I posted this recently on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog. This post was inspired by a flare up of my fibromyalgia. One of my fellow bloggers who has bipolar commented that the pain of bipolar is also a form of invisible pain. It occurred to me then that this is a perfect post for the encourament of broken believers, many of whom struggle with some form of invisible pain, whether physical or mental pain.
I really didn’t want to write about fibromyalgia, but then I realized that sharing my struggles with this syndrome might help someone else who struggles with invisible pain.
When someone breaks a leg, or suffers a severe burn, or is covered with cuts and bruises it is easy for people to see what is wrong and to sympathize. But the pain of fibromyalgia is invisible pain. From the outside the person suffering with the pain of fibromyalgia looks just fine, and so people don’t understand what they are going through.
It is also an unpredictable pain with no easily determinable cause or trigger. One day you feel just fine and you wake up the next day feeling like you got run over by a freight train. I’ve gone for months feeling fine, with very little pain, then suddenly every muscle in my body aches and certain movements cause sharp pains in my legs, arms, and neck.
I try to figure out why. I’ve had doctors give me conflicting theories of what causes this pain, and I have read conflicting theories as well. One doctor told me it is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Another has told me it is caused by what I eat, by an inability of my muscles to process sugar that results in toxins in my muscles. Another suggested it is a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that stems from some early trauma. I have also read that there is a strong link between fibromyalgia and Epstein Bar Virus (or mononucleosis), which I had when I was in junior high. Finally, I have read that it is simply hereditary.
The pain of fibromyalgia is truly invisible. There is no medical test that shows whether someone has fibromyalgia. There is a “tender point” test in which the doctor checks 18 designated tender points on the body and if 11 or more are tender to the touch a diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be made. But even that test is somewhat subjective.
All my life I have felt pain in circumstances where someone else thought I shouldn’t have felt pain. I can remember saying something hurt when I was a kid only to be told, “That didn’t hurt.” This summer I experienced pain from something that didn’t seem like it should hurt. I was at my cousin’s house in Houston and his granddaughter was playing with three pine cones. She kept handing them to me to play with, but the sharp points started to really hurt my hands. I said I didn’t want to play anymore because it made my hands hurt. My sister looked at me and asked, “Does that really hurt?”
Invisible pain. It’s difficult to cope with sometimes. But I know that Jesus knows how I feel, and that give me a great deal of comfort. Although the pain Jesus experienced when He was scourged, beaten, and crucified was quite visible, He experienced an invisible pain, too. He experienced the pain of having the sin of the world laid upon Him and of His Father turning away as He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 (NIV).
If you struggle under the weight of invisible pain, take heart that you are not alone. Christ understands your suffering and your pain. You also have fellow Christians who understand what you are going through. The apostle Peter provided for us who suffer a wonderful encouragement in his first epistle:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11 (NIV).
Satan would love to devour us in our pain, to make us fall and cease to be of use in God’s kingdom. But if we cling to Jesus, cast all of our fears and anxiety on Him, He will help us to defeat Satan’s plans. If you are struggling with invisible pain and feeling like you are at your wit’s end, leave me a comment and I would love to pray for you. It would be a blessing to me to be able to ask our Lord to strengthen you and give you peace and comfort, that you might be enabled to stand firm in your faith. Would you do the same for me?