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Empathy Part 2

Previously, I wrote about falling on my back and the resulting shoulder pain. (See Empathy) This was the kind of pain I had never experienced before. My right shoulder seemed to be in constant pain. There was some relief during the day because of distractions and constant use. At night, it was hard to find a sleep position that didn’t hurt. It usually meant placing my arm at an awkward angle or elevated in such a way that it wouldn’t stay. But the worst was the morning. After laying down all night, my shoulder would get stiff, and my attempts to move, lift or pull myself out of bed were excruciating. The only upside was that the worst of the pain would pass after a half an hour of forced movement.

X-rays and physical therapy really didn’t find anything definitive, no smoking gun. It was more, “Well, let’s try this. We need to do it this way before they will authorize an MRI.” So now it has been more than six weeks since my accident, and I’m not seeing much in the way of improvement. I tried the exercise given me once, and I think I pulled my muscle. At any rate, the resulting pain was worse than before. As the weeks went on with no significant change, I began to appreciate more what some go through who truly have constant, unrelenting pain. That is empathy.

I’ve prayed constantly for healing: everyday, twice a day. And so as not to appear too selfish, I also prayed for healing for Carol’s broken toe. Deep down, I believed that all this would heal in time. But as days turned into weeks, and weeks into a month or more, I wasn’t seeing any significant improvement. Some days it was a little better, some days a little worse. Finally, in desperation, I started experimenting with drugs. You know, the hard drugs: Advil, Tylenol, Aleve. I started experimenting with different dosages before bed. Again, my arm and shoulder still hurt when I went to bed. In the morning, my shoulder was still stiff and extremely painful to move. Now I’m beyond week six without improvement and getting pretty discouraged.

One morning recently, Carol and I were reading the “Jesus Calling” devotional. It said, as if Jesus were speaking,

All suffering has meaning in My kingdom. Pain and problems are opportunities to demonstrate your trust in Me…even thanking me for them. I am sovereign and I can bring good out of everything.

Okay, I understand what is being said but it certainly isn’t intuitive. When I wake up in the morning and any attempt to move my arm brings jolting, excruciating pain, I’m supposed to say, “Thank you, Lord”? I don’t think so! Still, there’s this,

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2 NIV

So, I swallow my pride and, in my prayers (after the worst of the pain has gone away), I thank God for my pain. I understand that it has taught me a certain amount of empathy. But enough already. Been there, done that. I get it!

Then I realize there may be still more to this. I thank Him again for the pain and what it has taught me. And pause. Afterwards, I go over and look carefully at the exercise given me by the physical therapist. I realize that I had done it incorrectly. No wonder I pulled a muscle! So, I do it correctly this time, and within a few minutes, I begin to feel relief. Praise the Lord! An answer to prayer!

From that day on, I began to do the exercises religiously: one set of ten, three times a day. At the end of the second full day of exercises, I thought I was 90% recovered. That night, I did not take any Aleve, Tylenol or Advil. The next morning, I woke up with a stiff shoulder and the usual extreme pain. “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matt. 4:7. Now I’m doing my exercises AND taking Aleve at bedtime. I’m emotionally preparing myself for the long haul, still trusting in God’s grace and will. Clearly this lesson isn’t over yet for me. Maybe next month there will be Empathy, Part 3.

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