I have a friend who is in great pain. She is often in pain to some degree, but there are times when it reaches an over-the-top level. Unfortunately, she lives far away and I have no way to go to her house and sit by her bed and talk to her. I can't drop by with something silly I found at the store or just give her a gentle hug to remind her that God still loves her. That is hard.
I have many friends who struggle with different areas, and for some reason, almost none of them live within hugging distance.
It's hard to watch those you care about suffering. It's even harder when there is no clear cause and indeed no cure. With no definite end in sight, it becomes a waiting game. Even good days can be viewed as merely segues into the next crash.
Fibromyalgia is notorious for letting you have some good days and then making you pay for them slowly and painfully. There are times when it feels like a malevolent intelligence is orchestrating the pain my body experiences. I sometimes feel afraid to enjoy a good day, because I know the bad one is coming.
Sometimes this cycle of ups and downs feels oppressive to me and I enter what we like to call "the fog." It is a very dark, hopeless place that manifests itself in different ways depending on the situation. I can be there for days and just drift through my routine. When I'm in the fog, sometimes I am afraid to tell other people about it. I feel the weight that it puts on me and I hesitate at the thought of laying that weight on someone else, even a small part of it. I can rationalize it away as much as I want. It's not their problem. They have enough to worry about without adding my load to theirs. They won't understand and it will just make it awkward for them when we talk. And the list could go on and on.
When I continue to resist letting others see the struggle and participate in it with me, the feelings of hopelessness and defeat grow exponentially until they seem to be the only thing I can see.
It is easy, when in great pain, to feel like a burden on others. It's easy to hate the thought of being "the invalid" who has lots of needs and can't "carry their own weight." These thoughts can come like a mental avalanche burying you in feelings of inadequacy, false guilt, failure, depression, etc. But when this cycle of mental roller coaster takes over, there are some basic truths we are missing.
God is sovereign over your pain.
God was not sleeping when you were diagnosed with fibromyalgia. He wasn't away on vacation when you began fighting the pain to get out of bed every morning. He was there. He is still there. This pain is not beyond the scope of His control. Nothing is.
You are not the only one affected by your pain.
The body of Christ is a BODY. When one part is hurt, the whole body is affected. We are members of the same body and our Head is Christ. When you hurt, the people who love you hurt too. They just may not feel free to tell you that while you're in the fog.
God has a purpose for your pain that goes beyond you.
Believe it or not, God is using your pain in other people's lives. It doesn't feel like it, but God's plan for your pain goes beyond how it affects you. Others are given the chance to share in the struggle and face it with you when you share it with them.
Rather than hiding it and pretending it's not there, perhaps your role is to bless others by putting them in a position to experience grace along with you.
...the gospel creates community...
The truth is, there is a weight to our pain, and sharing it will lay some of that weight on others' shoulders. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. The Gospel, when applied to daily life, creates community. Instinctively, we are now more concerned about others than ourselves. We want to give beyond our means to others. We hurt for those who hurt, and we celebrate with those who celebrate. We are community, and when one of us is hurting, the rest of us need to be ready to help. We are irreversibly connected to each other.
It is not our place to decide how God will use our pain in other people's lives. We don't get to decide that any more than we get to decide how He will use it in our own. We are simply tasked with being obedient and trusting that His purposes for this suffering are good and beyond our comprehension.
Let the body do what it is designed to do. Let others share in God's grace as He sustains you through your worst days and scariest nights. Take it to Jesus and don't resist when He sends His followers to help. Stop hiding your weaknesses and let grace and love and mercy and compassion be practiced within this family of believers.
So, when you are faced with something much bigger than you can deal with alone, find someone else who will walk down the road with you, and let them help you carry it as you both walk Home.