Chronic Pain and the Church: Being a Good Steward of a Hurting Body

Ask any Christian if it is a good thing to die for Christ and they most likely will reply, “Yes”.  Ask them if it is a good thing to live for Christ in a body that is broken down and hurts continually, and you might not get the same answer.  Why is it that believers can rationalize dying for Christ as being easier to accept than living in a chronic pain state?  I think the answer has something to do with the immediate finality of death versus the tedious life of chronic pain.  Is there any thinking that would provide us hope in our lives as we deal with chronic pain?  Yes!  It’s the subject we began to uncover in our last post, and one that we’ll examine in detail in this post.  This thinking requires that we be a good steward of our failing bodies.

A steward is simply one who manages the property of someone else.  (1 Corinthians 4:2)  We have already established that our bodies are not our own and as a result we need to manage (steward) them in such a way that brings glory to God.  As stewards of our bodies, broken though they may be, we realize that this is a requirement given to us by God, a blessing and an adventure.

We have examined the duty (requirement) of being a good steward of our bodies in previous posts; how is it a blessing to be a good steward of a hurting and broken down body?  God receives the greatest glory in the life of a believer as they become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.  We are called to be holy and blameless before God in this life (Ephesians 1:4) irrespective of our physical state.  We know we are to make it our goal to please God in this physical life (2 Corinthians 5:9) even while longing for the next life.  We rest in the knowledge that all things that occur to us in this life (pain, suffering, good, ease, etc) are for our own good as they conform us to the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28,29).  It is important for the believer suffering from chronic pain to understand that they can always please God and become more Christ-like even when their body is failing.  When the believer understands this concept, it provides release from the bondage of a broken body and releases them from the unrelenting task of seeking relief as the major goal in life.

As the Christian chronic pain sufferer puts this knowledge into practical action, they find it produces godly rewards:

  • Often health improves, in fact the best thing that a believer can do for their body is to be a good steward.  (Proverbs 3:5-8).
  • It simplifies life by reminding the believer of their need of God’s grace, not only for salvation, but also for sanctification.
  • It provides for a clean conscience knowing that pleasing God through good stewardship honors him and benefits you.
  • It is hope-engendering.  God will never ask his children to do something that they are not equipped to do.  Even when it comes to suffering and chronic pain.
  • It provides an eternal perspective of life.  There is gain from the pain.  (Hebrews 12:2; John 16:1ff)  Women who have given birth should understand this concept quickly and thoroughly.
  • It turns you to the Creator
    • Every physical and physiological fact that explains how our bodies function is a testimony to God’s creative power and his sovereign control over his creation.  (Romans 1:18-20; Psalm 139)
    • It reminds us of our identity as his creation and our status as his child
    • It turns us to the cross.  Our Creator is our Redeemer and eventually our bodies will be redeemed!
    • It points us to the resurrection.  A glorified body is not now, but something that awaits all believers.
  • It gives you the advantage of experiencing God’s power and wisdom personally.  (Psalm 34:8)

If God ordains his children to live with suffering and chronic pain, and if we are to good stewards of our bodies in response, then how are we to view going to the doctor, seeking treatment, etc.  Our next post will examine this process for the Christian chronic pain sufferer.

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