One of the most difficult things about living with chronic pain can be finding relief. Oh, yes, we work with our doctors, physical therapists, and other medical professionals to do this. But in the day-to-day, when that sharp jab makes us gasp, or the twinges take on seeming lives of their own, we can feel quite helpless, drained.
In such moments, I like to take advantage of the oasis within – the cool, calm, lushly forested place where my heartbeat takes on the rhythm of nature, unhurried but thriving. It takes conscious effort to get to this wonderful place of relaxation; envisioning the forest helps, as does making use of technology to evoke birdsong, a babbling creek, or wind whispering through treetops. But it is possible to use these tools, or just our own power of concentration, to look beyond the discomfort we endure and through to somewhere that we can truly call a God-given oasis.
The Lord will give us all we need, including a special place within to seek comfort and find renewed energy and strength. We have only to make the effort to go there to benefit from this, as with all, blessings.
“Leave God out of this.”
“You pray too much.”
“Let’s not talk about God anymore.”
If any of these or similar remarks sound familiar to you, you’re not alone. I’ve heard these and many other comments throughout my life, and especially when speaking with people who are in pain, living with illness, or are caring for those who are, whether medical professionals or not. For some, it’s all well and good to speak about God – to a point. Too much “God talk” can, for them, start to feel threatening or bewildering. And they want to put an end to it.
Others are not open to God at all, preferring to think about some other “higher power,” whether themselves or science or the latest fad in self-care.
And others are afraid to bring up the subject of God and life, health, and wholeness, because they don’t want to “offend” others.
For me? There’s never enough talk of God! Or prayer! Or striving to lead a faithful life!
For me, I cannot “leave God out” of much of anything – He’s everywhere, and ever-moving.
But does that mean that bringing God in crowds out all other discussion? Absolutely not. We live on this earth, we are human, and we have human concerns, likes, dislikes, and dreams. We are children of God – and He works through us. It’s all blessedly connected!
And does that mean that we take on the cloak of a vehement preacher, shaking our fist and Bible? Not at all – if we are true to the Gospel, and if we are truly faith-filled, we should be so full of joy and light that it shines from our words, faces, lives!
So, I pray, talk about God, and bring Him into my life because He is wonderful, I am human, and doing so fills me with immense thanksgiving and joy!
Ever had a knot in your stomach? Or one in your shoulder? Ever had that feeling that you were the knot, all balled up and tight and immovable?
Ever felt like, “If only I could get rid of this knot – life would be perfect!”
Whether a physical, emotional, or spiritual knot, feeling the tension of fear, anger, pain, or frustration can be horrible. And if it goes on for days or years, the tightness can build on itself, creating a ball of something hard that becomes an obstacle to much of what we want to do.
I’ve had knots in my shoulders that prevented my neck from moving fully. Knots of fear that were nearly paralyzing. Knots of worry that prevented sleep.
But there are ways of slowing unknotting the knots and rearranging them into more manageable things that do not impede us so much as instruct us.
For my physical knots, I’ve always worked with my doctor to determine what’s best – and this is what I tell anyone, too. Physical therapy, directed exercise, and other forms of intervention can be helpful, but we have to work with our doctors to know what will work for us.
For fear, well, I learned in horseback riding classes long ago – learning from the fear (what is it, what does it come from, why am I fearful?) and then re-approaching it can be very helpful. When we know we’ve overcome a fear once, it gives us tremendous self-confidence that we can use and improve on next time.
For worry, as with all challenges in life, I especially turn to God in prayer. He has bigger shoulders that I do – and no pesky knots on them! – and can carry burdens that anyone else might find too heavy. He also never sleeps, but is always watching and protecting us – so we can sleep. That is a powerful and comforting image!
Of course, we all have our individual ways of dealing with our knots. But it helps, I think, to know that many others each day are dealing with similar challenges. And, it helps to know that knots can be unknotted – and God is with us all the way!
As a musician, I appreciate really good harmony. When several pitches combine to create a full, complex sound, melody is transformed into something even more beautiful, and I just have to sit back, listen, and enjoy.
Our lives with chronic illness can find such a relaxing, de-stressing harmony, too. It requires a little effort in the beginning, but as we practice our pitches, we can enjoy a better outcome.
I “harmonize” in several ways. First, I manage my many medical professionals’ communication so each doc is on the same page as the other. Lab results, tests, appointments – I communicate and schedule these so that I’m eliminating as much unnecessary redo and back-and-forth as possible.
I harmonize my day, too, scheduling in my personal, daily “calendar” when I have to take what med or when I need to do what exercise so that I get everything in and lessen the fretting over, “Did I take this med?” or “Will I have time to exercise?”
Harmony in life involves times of socializing, but also profound quiet. We need time to think through the events and people we encounter each day, and if we’re flitting from one to the other without allowing ourselves retrospection, we soon become bottled up with layers of things we haven’t even begun to understand profoundly. So, for our health, time for prayer and meditation is key.
My African violets help me harmonize myself with nature; each morning, there’s always something new – a leaf, a flower, a gentle tilting toward the sun. These observations, and the care I give the plants, help me remember that even if I cannot go out in the sun, I can still participate in God’s creation on a broader scale than just tending to my health concerns.
One of the most exciting things about being a musician is the new work that is constantly emerging, or the songs and other pieces that are not so new, but that I have not yet discovered. These bring even more depth to my days – and more harmony to my life.
When we’re angry, upset, frustrated, or diving deep into darkness, we lose the benefit of beautiful harmony in health and in life. But as we recognize the many ways we are in tune with the world, nature, music, ourselves, others, and God, we are blessed with songs that will never fade!