…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Chronic Pain

By Rex Goode


In 1980, while working at a warehouse job, I was out at the dock doing receving. A case of cash register tape was being delivered. The dock was built to accommodate large semis. This package was being delivered by a small delivery type truck.

Usually, we asked the driver to carry it up the stairs, but I was in a hurry so I bent over and asked the driver to hand the package up to me. I wasn’t prepared for how heavy it was and felt a twinge of pain in my back as I lifted the package up from below floor level. It was only a small pop, barely noticeable.

I finished my day without much problem and went home. The next morning, when I woke up, I could hardly twist my body to get out of bed. The pain was tremendous and my mobility was almost gone. I managed to get out of bed, get dressed, and off to work.

The more I moved around, the worse my back felt. My supervisor, who was a decidedly suspicion woman, treated me like I was malingering and just trying to get out of work. She called her supervisor who told her to send me to the company nurse. I went to the nurse and was told to call my own doctor.

My doctor saw me and told me I could not go back to work. That began the workers compensation ordeal that really tested my faith and self-image. That is a story for another time.

Since that time, almost thirty years ago, I’ve struggled with back problems. I had surgery in 1983 that helped considerably. Last year, I was told that I had bone-on-bone arthritis at the old surgery site. After an magnetic resonance image (MRI), I was sent to an orthopedist who told me that surgery would not help this time.

More recently, other joints have begun to hurt, especially my knees and shoulder. I was diagnosed with severe degenerative joint disease, also known as osteoarthritis. I have good days and bad. A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with gout in my thumbs. Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway–I hurt.

Believe it or not, I didn’t write this to talk about my aches and pains. Like many other things in my life, pain just is. Emotional pain is what it is and everyone has some. Spiritual pain is there too. I struggle to make sense of my life on all levels.

As I fight to understand myself and the reasons the Lord has for allowing suffering, I find comfort in the knowledge that God lives and loves me. It doesn’t entirely explain suffering, but it helps to bear it.

I am especially comforted and confronted by the words of Paul, whom we assume to be the author of Hebrews:

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons (Hebrews 12:5–8).

I tread on shaky ground with some people when I equate physical pain with the chastening of the Lord. I do not mean to say that God hurts us to teach us a lesson. I do believe, however, that God allows suffering to be part of the human condition and that when I suffer, I have the opportunity to look at my suffering as a curse or a blessing. I choose the latter. Chronic pain of a physical, emotional, or spiritual origin, is evidence of the Lord’s desire to mold my character and develop my faith.

My belief about respect is that respect is the trust that one person has in the ability of another to handle difficulty and use it to grow. In that sense, despite the fact that the scriptures say that God is not a respecter of persons, I believe that trials come as a result of the Lord’s confidence in our ability to grow from the experience.

There are days when I wish I weren’t so beloved a son, but I would gladly endure any pain to know the joy I have known as a son of God and disciple of Christ.

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby (Hebrews 12:9–11).

May you come to know the peace and joy of being a beloved child of God. In whatever pain you find yourself, look to Christ and find the joy of divine love. It makes anything bearable.

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7 Responses to “Chronic Pain”

  1. mabs said:

    Just a suggestion about your back pain. I have seen miracles happen to people who have undergone non-surgical spinal decompression. They are able to fully recover (even those who have had failed back surgery) after several painless treatments.

    Gout is caused by diet and making changes in your diet can really affect your quality of life and lessen pain. Mega doses of omega-3 can diminish pain and inflamation without any side affects.

    I have a lot better success dealing with physical disablility than I do with my spiritual and emotional suffering.

  2. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, mabs. I went and looked it up. Here’s an offical site about the spinal decompression.

    I’m not sure it fits me, but I’m keeping an open mind. The video I saw on the site talks about discs bulging. I don’t have a disc there. No amount of decompression will grow a new disc. However, I admit that getting my spine in better shape where I do have discs will likely help a lot. So, I’m looking into it. Thanks for the link.

    Gout isn’t that big of a deal in my life these days, because of medication and a change in diet.

    A related thing: I was taking allapurinol for gout when I was diagnosed with diabetes. I was surfing one day on the net and I came across an article in a British medical journal that said that allapurinol may have a link to creating diabetes symptoms. I went straight to my doctor, who chided me for paying attention to studies, but honored my wish and changed me to a different gout medication. Since then, my blood sugar testing reveals an almost normal cycle. My doctor is skeptical, but I’m doing really well with the diabetes.

    Thanks a lot for commenting here.

  3. Doug Campbell said:

    C.S. Lewis wrote a whole book about the problem of pain. There are a lot of good things in his book.

