When in Pain, What Do We Do?

A few years ago, I fell while skiing with my family. I just clobbered my shoulder. I thought that I might need rotator cuff surgery to repair what I injured. During the first week I had quite a bit of pain. How I responded to that pain reminded me of what I have seen other people do with their pain. It got me wondering… how much of what we do when we feel pain is really helpful for us?

Response # 1 – Grit my teeth and bare it.

This is where I always start. My hope is that if I endure the pain that it will pass before I have to really do anything about it. Personally, I think that this approach works with the normal aches and pains of life; but it won’t help for real injuries of the body or the heart.

Response # 2 – Self-medication and avoidance

With the exception of over-the-counter pain medicine that is used as the label suggests, I avoid this approach to pain management. Why? I avoid this path because it leads to further injury and possible dependence (which is an added injury as well). It leads to further injury because without a good diagnosis, masking pain will only make us susceptible to more injury. It leads to dependence because all pain medicine when used for a long time will lead to chemical tolerance which requires more medicine to alleviate the same amount of pain. If we are struggling with emotional pain, such medicine must be paired with counselling to truly make a difference.

Response # 3 – Freeze up and wish it would go away

Yes, I too sometimes circle my wagons and just hunker down under my blankets when pain comes. I use this approach when I feel depressed or when I am suffering an illness that has pain. However for both the times that I am down and the times that I have an illness, there is a limit to how long I stay under those blankets. Why? I don’t stay under the blankets long because staying under the blankets can lead to more staying under the blankets. In other words – especially when the injury has to do with the heart – hiding can lead to more depression. At some point I either have to get out and face the pain or I have to ask for help. Either choice will get me out from under the blankets. Either choice is the beginning of dealing with the pain.

Response # 4 – Ask for help

As a man, I know that we have the reputation of approaching pain using the first two responses that I have listed above. Whether it’s true for all of us or not, there is a sense that we would wait until we are nearly dead before we ask for help. I would hope that is not true for you and me. There is a contemporary philosopher from Canada that says it this way, “I’m a man. I can change. If I have to. I guess.” (Red Green) No, I have no idea if Red Green is a Christian; but I do think that this humorous expression is appropriate. I need to change and be willing to ask for help! Whether it is a hurt shoulder or a hurt heart, pain that lasts or is extreme needs help. Either my pain needs outside help because it is especially damaging, or I need help because it just won’t go away on its own.

What do you do when you hurt? Do you seek help or do you try to fix things on your own? Where does God come into play for you? Does God give us people who can come alongside and give us help?

Consider these thoughts from the Word:

Psalm 121:1 – 2
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 — 12

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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