About That Pain Thing

Low-back-pain_2011All of you know and love Joanna Black, right?  Who doesn’t?

A couple of weeks ago, she was hit with some pretty sever pain in her upper back and neck, basically rendering her unable to do much.  It was actually grueling enough that she was forced to miss her and Matt’s last Sunday leading worship and the subsequent Family Meeting afterwards.

I know her well enough to know this must have been severe.

A day after that Sunday, I saw a post on Facebook by her that really caused me to think.  It said:

There’s something about a pinched nerve in your back to make you thankful when you don’t have a pinched nerve in your back.  Looking forward to being that kind of thankful…

You see, I have suffered from sever back issues for about a decade.  There have been times in my life that, as an adult, I’ve needed help just to use the restroom.  There is something profoundly humbling about your father holding you up while you use the toilet when you are 28 years old.

I know this pain.  I know it well.  And I know it well enough to deeply resound with what Joanna said.  I can honestly say that there are days when my back doesn’t hurt that I am deeply grateful that it does not.

This is a strange and unfamiliar place.

Usually, our default setting is one that complains and cries when things are bad, but keeps us dead silent when things are better.  For the first handful of times I was down on my back, there was never a stretch of time afterwards where I remained grateful for the times when it didn’t hurt.  I’d cry and moan when the pain came, only to return to life as usual when it receded.

After some really debilitating periods, however, I began to actually find myself thankful in the random, non-painful times.  I no longer needed a reminder.  I was actually grateful without pain.

I’m not that way with most things.  I’ll bellyache when money is tight.  I’ll whine when there is family drama.  I’ll play the “woe-is-me” card when things get chaotic.

But I rarely play the Thank-You-Father card when things are peachy.

So I began to wonder about the desires I have for my relationship with Jesus.  I want a close, meaningful relationship with Him always.  Walking through my day, hearing His voice, reacting to His commands, all day and every day.  I want to be thankful and grateful.  I want to live in that response to His grace and awesomeness.

Yet, if we want that life, I have to wonder what type of pain that involves.  In my physical body, it has taken the greatest pain I’ve endured, multiple times, before I have been able to even come close to living in some sort of gratefulness.

Is it this way with Jesus?  Does the pain we experience give us a sort of gateway to actually learn gratefulness for peaceful times?

Can we learn to live this way?  Can we be that type of disciple?

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