On Thursday May 28th, right around 6:45pm as I was moving to our couch to read my daughter Naomi Rose a bedtime story, I motioned to sit down on our comfortable living room couch. The reminder came rather painfully about how much I take for granted in life. Within the confines of my lower back, a disc slipped out of place and almost in slow motion, I felt the disarranged agent begin to pinch on my sciatic nerve especially going down my right leg.
“No, no, oh no!” I yelped, almost cussing but my daughter was right next to me. I knew instantly what had happened. Diagnosis of this injury, doing the most mundane of activities, was easy for me. The L 4-5 disk in my lower back was bulging. Around 2008 when I was moving a bookcase into my Seattle condo was the first time this pain had happened. Not a genius idea to move a big, awkward bookcase by myself.
The injury took on another iteration on Christmas Eve 2011. Stepping out of a hot, jetted bathtub, the disc invaded the cramped space in my back again spitefully pressing against the nerve endings. The event became one of my more unhappier Christmases.
Rearing its sadistic head again for the third time, my desire of hikes and physical activity during this hot Seattle summer have been dashed. I still cannot walk normally and the piercing pain up my legs at times reminds me, like a persistent alarm clock, of the limits to my current abilities.
There have been moments of anger and frustration. Some “why me’s”. The gnashing of teeth while pointing out to myself how I have consistently worked out most of my life to justify that I should not be feeling this physical pain.
At the height of my sciatica pain, the task of getting out of bed in the morning became difficult. Rolling over on my side- pain. Sitting up- pain. Putting my feet on the floor- pain. Walking to the bathroom- crooked and painful. Never have I had to use every ounce of my willpower to get out of bed, go to work, and take care of what I needed to on any given particular day. My boss and other co-workers have commented that watching me walk to the printer from my desk is painful. See, I also “hurt” others. This is no good.
If there is one thing I have to confess through all of this, it is the oft repeated phrase of “taking life for granted”. Taking health for granted. The ability to run, play sports, do physical activities, work around my yard, even get down on the floor and play with Naomi- all of this has become difficult. The latter one kills me because Naomi is growing up so fast, as 100% of people say kids do, so I constantly feel as if I’m missing out on key moments.
I am confident that I will get better. I have received a cortisone shot for the inflammation which did make the situation in my back a little better. I will be receiving another soon. My physical therapist has also given me lots of stretches and exercises to do. I will probably have to do back and core strengthening exercises, when I’m better, for the rest of my life, every day.
Through all of this though, I think about some of my friends who have chronic lasting pain. Some friends are battling cancer. Obviously much worse off than my little, discomforting back and sciatica. They have to fight against their pain everyday, have to manage with medication, and deal with their ailment as a part of their life.
Beyond physical pain, friends of mine have to deal with deep emotional pain from being hurt, losing loved ones or generally being tossed about by a cruelly fallen world. Just this past week, one of my Facebook friends posted about a family that they knew who several years ago had lost their children in a house fire. This past weekend was the anniversary of that incident. I can’t imagine that kind of suffering. That loss. What kind of courage would one have to possess to continue along in life, struggling to move forward from the most devastating of tragedies? This is a courage that I don’t think I have.
C.S Lewis wrote in “The Problem of Pain”: “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” There still is a question sometimes on what exactly God is shouting?
For lingering physical pain, perhaps one of the potential messages is that we are needy creatures? That when we fall with physical pain, we need Him and our neighbors. We can’t move along alone and without help.
What exactly would God be shouting in His megaphone to a family that has tragically lost their children? In these circumstances, I imagine the voice doesn’t seem as if it is raised into a shout. The voice seems eerily silent. The reasons for such an event happening unfathomable.
In the past two months, I’ve been thinking on these matters which is pathetic in major ways because I have had such an easy life compared to what others have gone through.
Most of us would like reasons on why we suffer as we do. Especially when after we pray for healing for other souls or for our own recovery, we are met with monumental silence sometimes. Answers and reasons for the most horrific of tragedies remain, often, ever evasive.
All of this centers around the problem of theodicy which has been written about, debated, and dialogued on for thousands of years. How can a good and powerful God allow so much pain and suffering? This blog, in anly small corner of the blogosphere, cannot answer that epic question.
However, I believe that I have an idea of one of the things that God may be shouting in His megaphone based upon His character and revelation in Scripture. His shouting may not necessarily be a commandment or a shallow apologetic. Perhaps God is shouting, “I have been there.” A statement to us of sheer empathy.
Many religions emphasize the power of God and how far above humanity He is, seated in a transcendent realm of space and time. No doubt, Christianity teaches that God has this position but Christian religion also teaches something else.
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us…” Acts 17:26-27, ESV
God is near and not far away from anyone preached the Apostle Paul at the Areopagus. In the Old Testament, A Psalmist proclaims that “God is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18, ESV)
Not only is God near, but as the God-man, Jesus Christ suffered. From his prayers in the garden of Gethsemane where He was perhaps sweating drops of blood to his friends fleeing to a close confidant betraying Him to the mockery to the beatings/ torture and finally to arrive at Golgotha for an excruciating death, God Himself has experienced suffering. He doesn’t just objectively know about pain and suffering but has subjectively walked through the ordeal to the grave as we all will.
An empathetic God, in the face of agony and misery on earth, does not unravel the haunting mystery of the problem of suffering. However, He is not so far away that He hasn’t grappled with human suffering in the most personal of ways.