“My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body. I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.” – Psalm 38:7-8
How I came to have chronic back pain is another post for another day; the fact is, constant back pain does more to test my faith ~ and to stretch my faith ~ than anything else, except, perhaps, for my son who has autism.
But that is definitely another post for another day.
David sure did nail it. My back is filled with searing pain and I do feel utterly crushed.
People who have chronic pain, like myself, can dive into a litany of actual diagnosed medical issues they have at a moment's notice. This is not bragging ~ this is a medical necessity, as one medication for one issue can have a catastrophic effect on other issues. This is also not for sympathy ~ it just means there's a whole lot more on the plates and platters of people with chronic pain than the average see-the-doctor-at-my-physical-and-that's-it person.
For me, personally, it's fibromyalgia ~ that catch-all chronic fatigue syndrome that affects every.single.thing. Then chronic migraines of the genetic type ~ before I was on a preventative medication, I was having upwards of 20 migraines a month. That gets old. Now add hypoglycemia (chronic low blood sugar that can morph into diabetes later in life) and we've got a party going on. The issue that is currently a pain in the behind, so to speak, is the disc between L5 and S1 in my lower back.
I have had two back surgeries: go in, 1" scar, laser, snip off the offending herniated discs, no biggie. This time around, the "bad boy" as my doctor called the offending disc, requires major surgery. I had no idea how bad my back was, though, until the doctor sat with me and relayed the following:
~ Bone marrow in L5/S1 is being leached out and replaced with a clear liquid, similar to what is in a blister.
~ The bone-threads of the vertebra at L5/S1 have minute ~ but many ~ fractures that compromise the very integrity of the vertebrae.
~ New nerve fibers have grown into the microfractured bones. This right here is enough to shut me down and cover my head with a blanket. I cannot relay how incredibly painful this is.
~ The disc between these two problem bones has degenerated to the point that it is extremely narrow, and, just for fun, has herniated out the back into the central spinal column. This means, if I move incorrectly to the left or the right, shooting sciatic pain lightening-rods down a leg, and, just to keep me on my toes, sometimes bilateral sciatica happens which is down both legs at the same time.
~ Unlike other types of low back pain which happen depending on activity or inactivity, the pain from these issues (called modic changes) is constant, does not depend on activity or inactivity, and is made worse by exercise.
Finally ~ something made worse by exercise.
After 10 years of back pain, and specifically 10 months of dealing with constant, chronic pain from these modic changes, the Lord Jesus finally opened the door to a doctor that was willing to re-visit the MRI results and give me something that I was just about to give up: Hope. Praise Jesus for Hope!
Sometimes, with chronic pain, you just want a medical professional to take you seriously. You want to be heard, you want the doctor to hear the pain in your voice and to say to you, "You're right; you don't have to live like this, and we're going to do something about it."
When my doctor told me surgery would be scheduled, I wanted to hug his neck. On Wednesday, November 12 this year, a team of prayed-up surgeons will cut a 6" vertical incision in my belly, move stuff around, and access the problem vertebrae. They will remove the disc and insert an artificial replacement, therefore stopping sciatica in its shocking tracks forever. After they stitch and staple, they will flip me over (I have weird visuals on this), access my spine from the back and insert four bolts and two plates in the offending vertebrae. I am praying that there is enough bone integrity to hold the bolts and plates.
So, recovery will be focused on abdominal and back surgical sites. As I firmly believe in being prayed-up, prepared and packed for a surgery of this magnitude, it has not been lost on me that the most important part of this whole process is being constant in the Word and in prayer. For even though the team of physicians are no doubt skilled, I need Jesus ~ the Great Physician ~ to guide their hands, regulate blood loss, focus on the vitals and not leave anything in there that God didn't put there to begin with, with the exception of four bolts and two plates. I have a fear of having tummy trouble and getting an xray only to see a pair of scissors or clamps where scissors and clamps just should not be.
From this writing, I have roughly four weeks to spiritually, mentally and logistically prepare. There's the four year old to get to preschool during my recovery in which I cannot drive. There are my mother's doctors' appointments to make; dinners to coordinate and ~ blessed assurance! ~ Thanksgiving coming up! But if I know anything, it is this: the same God Who created my back is the same God Who will be standing in that operating room, and is the very same God Who will be with me at all stages of recovery ~ even as I sit in my recliner orchestrating the making of the Thanksgiving feast.
As a Christian, we have two responses to chronic pain. We can fight it, curse it, wallow in it, and allow it to destroy us. Or, we can accept that it is what it is, deal with it, fight it on appropriate levels, and more than anything ~ give it to God to be used for His glory.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 states, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort."
Just as God comforts those who have chronic pain, He can redeem that pain and allow us to comfort and encourage others who suffer from chronic pain, too. We are given in-the-trenches ministries; we do not choose them; who in their right mind would choose severe degenerative disc disease with nerves growing like kudzu in their back bones? But I know, when God places someone in my path that has a similar story, He is planting within me a story of Hope and Redemption to share with them -- and to share Jesus in the process.
How we as followers of Christ handle chronic pain tells a lot about our faith ~ and even more about our Savior. We are the only Bible some people will ever read. Look at what 2 Corinthians 3:3-6 states: "You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life," [emphasis added].
Wow, did you get that, brother and sister? We are letters from Christ, written with the Spirit of the Living God ~ oh I hope you're shouting now, praise Him! ~ we are not competent in ourselves to do anything, but through Christ, our competence comes from God Himself. We as Living Letters encourage life through Christ.
If that doesn't get you excited, check your pulse right now.
Go ahead, I'll wait.
While my back is in searing pain (ironically, it hurts most when I sit at the computer and write this blog...talk about being poured out as a drink offering), yet ~ and Oh our Lord Jesus is The God of "Yets" ~ Yet "we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure..." [Hebrews 6:19a] -- what Hope?
Jesus. "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope," [1 Timothy 1:1]....
Of Christ Jesus our hope. Christ Jesus our Hope.
Amen and amen.
Terrie Bentley McKee
This post may contain affiliate links to products and/or services, including those available on Amazon.com, as Near Your Altar is a participating member in the Amazon Affiliate Program in addition to other retail affiliates. These affiliate links help provide for this website as well as a small income to my family and I. Please consider clicking on the links to purchase or to browse the affiliate's website, which will open in a new window. We thank you for your support. ~ Terrie
Read Disclosure Policy here