It’s official: chronic, under-treated pain is America’s greatest scourge. “Chronic pain affects about 100 million American adults—more than the total affected by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined,” report the Institute of Medicine on their website. “Pain also costs the nation up to $635 billion each year in medical treatment and lost productivity.” That’s the official figures and the public financial cost of this epidemic.
A new book by Gerhard Venter, an Emory-educated theologian, titled Through Pain to Victory – A Christian Guide through Chronic Pain examines the other side of the coin – the private and personal cost. “If you’re affected by unrelenting pain,” he writes, “you’re not thinking of what your pain is costing the national economy. If you’re thinking about money at all, you’re wondering how you’re going to pay the mortgage if you should lose your job tomorrow, because you just cannot sit in that chair and do a whole day’s work anymore.” Venter says that his book is for those who are still swaying on their feet after receiving the knockout news that their pain condition is not going to go away. “Your pain is here to stay,” the doctor said. “We can alleviate it with drugs and other therapies, but you’re going to have to live with this condition.” Now a whole lot of realization begin to flood through your mind. Your job – in danger. Your sports activities – over. Swinging your kids around on the lawn – ain’t happening anymore. To be frank, putting on your pants can now begin to present a problem.
But the difficulty of movement and activity is not the only problem. The big issue is that parts of your body – and in many cases your entire body – now hurt all the time. And slowly some of the implications begin to announce themselves in your mind:
- You may be on new, powerful drugs. Some medications, for instance the family of pain killers called opioids are, if not necessarily addictive, at least dependency-forming. Even so, the severity of you pain may leave you no choice but to use them. Carefully.
- If your pain does not show up in MRI’s, X-Rays or blood work, your health or disability insurance may renege on you (they did on the author).
- If your situation is not just right, Social Security benefits will refuse you one, two, three, four times. Maybe more. This becomes a major fight in your life (it’s been for the author).
- You may lose not only your job (and therefore your income) but also your mobility, your hobbies and family activities, and your intimate life.
- Your spiritual life will invariably hit a bump. You may be asking “Why, God?” “Why this?” “Why me?” “Do I really deserve this?” This is the area to which Venter gives the most attention, along with your family life and your relationships with your loved ones.
- Speaking of your loved ones: When you’re in severe pain; is it (A) OK to be mean or churlish – they’ll understand, or (B) Important to be extra loving and considerate, and to not treat your pain as an excuse to snap at them?
This is just small sample of the stuff coming your way once somebody has pronounced the “disabled” word over you. What’s worse is that your relationships with your loved ones could go south in a hurry if your don’t handle them right. Venter says: “I didn’t write all these things to try and scare my readers – I’m writing them to say: ‘It’s okay! You’re not the only one in this situation, and there are ways to deal with this.’ I try to give you some answers (obviously I don‘t have them all) when you break down and pray, and say to God: ‘Lord, the sky is falling on my head. Everything is disintegrating around me. My life is going you-know-where in a hand basket. Please help me, because I cannot do this by myself.‘ That is where God’s grace kicks in.”
Venter‘s book on chronic pain walks you through this dark valley with honesty and humor as he reminds you of God’s immeasurable grace, while pointing out the pitfalls and potholes. Your journey together with the author builds up throughout the book, until you’re left with a feeling of awe and wonder at God’s goodness, and you once again have a road map for your future. “You do have a future, don’t you?“ the author asks. Venter describes his book as somewhat like a parachu