Chronic Pain and the Church: What’s my Plan?

There isn’t a person alive that won’t experience some sort of breakdown of their body over time.  (Romans 5:12-14)  While it is true that all people will experience bodily breakdown, sickness and eventually death, believers in Christ must think about their bodies differently from those who are apart from Christ.  Through our faith we approach every facet of life from a different perspective than those outside the faith.  As we think back to God’s plan for our life, including our physical body, we must ask ourselves this foundational question: Is what comes into our lives ordained by God or is it by chance? How we answer that question even determines how we deal with our personal healthcare.  Since God created our body (Psalm 139) and sovereignly brought us into a relationship with him through his grace (John 6:44), and has graciously entrusted us with the stewardship of our body (1 Corinthians 6), then we must understand that we are under obligation to care for it according to his way for his glory.  This post will begin to unpack that statement.

Struggling with chronic pain usually involves several trips to doctors and various medical facilities.  Here are some questions* to begin our discussion of “What’s my plan?” when it comes to dealing with chronic pain:

  • How does my relationship with Christ shape the reasons why I choose to go to the doctor and how I act as a patient?
    • How does my relationship with Christ shape the way I behave as a patient both in the office and out of the office of my doctor?
  • How does my going to the doctor differ from an unbeliever?  Why is it different; how is it similar?
  • Understanding that I am a steward of my body, even in the midst of chronic pain, how does this affect the way I live?  What specific ways does 1 Corinthians 6 affect my behavior?  (see link above for verses)
  • Is my response, as a believer in Christ, to chronic pain & illness any different from an unbeliever’s?  Why?  In what ways?
    • Am I convinced that being conformed to the image of Christ really drives how I respond to chronic pain or other physical ailments?
  • How does living as a 2 Corinthians 5:9 or Matthew 6:33 person impact my physical well-being and influence my daily life?  How are my senses informed by my saving faith?

In the next post on Chronic Pain & the Church, we will begin to explore stewardship of the body even more.  I pray that you spend time focusing on these questions and thinking about your answers.  They will prepare you, as a chronic pain sufferer, or a friend of a sufferer, to begin to deal with suffering in a God-glorifying way.

Joni Eareckson Tada‘s interview with Christianity Today entitled, “Something Greater than Healing“.  It’s a good read.

excerpt:

How has your perspective on suffering and healing changed since your breast cancer diagnosis?

Thankfully, it hasn’t changed at all. You examine Scripture again and follow every passage regarding healing. I did that with my quadriplegia, and I did that again 10 years ago, when I embarked on a whole new life of chronic pain. Just a month ago, getting diagnosed with breast cancer, I looked at those same Scriptures, and God’s words do not change.

Even though it seems like a lot is being piled on, I keep thinking about 1 Peter 2:21: “To these hardships you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” Those steps most often lead Christians not to miraculous, divine interventions but directly into the fellowship of suffering. In a way, I’ve been drawn closer to the Savior, even with this breast cancer. There are things about his character that I wasn’t seeing a year ago or even six months ago. That tells me that I’m still growing and being transformed. First Peter 2:21 is a good rule of thumb for any Christian struggling to understand God’s purposes in hardship.

*These questions were taken and expanded from Dr.James Halla’s session on “God’s Kind of Patient” at the 2010 national NANC conference.
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One thought on “Chronic Pain and the Church: What’s my Plan?

  1. Mark,

    Great post. I think often times we as believers complain like a person without Christ, even when the physical problems are nothing more than an inconvenience. But then, miraculously, when we’re beyond the pain, we look back and say, “God really used that…” Many (most?) people in the world really struggle with the whole issue of suffering, and I’ve found that even professing believers somehow think that God has lost his handle on the universe when it does happen. I saw the post on Desiring God where Matt Chandler was preparing his people to suffer BEFORE they had to, and in the midst of his sermon series, he was diagnosed with cancer – he had been preparing himself. I think pastors really need to ready their people for the pain that is sure to come.

    MP

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