The Routine of Chronic Suffering

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by Judyth Nydam
Cadillac CRC, Cadillac MI
Breaking Barriers Summer 2014

For the first few months, when people saw me struggling with my pain, it startled them, eliciting compassion and deeds of caring. But when months turned into years, my pain became routine for them. Intellectually they acknowledged what they knew—that nothing in my health had changed—since I always used a cane or a walker and never participated in social events that required mobility.

The person experiencing chronic pain responds quite differently to her own suffering. Neither the pain nor the problems it creates ever feels routine. Pain always hurts, always needs management, always incapacitates. Each day presents the challenge of attempting to achieve at least some time of less pain (not no pain, just less) in order to shop, clean, socialize a little, or have a little fun.

Chronic pain sufferers must “cocoon” what’s left of their lives to retain their sanity and minimize the expectations of others. They become part of the routine landscape of other people’s lives, and they seldom get a “Wow!” of caring. It’s not that people don’t care; it’s that people forget to care.

So what’s to be done? If spontaneous encounters of caring dwindle because caring people have become desensitized to the need, then, like the reminder cards we get from our dentist or veterinarian to provide care for us or our pets, we should “routinize” the caring that chronic sufferers need. Deacons or other caring groups and individuals simply need to put suffering people on a schedule of receiving care. As faithfully as we pay our mortgage, we should automatically “pay out” our compassion to needy or suffering people as part of a routine ministry, and make sure to follow through. As devastating as it is to the suffering person to be ignored, it is just as demoralizing to receive promises of help that are never fulfilled.

When my husband served as pastor of a church, he had a list of the people on whom he called regularly. Calling on them was part of his routine, like getting an oil change for the car. But he discovered that routine acts of caring always produced the “wow” of genuine caring.

People who know daily pain and suffering should not be taken for granted. We provide others with a “wow” look into the grace of God who sustains us in our life of pain. Please don’t forget us–and don’t allow us just to blend into your people landscape.

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Sherri Maat

Sherri Maat