Invisible Pain

 

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 encouragement of broken believers, many of whom struggle with some form of invisible pain, whether physical or mental pain.

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I didn’t want to write about fibromyalgia, but then I realized that sharing my struggles with this syndrome might help someone who also struggles with invisible pain.

When someone breaks a leg, 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 from 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 had also read that there was 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 gives 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, and 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 so that you might be enabled to stand firm in your faith. Would you do the same for me?

ysic, Linda K.

 

 

 

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Keep Walking

 

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in a deep, dark valley. Often it feels more like a narrow slot canyon where no sunshine can reach.

The Narrows slot canyon at Zion National Park is 18 miles long and if you want to walk up it you’re in the water—often very deep water, with a strong current and rocky bottom—all the way. It’s not for the weak or faint of heart.

My husband and I hiked part of the way up the Narrows last summer. There was no way I could make it the full 18 miles. Even the mile we did trek was almost too much for me. My wristband that says “I can and I will” reminded me of the hope I needed to make it back downriver.

Life itself isn’t for the faint of heart.

It’s impossible without hope. Thankfully, hope never dies. And God never leaves us alone.

David reminds us in Psalm 23 that no matter how dark the slot canyon of life becomes, we are not alone. We must always remember these words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” We are only walking through the dark valley and on our darkest days, hope is there.

So if you find yourself today walking in darkness, unable to see the light, keep walking. Even if you can barely muster a crawl, keep moving forward through the dark valley. You can and you will reach the other side. And when you do, you’ll find hope was there all along.

My valley of the shadow of death lasted more than seven years.

At the time, I felt all hope was lost. But looking back I can see that my Savior never left me. Hope never died, dim though it was.

I pray you may one day look back and see that hope has never left you either.

 

 
 
Linda L. Kruschke blogs at Another Fearless Year.

 

Our City of Refuge

Buried in the Old Testament is the idea of the Cities of Refuge.

They speak profoundly to our situation and bring real hope for us who struggle so. Six places of safety were given to protect those who accidentally killed another person— maybe an ax-head flew and hit someone, and they died as a result.

God told Joshua to establish cities of protection where one could be safe from an avenger. There were six of them, three on the east side of the Jordan river, and three on the west. The cities were pretty much covering Israel; each was spread out intentionally so they were always close. That city became a place of asylum for those guilty of manslaughter.

Us as believers, we know that we’ve committed crimes against God and other people. The burden we carry threatens to undo us. Satan (and his minions) want to destroy us—and honestly, we deserve it. We are essential ‘criminals’ who have hurt others and damaged ourselves in the process.

Outside of the city, we’re vulnerable—but inside those walls we find safety.

Those who have killed others are protected. If we venture outside, we find our adversary who is waiting. Scripture tells us that we must stay cloistered there until the current high priest dies. Upon his death, we’re released and may leave the city walls.

For broken believers, the whole concept rings true.

The text speaks for itself, and there is spiritual logic in all of this. We see parallels here that speak to our condition. We’ve messed up big time. We also carry issues that the enemy can attack. Depression, bipolar, trauma, and even thoughts of committing suicide—they can be a real part of our lives.

I must tell you that safety is found in only a place.

Finding God and abiding in him is our place of safety. His walls protect us, Jesus is our high priest, who never dies; that means we need to stay with him, permanently. I like Hebrews 6:18, LB:

“Now all those who flee to him to save them can take new courage when they hear such assurances from God; now they can know without a doubt that he will give them the salvation he has promised them.”

For us especially, we often have problems with the doctrine of assurance of salvation. Our enemy works overtime to accuse us (Rev.12:10). We’re his targets and the lies of many demons assault us. We can, at times, wonder if we’re really saved. We wonder if we are really forgiven, and we doubt our salvation. Satan’s efforts can be constant and crippling.

I encourage you to think this over and pray about this. Numbers 35 is a good place to start. That chapter is pretty clear. Look also at Exodus 21:13-14; Joshua 20:1-6; Deuteronomy 19:2-13.

Trying to Find a Sound Mind

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

I hate to be the one who tells you this, but there will come a time when life doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

When you’re profoundly depressed issues like taking a hot shower and eating something besides top ramen seem impossible. I’m embarrassed to say I once went 34 days with a shower. I laid in bed pretty much unable to function.

I suppose that is the insidious truth about chronic depression, I know it well. God seems far, far away. Life doesn’t matter anymore. I am way beyond ‘salvageable.’ I obviously don’t say it, but I feel like I’m destined for destruction.

Just a word here about Satan’s battle for our souls.

He is evil far beyond human comprehension. His schemes and plots are his attempt to destroy me and to extend his darkness by his attacks.

The devil is already condemned and his power is defeated. Using God’s weapons (Ephesians 6:10-18) we can protect our family and friends. We set free the captive, heal, and preach the gospel to those who can’t see yet. But that war is still demanding and it’s a real challenge at times. Especially for us.

But there is much I can do.

Yes, it’s true–life can seem insurmountable. We must grab the truth that clinical depression kills people. It slowly devours “a sound mind.” It cripples before it takes away your life. There is nothing quite like it; people tell you it will pass, and that you’ll see the sun again. But at the time that seems to be the worst advice ever given.

We need to understand that afflicted souls are special to God.

And that alone truly comforts me. Sometimes it seems like there is an invisible tether that holds from completely dropping off the edge. When I do pray–it is desperate and brief. (More like a quiet scream for help.) There are no frills and no eloquence, but I know I’m being heard by Him who guards my soul.

People for the most part, are of little help. And I admit that my attitude can be less than stellar. “Unless you have been lost in this section of hell yourself, it’s best if you just shut up.” (I don’t really say this mind you, but I’m terribly tempted to.)

There are a few that understand and only a few can speak clearly.

When I was very sick once I woke up to find another pastor praying prostrate on my bedroom floor. He didn’t have to do or say anything else. He was very quiet. He left without saying some ‘pious’ word to me, yet what he did was wonderfully done. God used Him.

“I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.”   

John Henry Newman

Speak often with the Lord Jesus, and learn to listen to His voice. I read the Psalms–they give me a spiritual ears so that I can hear Him. I find a voice that can speak to God. Reading the Psalms imparts things that I can’t have any other way.

That “sound mind” promised in 2 Timothy 1:7 needs to be believed. It must become activated by faith. This promise is for us who struggle this way.

After all, we’re the ones who really do need it.

 

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