misty trees on a mountain

When Pain Remains

A few weeks ago, I had a mild panic attack. My neck and shoulder had been hurting all day. But all of a sudden, the pain became almost unbearable. I felt my chest constrict. I thought I might pass out or vomit. 

I took some deep breaths. I prayed. I went outside to inhale fresh air. I asked Marilee, who was with me, to put her hand on my shoulder. The pain remained for a time, but the sharpness of it passed. I didn’t pass out. I didn’t throw up. I was okay.

In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from lots of people about similar situations. Three friends who went to the emergency room for what turned out to be panic attacks. Countless others who have stabbing pain in their shoulder blades, aching discomfort in their lower back, tight hips, sleepless nights, headaches. 

As I’ve worked on this book about healing, I’ve learned how many of these things are signals from our bodies that we are carrying emotional and spiritual pain that needs to be addressed. We aren’t just tweaking our backs from lifting heavy objects or sleeping with the wrong pillows. We aren’t just developing food sensitivities. We are carrying stress and grief and shame and broken relationships and broken dreams and injustice and heartache.

Breathing and prayer and therapy and medication can all help. I’ve written before about how to bring prayer into our bodies and receive relief from the pain. But sometimes the pain remains. Sometimes the pain is a reminder that all is not right in the world. Sometimes we have to endure the pain, to lament the losses, to shoulder the stress. 

Jesus comes to heal us, but he also comes to help us enter into the brokenness of the world. Sometimes the pain remains, but we are never asked to carry it alone.

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