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Posts Tagged ‘sciatica’

I had it all worked out. We would spend a nice, quiet time at home in December and January, with occasional visits from relatives and friends. I would finally get some more writing done, after speaking so much this past year. And, of course, I would make time somehow to watch the cricket on TV. And the tennis. What bliss! I could even start some knitting, in preparation for our new grandchild. That would mean I wasn’t really wasting my time, watching all that sport!

Alas—it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Instead, I am writing this lying awkwardly on my side in bed, my laptop balanced on a nearby chair. I have severe lower back trouble, with resulting bad sciatica in my left leg, which makes walking and even sitting difficult. Of course, I can still watch that cricket and tennis. But it’s hard to write at any length, typing sideways. Besides, the medication I’m on means I have difficulty finding my brain at times. And has anyone tried knitting, while lying flat on one’s back?

This whole experience has served to remind me well of James 4:13-14:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Needless to say, my natural reaction to all this has been to feel very frustrated. I have so much I want to write. I was sure God wanted me to complete my next non-fiction book by June. Besides, I need to be setting up speaking engagements for the coming year and planning out those months ahead. Yet here I am, doing none of it. I have found it easy to slip into feeling sorry for myself, as I lie here in the one position that is reasonably comfortable, heat pack on my back and wondering what will happen at my next visit to the specialist.

Then I received a little card in the mail, out of the blue, from a lady at our church. Apparently, she had heard about my back troubles from my husband and wanted to let me know she is praying for me. A lovely thing, for sure. But it was the words on the front of the card from Lamentations 3:22-23 that struck me most:

The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop. They are new every morning.

Hmm. If that‘s true, I thought—and it is—then the Lord is still loving and merciful to me right here in the midst of this change of plan and this pain. Surely a good reason to focus on him rather than feel sorry for myself.

That same day, an email arrived unexpectedly from a writer colleague who did not know about my back troubles. To encourage me for the year ahead, she quoted Lamentations 2:22-23 from the NIV:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I think the Lord’s trying to remind me of something, don’t you?  Even that is a loving act—and i am comforted.

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It’s probably safe to say that most of us try to avoid pain as much as we can. It’s not pleasant. It can restrict our activities. It can dull our enjoyment of life. And … well, it just hurts!

This week, a friend sent me a beautiful card. Inside, she had written how she hoped I would soon be rid of the severe lower back and leg pain I have had for several weeks and urged me to let her know if there was any way she could help me. I was moved by her kind words – and I knew she meant them. My friend is always very sensitive to the needs of others, often reaching out to help them in all sorts of ways.

One reason she does this, I suspect, is that she herself knows what pain is like. In recent years, she has experienced the death of two close family members. She is often in physical and emotional pain herself. And right now another family member has severe ongoing health issues. Naturally speaking, she would be the last person one would expect to have the physical and emotional resources to care so sacrificially for others. Yet from God’s perspective, she has exactly what it takes. To me, she epitomises Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

Unlike my friend, I have not been faced with such terribly sad events and debilitating illnesses in my life. Yes, I have had back trouble and bad sciatica before, but these have eventually passed. Yet this time, the pain seems more severe and less like wanting to go away quickly. I am on medication. I use hot packs on my back. I do exercises and see my physio. I pray for healing and others do too. But still the pain persists.

So … what am I learning through it all? What good is God bringing out of this for me and hopefully others? I believe it has given me a small glimpse at least into what life must be like for those who suffer all the time from chronic physical pain. My heart now goes out to them so much more. I can see how this could colour their whole experience of life and cause them to feel somewhat alienated and removed from those around them. And I can appreciate much more what an effort it must be for them to participate in the normal, everyday activities we often take for granted.

It is too late now for me to empathise with my father, who himself suffered from extremely severe and chronic sciatica for as long as I can remember. And I believe I understand now at least one of the reasons he was often so short-tempered and withdrawn, unable to enjoy life to the full. But I can do better with others – it is not too late for that.

What lessons have you learnt through the hard things of life? Is God using your pain to bring comfort to others?

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My family will tell you I am not the world’s best patient. There is too much to do to lie still for long – after all, I have my latest novel to edit and speaking engagements to prepare for. And yet I know the severe sciatica in my right leg has a much greater chance of improving if I look after myself, apply heat to the affected area and stay off my feet as much as I can. I know too that pain and anti-inflammatory tablets will help – and yet I am reluctant to take them. I try to remain stoic – and not too grouchy and grumpy!

So what’s to be done? Well, eventually I do rest and take medication – but I also pray. And when I pray, I have two things in mind. Firstly, I ask God to bring healing and relief from the pain – at least enough to enable me to speak where I’m supposed to speak.  I know God can do this, because I have experienced it before. Several years ago, I was about to head to Turkey to visit a friend, when I ended up with excruciating lower back pain. We had planned a holiday together in the mountains near the Black Sea, which I knew would involve carrying a heavy backpack, climbing on and off buses, sleeping in hard beds – plus lots of walking. How would I ever manage? I couldn’t let me friend down – and besides, I really wanted to go. So I finally asked someone to pray for me at church one day for healing. At first, nothing seemed to happen – and I must admit I was slightly sceptical about it all. But later that afternoon, the pain lessened and finally lifted altogether. And during my time in Turkey, I had absolutely no problem doing all the things we had planned to do – praise God!

But the second thing I ask God as I pray is what I can learn through this time of pain. Is it perhaps that I have become a little too self-reliant, thinking I can do everything in my own strength? Is it that I need to learn to empathise more with others who are going through painful times? Or is it merely to develop more patience and perseverance in me? After all, writing novels does need both these qualities in vast measures – especially when it comes to that painstaking editing and re-writing process I have just begun.

And while I wait for God to answer both aspects of my prayer, I try to relax, knowing God is listening and will never forsake me. I am held in God’s loving arms, now and forever. I don’t know how or when God will answer, but I will keep praying and not give up, just as Jesus taught his disciples to do when he told them the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18). Jesus ends this story with some words I always find quite sad and challenging:

However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)

I want to be among those who are found to be full of faith. I want to learn to trust God more, whatever the circumstances. And right now, I pray for you too, if you are persevering through pain in any way. May God bring healing to you, just as you need, and the strength to stand firm until the end.

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