It is a common refrain of pro-life supporters that life is precious in all stages. It is a gift from God and therefore has immeasurable value. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t feel very precious.
Sometimes it feels painful. We may know that life is always valuable but at the same time struggle with pain. How can we deal with pain and value our life as the gift from God that it is? In my life, it has been in times of pain when I have seen most clearly how precious life is and, even more importantly, how beautiful it is with my God. While we face our own strengths and weaknesses and times of pain, God is always good and always strong.
My chronic pain is in the form of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was diagnosed at eighteen months and since then have used many different medications, physical therapy, crutches, a wheelchair, and joint replacement surgeries. Suffice it to say that my arthritis, characterized by joint swelling, damage, and pain, has been severe. There were years when, because of pain, I could not walk or stand on my own, had trouble falling asleep, and could not participate in some of the activities my peers did. Sometimes I felt left out and discouraged. Other times I found things I could do, like reading, writing, talking with family and friends, and being creative. Even doing those things I enjoyed, still arthritis hurts.
The reality is pain is bad. If you have dealt with significant pain, you know there will unavoidably be times when it gets you down – emotionally or literally! There are some practical ways to deal with it, such as resting when necessary, listening to music, and doing fun activities that distract your mind from the pain. Of course, medical care must also be a part of the plan. Whatever you find helpful when you face pain, make sure you also do the most important thing: Go to God. You see, pain is bad because it is not how He created things. He is perfect and so was His design for us. Yet, with this perfection comes such a great love that God enabled Himself to understand pain and conquer it in Christ. He is your comfort, your peace, and your strength. He is the One who told us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). And He does. I have found that, as bad as the pain is, the peace of God that you will find during it is better.
Looking back on times when I experienced the most severe pain, I see that they were accompanied by many blessings. At a very young age, I remember it hurt to walk and I was truly thankful for chairs. I learned to be patient because I had to be patient with myself. I saw the love of my family displayed for me in tangible ways every day as they helped take care of me. My arthritis brought me closer to my family. It also brought me closer to my God. When I couldn’t “run and play” like other kids, I could still pray. Those moments of lying in bed, while the throbbing of my joints slowly diminished and I prayed, are some of my best memories. I did have many great experiences of fun and family and friends, but these moments were uniquely precious. As I prayed and read God’s Word, my relationship with Him grew. He lavishly gives faith, trust in Him, comfort, joy and peace. He gave these things to me in pain. I knew that when I couldn’t do other things or when I felt like no one understood, I could go to Him because He was always there, loved me, was ultimately in control, and that He understood.
When you are in pain, please know that God is always there with you and that He “has been there,” too. He understands because He has experienced pain to a greater extent than we have, really even more than we can imagine. Jesus experienced excruciating physical pain on the cross. He also experienced the pain of betrayal by a friend, separation from the Father, and being hated by many. Not only did He experience these things, but He did it all out of love for us so we could be forgiven and live with Him for eternity where there is no pain. No matter what our present circumstances, we all have the ability to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). There we find our God who understands, loves us, and works all things for good.
Besides these personal blessings He has given me by strengthening my relationship with Him through times of pain, God has also amazingly worked through me and my experience to do good for others. Growing up, my disability was pretty obvious, so it was clear to everyone that I was “different.” After learning what my disability was and getting to know me a little, people started telling me that I was inspirational and encouraging to them. I was surprised because I hadn’t done anything, but just by living my life people were encouraged. I knew that it was not me. I am weak, physically and in my sin. As Paul says, it was “all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:29). Now, with my arthritis, I have good days and bad days, but I know I need to rely on His strength working through me and I still see it the strongest when I am the weakest. As He has continued to work through me, my pain has become a platform for sharing the Gospel. I can speak of human weakness and a strong God who saves.
Yes, life is precious and immeasurably valuable in all stages. Even in pain, in sickness, when it appears we cannot do anything, God can still do great things in us and through us. Our disability does not negate God’s ability. Our weakness does not diminish His strength. If you are struggling with pain, I am praying for relief, and also that God would reveal Himself to you and comfort you in those moments. Go to God in your pain. Pray, read His Word, be comforted by your heavenly Father, “for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23)!
Written by Lauren Schaidt, Lutherans For Life of Michigan Secretary.