The Journey: Pain can bring us closer together

Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on

                    Last week I wrote about physical pain as a spiritual teacher. I wasn’t happy about it, but I was trying to look on the bright side. Some of you may recall I was injured in a fall and broke a bone in my back; and have been on a series of opioids and other pain medications.

The response, support, sharing and caring was amazing. People shared experiences they have had or have regarding chronic pain. They talked about the difficulty they have had trying to get adequate pain medication. The world of opioid addiction has made access to pain medication difficult for everyone.

A flurry of Facebook comments revealed a level of human connection that was inspiring. A friend shared a story of knee surgery and finally just giving up on pain meds because he couldn’t get anymore. Another shared frustrations with addicts who create problems that prohibit other people from getting the pain support they need. Another friend said, “Dan we need to talk about the system.” Another suggested alternating Tylenol and Advil. Yet another talked about hoarding her leftover Norco, and I understand how a person needs to make those difficult decisions. Someone else suggested Reiki. While another friend, a doctor, said, “The healthcare system is broken.” One comment was a complicated mixture of lavender, eucalyptus and coconut oils. It sounded like something for a romantic evening, but she insisted it was for pain management. The one that struck me the most was someone honestly expressing that her former husband had an opioid addiction, and how people like him contributed to our crisis today.

By the time I hobbled into church on Sunday all I could do was stand for my sermon, and the rest of the time I sat. Afterward, Barbara, in her late 60’s was talking to me during the coffee hour. We found ourselves in a deeper conversation on the usage and benefits of marijuana to manage pain. This conversation only makes sense if you live in Mendocino County! I joked and said, “I am sure we are the only Presbyterian Church in America talking about this during coffee hour. I don’t think they are discussing this in Lincoln, Nebraska.” We laughed.

What does the Bible say on Marijuana? Nothing to my knowledge, and I am not about to go down this road. However, the Bible has much to say about healing. I have listed above many different treatment options that our biblical ancestors knew nothing about. However, we can learn from them.

I am reminded of a passage from the book of Mark. It tells the story of a man who has a withered hand. In the society he lived in working with your hands was how one stayed alive and provided. Not having a hand would have left him marginalized and many would see him as “less of a man.” People would have considered him useless. Not Jesus, he reaches out and touches him. His touch heals him and he is made whole from the inside out. Was his hand healed? The text doesn’t say one way or the other. We know that he looked into the eyes of God and was healed. We also know that the wounds of the mind and soul are invisible but are the most painful to carry.

I thought about this passage as I spent much of my time laying on an ice pack. I thought of the millions of people around the world who have to work with their backs and have little social protection should they be injured.

Healing miracles in the Bible are not a form of special magic or promise that all people will live free from injury or wounds. We see in this passage that God’s healing hand is at work in ways we don’t see.

My eye doctor was treating me for a puncture. She was looking closely in my eye with a bright light. Her face was next to mine and she began talking about faith and asking me deep theological questions. “When doctors start medical school, we may not be thinking as much about God.” She switched eyes and continued, “I am almost ready to retire and at the end of my career I now know that I have been able to witness the miraculous healing of God. It has been the greatest joy of my life to watch God’s work.”

I now have a back brace and I am taking less medication. I am getting better. Something about healing opens all of us to care more for one another. No matter how different we are, we care and want to help when another is in pain. Care and healing is a powerful quality and it is humbling and inspiring to see. Pain and care has a way of pointing us to our better selves. Have a good week.

Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah.