Friday, October 5, 2012

The Blessing of Back Pain

Two summers ago, I was a summer missionary in California. Two summers ago marked the 4th year of chronic back pain for me. In high school, cross country aggravated my back and I had a leg ligament that continually popped over my hip bone when I walked. MRIs, chiropractor appointments, physical therapy, shoe inserts, and medicine combined to help me battle my pain. I wanted to run, to swim, and to fight instead (I was taking karate lessons at the time).

My back appeared to be better at the start of college. Could it be that I wouldn't suffer anymore? Gym class rock climbing begged to differ. Cue more therapy and more medicines and the ever-classy backpack with wheels. I began to learn the difference between needing help and wanting help. If I wanted help moving stuff into my dorm, I might have sore muscles in my arms and legs if no one showed. If I needed help moving stuff into my dorm, I would have back spasms if I did not utilize help (i.e. moved my stuff alone or alongside my help). I learned that my friends cared and didn't view me as an inconvenience. I learned that I could still serve others without starting off a muscle spasm. (i.e. my campus ministry was volunteering during freshmen move-in; I was cooking for the moving crew. My mission team was doing hard manual labor; I was cooking and praying).

These were the events that preceded my departure for summer missions. I went, armed with an inflatable pillow for my back, back brace, and 3 types of medicines for back pain (2 over-the-counter with instructions of upping the doses to prescription strength and a prescription muscle relaxant).

Summer missions aggravated my back. My two weeks in the mountains caused shivers so severe that muscle spasms and tears were brought on. My hours in the car caused me to grit my teeth and keep counting down until the next dose of meds. My attempt to be a junior coach at a Spanish VBS-soccer camp brought the worst back pain I can remember experiencing.
Here I am in the mountains of Cali, wearing underarmor, 2 long-sleeved shirts, a t-shirt, a hoodie, and a winter coat. I looked like a marshmallow.
 I prayed so hard that summer for healing. I told God that if He healed me, it would be a testimony to His power. I told Him that I could serve Him better without chronic pain. I told Him that this was a small miracle for the God who parted the Red Sea, raised the dead, and brought forth victory and healing. Prayer warriors back home and on the field were praying for me and my healing. Yet still I had pain. During the first and last weeks, I was taking 9 pills a day for back pain and still counting the minutes until the next dose. I wondered if I was like the man born blind (that the Father might be glorified) or if I was like Paul (with a thorn in my flesh to keep me humble).

Sometime over the past two years, my pain faded away. Sometimes my pain level spikes. Sometimes I need a pain pill (non-prescription strength). Sometimes I am required to do therapy stretches on my own. But my prayers have been answered. I can swim again. I can do Zumba. I can do my normal activities without pain. I am quicker to ask for help when I need it. I am slower to think that I can do it all on my own. I am able to manage the occasional sore back time. I am able to thank God for both the healing and for the occasional reminder in the form of back twinges to not do it all on my own.

Why is back pain a blessing? When my back twinges now, I remember that summer with more pain than I thought I could bear (and more happiness and more bonding and more VBS songs). I see where I was with my back and how far I have come. I remember how willing my friends were (and are) to help me and watch out for me. I remember when I learned that the Christian community gathers around its own. I remember that God can use back pain to teach His daughter about His nature. And for that I am grateful. For that, I am blessed.


  1. You saw the silver lining in the storm. Love mom

    1. Thanks Mom. You and Dad taught me to do that.

  2. I like it too. I can testify that your backpain has not stopped you from totally enjoying Zumba & blessing others with it also. (I'm one of them) You will make it & take others with you. Love Mom G.

    1. Thanks Mom G. I appreciate your encouragement.