Being the aspirational species we are, human beings naturally dream of living happy, pain-free lives. But reality has a way of interfering with this vision in various ways.
For some, chronic pain becomes a major theme in their lives. It can get so bad, they seriously question God’s care for them. After all, didn’t God create us to be happy? Doesn’t He say that our lives have a purpose?
There are no easy answers to the problem of chronic pain. But we as Catholics have a lot more to fall back on than secularists.
Here are some tips.
1. Unite yourself to the suffering of Christ.
It’s easy to tell someone to “offer up” their suffering. Sadly, some people say this in a dismissive way to get out of helping someone in need of support.
Yet, it’s only by offering your suffering to Christ that it becomes meaningful. The secular world simply has no way to make sense of suffering. But for Catholics, suffering is redemptive. We can offer our suffering to atone for our own sins or those of others.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adopt practices to reduce your pain. Definitely listen to your doctor’s suggestions. But if some pain lingers, what are you to do?
The cross of Christ offers the only answer. This applies to chronic pain, as well as suffering in all its forms.
2. Remember that nothing falls outside of God’s loving providence.
God is not the creator of suffering. But He allows it to enter our lives and is able to transform it into a vehicle of grace for us.
It is tempting to look at your pain as an obstacle to personal fulfillment. But nothing can get in the way of God’s plan for your life. He sees your fulfillment and will give you the means to get there.
Your ultimate fulfillment may not end up being what you dreamed of, but it will transform you into an image of Christ if you simply let God’s grace do its work. So instead of trying to fight your suffering (we mean beyond practical steps to reduce the pain), ask God what He’s trying to teach you through it.
3. Don’t feel guilty if you struggle at Mass.
Some people have pain that prohibits them from kneeling or standing at Mass. If your church has a communion rail, you may feel self-conscious about not being able to kneel to receive our Lord.
Don’t feel guilty. Be as reverent as you can within the limitations imposed by your condition. Jesus sees your heart and He understands it better than anyone else.
On the other hand, if you see someone sitting when everyone else is kneeling or standing, don’t jump to conclusions about their motivations. They, too, may have physical limitations.
These tips will help you handle your pain. But, as we said, the mystery of suffering — and the innumerable questions it raises — will not be answered in this life.
But it will in the next, when the Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes and heal every wound.