I’m learning how to deal with pain these days. A few weeks ago I underwent major surgery, and have been in moderate to severe pain ever since. This is probably the longest I’ve ever been debilitated, and it’s not fun.
Being inactive for a prolonged time causes its own problems. I’m grouchy. Self-pitying. Embarrassed by my inability to care for myself or participate in my family’s daily life like I want to.
Even so, I find that I’m not falling into despair. I think back on the prayer and blessing I received prior to my surgery and know that it eased my mind. The prayers I said prior to the operation calmed my soul and gave me peace. I know even now I’m being prayed for by my church family.
Anyone who thinks that Christianity can be practiced to its fullest alone, outside of a community of believers, is missing out.
How to Deal with Pain
I’ve tried to pay attention to my pain during this recovery period. Not in terms of obsessing over it or merely monitoring it for changes. I’ve really tried to think about the pain and what I can learn from it. Here’s what I’m learning:
Pain is humbling. It’s hard for a control freak like me to be dependent on others. My wife is pulling double duty around the house, and taking care of me on top of everything else. I can’t do things I want to. I tire out easily. This pain reminds me that I am not in control. It reminds me how fragile my body can be.
Pain gives us the chance to love. My wife and daughter have been patient and loving to me. I’ve tried my best to return that love with my own. I’m telling them every day how much I love them. I order pizza so that nobody has to cook dinner. Sure, everyone is tired and inconvenienced by my being out of action, but we’re all being extra gentle with each other as I heal.
Pain teaches us to bear our cross. As Christians we know that pain and suffering is a part of this fallen world. We are to be examples of bearing up under suffering, as Christ bore such great suffering. Learning how to deal with pain teaches us to have a repentant heart, knowing that our pain is a struggle against this mortal flesh. All our sins are the result of this fallen world, and if we can bear up under pain, we can bear to resist temptations as they come.
Learning from pain
Fr. Seraphim Rose put it so:
Why do men learn through pain and suffering, and not through pleasure and happiness? Very simply, because pleasure and happiness accustom one to satisfaction with the things given in this world, whereas pain and suffering drive one to seek a more profound happiness beyond the limitations of this world.
Are you in pain? Don’t ignore it. Listen to it. Learn from it. And pray that through God’s mercy, you will come out of it closer to God and closer to understanding what pain has to teach us.
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