
This story will begin back in November 2013, with me, healthy, at a King’s Chapel book discussion for Christmas. At the end of the discussion we all wrote down my prayers, and I had written down a “Prayer for Dad.” ‘Please Lord allow my father to get healthier,’ I wrote. He has an autoimmune disease and has been through a lot of pain throughout his life. Throughout my childhood and possibly up until now I didn’t truly understand what constant chronic pain felt like, nor how could I? I as a then healthy individual and through some recent deeper personal growth, finally came to the realization of how tough that must be and wanted to help him on the road to health.
Trained in dentistry, it was an easy choice to want to help in the way I knew best. I went through a 5 month planning process to plan his smile, similar to the way a contractor draws up plans to build a bathroom. We made computer simulations, and after many consultations and talks with my dad and mom to get the shape and color right, we transferred those inputs to a physical wax up to represent what his smile was going to be. I remember praying each night during those times, “Please Lord allow me to bear some of his pain that he may begin to get healthier.” I thought that pain was in the sweat, tears, and some actual blood put into the workup of his case. Because it was hard work to plan this, my “first big case.”
After a few hours in the dental chair, in June 2014 his smile was nearly complete. At that time, he had over the process of planning and working through the process of improving his smile, even after about 10 years of trying, finally lost 70lbs and been eating really healthy. His smile turned out great. And the changes in his lifestyle were evident and remarkable. I have pictures documenting the transformation that I would be happy to share.
But. Just like I had prayed back in November, in April 2014, just one month before the completion of the smile, I apparently was beginning to take on some of his pain. I will echo Mindy Hinkel’s words from last years epistle. Prayer is a powerful thing and sometimes we might not fully realize what we are praying for. When I was delivering those crowns to complete the smile, I remember being in bad back pain (that persists each and every day even today) – hobbling to and fro, asking for help; looking back, just like I had prayed for, that day was seemed like a transfer of my health for possibly some of the pain. There were a few days in April and June that I was unable to walk due to pain. I often relied on friends to bring groceries as I was unable to carry anything for a long time. Quite a drastic change from training for the Boston marathon just two months earlier.
Since that day in June, I was worked up and diagnosed with a rare autoimmune, arthritic disease of my own now. It started in my lower back, but has progressed over the past 10 months to, as hard as it is to understand, involve every joint in my body – including my hands (which makes even simple tasks like cooking tedious), and my ribs which even makes breathing difficult sometimes. Bittersweet is the best way I can describe it. I will be honest, I am sad that I have lost a lot of the things that I used to love to do – play guitar, run, or even walk or open doors for a while.
But the sweet part is why I think God has designed suffering and pain into the human condition. I have been through a tremendously positive spiritual journey over the past 11 months. Dad’s suffering allowed me to work with him to become healthier and develop a closer relationship. Each time we are “tested” with pain or suffering, I truly believe it is an opportunity to look inside, look to the Bible, or an inspirational book or person. Whatever helps you find meaning. But I think ultimately pain and suffering, while it truly is an awful thing, it helps you grow closer to people and closer to Jesus, and closer to God. It’s that concept of Imitatio Dei/ Christi; Just like God suffered when Jesus was on that cross, there was sweet redemption to follow. Just like Job suffered, there ultimately was sweet redemption at the end.
And, I don’t think I’ve fully hit the redemptive part yet as I am still in the process of intense physical pain each and every day, but I hold fast to my faith and faith in the God above and I know it will come one day.
So, again I leave you with the quote I started with, with my addendum.
“I do not believe that we are singled out for a pain worse than we are able to endure. It just wouldn’t make sense. I also believe we have the grace to grow as a result of that pain.”