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“I Have Pain, It Doesn’t Have Me!” Matthew 24:1-13 Key verse(s) 13:“‘. . . but he who stands firm to the end, will be saved.’”

Tolerance for pain. Some of us have more than others and I doubt there is any among us with unlimited ability to bear pain. To observe the many and varied reactions to pain, one of the best places to do so in in a hospital recovery room. As a nurse, my wife Holly has recovered hundreds of patients exiting the surgery room. Some have had a local anesthetic and other a general anesthetic. In either case, when a patient begins the process of returning to “normal”, the process of pain management begins on the nursing end. No matter how trivial the surgery or whether or not the patient was conscious or not through the process, one thing is certain, there will be pain to deal with as the body begins to shed the effects of the anesthetic.

Patients come in all sizes and shapes. One thing that Holly has discovered is this: tolerance to pain is wide and varied. Some of the tiniest people in the world may require a great degree of pain medication. While there have been patients weighing hundreds of pounds that required very little. Everything really depends on the individual’s ability to tolerate pain. To some a little pain is a great annoyance. To others, a little pain is quite tolerable. Everything depends on a variety of factors including the physical condition of the patient as well as their psychological disposition. Some complain and demand much while others are passive, enduring and able to smile through the process. You just never know what you are going to be faced with when they roll that gurney out of the operating room. Ultimately, you need to be prepared for almost anything and always be ready to assume nothing.

It’s funny how some people are just more willing, more dedicated to facing up to the inevitability of pain while others, for a variety of reasons are not as able. Much, it seems, depends upon a person’s ability to put the goal ahead of the journey; to keep one’s eyes focused on the end of the process while keeping the “here and now” in submission to “when and then.” Ultimately, it’s what makes the difference between winners and losers in this life.

Imagine that you are a world-class concert pianist at the peak of your career, someone who has spent years studying and practicing to develop your art. Your fingers respond instantly to your mental commands, flitting along the keyboard with grace and speed. Then one day you feel a stiffness that wasn’t there before. You go to a doctor, tests are done, and the diagnosis comes back: Arthritis. Your fingers are destined to become wooden and crippled. From the heights of success and acclaim you will plunge to oblivion. It happened to Byron Janis. Within a short time this concert pianist saw arthritis quickly spread to all his fingers, and the joints of nine of them fused. Some people would have never recovered from such a blow, but Janis decided to fight back. He kept his ailment a secret from all but his wife and two close friends. He worked long hours to change his technique. He learned how to use what strengths he had instead of concentrating on his weaknesses. He also used a regimen of medications, acupuncture, ultrasound, and even hypnosis to deal with the pain. His wife learned how to give him therapeutic massages to loosen his stiff joints. Through hard work and sheer determination, Janis was able to continue his career. He maintained a full concert schedule for 12 years without anyone suspecting. Finally, he told the world at a White House concert in 1985. These days, he is active in fund-raising for the Arthritis Foundation and still plays the piano. He credits faith, and hope, and will for his success and says, “I have arthritis, but it doesn’t have me.”    

(Bits and Pieces, August, 1989.)

When the going gets rough each of us has two choices. We can or we can’t. It’s about that simple. Nurses in a recovery room see this every day. People either can turn their backs to pain or face it. Some do and others don’t. In a Christian’s life we have the same two choices every day. When life gets tough and the problems mount, we can cry out in pain or grit our teeth. Either way we have pain; either way we have a choice. Jesus predicted that you and I would see much pain and suffering in this life. It is inevitable. There is no way to circumvent it, no way to prevent it. We can either turn our backs to the pain and turn our hearts toward Christ and the promised relief that He affords us daily in the ever-replenishing stock of His love, or we can turn our backs on Christ and focus all of our physical and emotional efforts on the relief or prevention of the pain. We need to make the right choice. Knowing what awaits us at the end of the journey, eternal life in Christ, promotes a faith that is able to manage the pain. We have it, but in Christ, it doesn’t have us.

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