    My new sponsor has taken me back to step 1 in my journey to maintain sobriety. His experience with many years of sobriety, first with alcohol and then with sexual addiction, and in helping many sponsees has been that the biggest problem that Christians face in recovery is getting over the concept that God is punishing us (or going to) because of our wickedness. How can anyone truly surrender to a god who is that fearsome and mean-spirited? Because we hold back because of our fear of him, we flounder in the whirlpool of doubt and fear instead of experiencing the joy of recovery.

    So, I have some trouble with the concept that a person’s chronic pain might be chastening. Granted, it might be. I have to stop pretending that I am God. Nevertheless, I would be more inclined to think that chronic pain is simply part of the set of challenges one might have to face. Another might have to face chronic poverty or cerebral palsy or burying his children on the plains. I don’t think any of those are chastening. They are simply our tasks. Diabetes is mostly genetic, so one has to choose his parents carefully to really avoid it. (By the way, allopurinol does raise blood sugar in some people, so that was a good pick up).

    I think for more Latter-day saints the challenge is when does one use appropriate medication like opioids or anti-depressants (which I see as God-given to help us through the most difficult period in earth’s history–but then, I’m a physician) in order to function and not suffer needlessly, or does it mean one lacks faith by using a crutch like that? I can’t count how many times patients have come asking for help with pain or depression, but haven’t wanted to use the tools I have to offer. I’m just grateful that God has given us tools like morphine and prozac so that more of us can contribute to others and stay involved with our families instead of committing suicide or withdrawing emotionally and physically to the point that we might as well be dead.

    I hope that my feelings, which are honest, are not offensive to anyone. It is only recently that I have come to start to crack my old belief that God is like my dad, ready to pounce on me for the slightest mistake, and eager to pile painful chastening on me in order to force me into righteousness. I was in a small stake training meeting with Elder Holland when he said with his voice shaking that someone was going to have to pay for the false teaching that Jesus was vengeful and angry at us.

    In recovery, Doug C.

  4. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, Doug. I struggle with the questions about medication. I don’t deal with depression, but I do have a prescription for pain medication. It is addictive and popular today as a street drug. My doctor said that if I request refills too often, they’ll have to do UA’s to make sure I’m not overdoing it. Hasn’t happened and probably won’t. I dislike the drug and side effects.

    This is what puzzles me, though. With sex and food, I have a hard time with addiction. Yet, a drug that is purported to be very addictive, I think I’d have to make a concerted effort to become addicted to it. The old thing about an addictive personality doesn’t seem to be the case with me. I don’t think I could ever become an alcoholic. I probably won’t ever find out. I’m 52 and have not yet had my first drink. Some say that there is an addiction gene. I don’t think I got it.


  5. SCD said:

    This is an old post, but I just stumbled upon it and wanted to add- I loved Elder Christofferson’s recent conference address on this topic: “As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten”- http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/as-many-as-i-love-i-rebuke-and-chasten?lang=eng

    It sounds like a harsh message, but I’ve been uplifted & inspired by it.

    As I’ve studied the topic, I found definitions of “chasten” that are interesting to me-
    1 : to correct by punishment or suffering : discipline; (the definition we’re used to, but) also : purify 2 a : to prune (as a work or style of art) of excess, pretense, or falsity : refine b : to cause to be more humble or restrained : subdue

    I love the second definition here and find it to make sense in my life as it applies to God’s plan for me. He is my loving Father and he can make a lot more out of my life than I can, if I’ll but let Him!!!

    I love what you do. I’m a sister, niece, cousin and friend to many dear ones who have SSA and have or have had testimonies of the restored gospel. Just can’t say how much I love them and you all so much. You are all such an inspiration to me.


  6. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, Sarah. I love it when people comment on old posts! I appreciate your words, and Elder Christofferson’s talk. I am going through something similar today.

    About three years ago, after my diagnosis of diabetes, I fell and scraped my leg up pretty badly. I fell in some wet, grassy mud. It allowed some awful bacteria into my wound and I got a condition called cellulitis from it. I was on two rounds of antibiotics before it cleared up. Since then, the slightest wound on my leg brings it on.

    On Wednesday of this week, I got a bad case of chills and shaking while out driving. After calling some friends to take me home, I notice the next day that my leg had turned red. Cellulitis again. It comes at a time when I don’t have health insurance and can’t afford time off work. Missed the better part of three days work already and may miss tomorrow.

    Despite writing things like this above, I still find myself wondering in such times what I’ve been doing that makes God want to punish me. With support, I’ve been able to get more into the better mindset we’ve talked about here, but that is always, it seems, my automatic self-talk when bad things happen.

    Thanks again.

  7. vasculitis said:

    Hello dear friend and companion in suffering! May I encourage you with this beautiful verse: Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness. I said, “O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you.” (Psa 41:1-4)

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