When I first tried my arm after the removal of the cast I was shaken by the amount of pain involved in even the slightest movement. A sharp, stabbing pain accompanied any change in position and I could not see how I was going to be able to stretch and re-activate muscles that had been immobilized for five weeks.
I hate to admit it, but I cried like a baby. I allowed myself the rest of that day to cry with a promise that tears would not be tolerated come the morning. A strong sense of fear accompanied each stabbing pain. I even danced with the idea of putting my cast-less arm back in the sling. Writing this, now, I cannot quite believe it: I wanted to return to the hated sling!
That is what fear of pain will do to you; it sends you back to what you thought you wanted to escape.
A good friend, who understands this kind of pain, gave me a good talking to. Another friend, who knows how to work with people to heal from injury, gave me a good pep talk. Through their kind and gentle words, God helped me to identify the difference between injury pain and healing pain.
Our emotions are a gift from God. Many of us would prefer the Mr. Spock demeanor where we make all decisions logically and rationally. However, this is not possible, nor is it desirable. Our emotions help us to evaluate situations, to make decisions and to encode and retrieve memories. We would be lost without emotions.
When I fell and saw that my arm had some new lumps and bumps my brain immediately connected the pain I felt with fear. This was a healthy thing as my fear gave me the incentive to take action and to allow medical personnel to do what was needed. Later, that same fear gave me strong reason to see the specialist and to agree to surgery. I know I now have a better chance of full recovery, but if I had not taken action, the results would have been devastating.
The fear I experienced with my pain still lives in my memories. Hopefully, this fear will keep me from trying, again, to carry too many groceries. It also encourages me to have more empathy when I accompany relatives with compromised walking skills. Perhaps someday this fear will help me listen to my son and daughter when they have to have a conversation with me about where I live, or whether I should drive, or why I need to follow doctor’s orders regarding the walker. Some measure of fear with always be connected to this pain and that is probably a good thing.
Fear is a powerful motivator but, it does not always motivate in a good direction.
Sometimes pain is a sign of healing. When pain starts with injury it is difficult to break the connection between fear and pain. Now that my bones are on the mend, fear connected to pain is no longer adaptive. It only serves to discourage me from doing what is needed to complete the healing. I needed to hear my friend tell me that pain was a necessary part of regaining motion and that it would gradually get better. I needed to hear my other friend tell me that while moving my arm would cause pain, it would not cause further injury. In relating these gems of wisdom, my friends were a gift from God.
Once fear is disconnected from the pain in my wrist I can be bolder about trying new things, about stretching, and about completing rounds of exercises. I will not be happy about it, but I will reap the benefits of moving.
Now I go to my physical therapy sessions, do my work and then this little piggy cries “owie, owie, owie!” all the way home. When I repeat the exercises throughout the week I know to expect pain – but I no longer fear it. I dread it and I curse it, but I no longer fear it.
I am pretty risk averse so I don’t fall often, but there is something else that causes me fear. When my words or actions hurt someone, I feel fear. My conscience kicks in and my stomach ties up in a knot of pain and guilt. This is a good, God-given, pain because it will not be ignored, it brings me to repentance, it stirs me to action. Sometimes my sinful nature allows me to work around the pain and ignore it. Often, God works in me to deal with that knot in my stomach and to realize I must apologize and atone for my sin.
That brings me to a new pain: the pain of admitting that I am wrong, that I have done wrong, and that I have hurt someone I love. I do not like that pain any more than I like the pain of guilt. There is fear connected to this pain, also. Nevertheless, here again is the need to disconnect fear from pain so I can do what I need to do in order to heal.
I have to squeeze the putty and lift the weights even though my wrist screams for me to stop I know I must continue. Likewise, I have to admit to my sin, apologize, and make amends even though my selfish heart would have me walk away. Only God can bring me to repentance, but my fear of embarrassment and discomfort can prevent me from following God.
Repentance and forgiveness bring healing to many kinds of pain. Sometimes we need first to pray that God would take away our fear. He is happy to do this, and He has so much to teach us in the process.
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Psalm 32:5 ESV
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:6-7 ESV
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. II Corinthians 7:9-10 ESV