The Gift of Pain “You’re no stranger to pain.” I looked at him, taking in his observation. Like it or not, he was right. Pain and I have become well acquainted.

If I were honest with myself, I would admit that I have experienced inconsistent low-level back pain for about a decade. It’s usually a dull ache that comes and goes. “It’s probably just from your CP,” I was told once by a physical therapist. Research confirms this suspicion. One study compared adults with CP to those without and found that nearly one-third of the adults with cerebral palsy had chronic pain, vs. 15% in the general population. Back pain was the most common in both groups.

Lately, my pain has transformed from a dull ache to at times a stabbing pinch and travels down my leg. MRI scans revealed that I have Spondylolisthesis and Degenerative Disc Disease. Medical terminology aside, I’ve been experiencing a little more pain than normal.

Philip Yancey, in his book Where is God When it Hurts says the following: “Suffering produces something. It has value. It changes us.”

Pain, I am learning, is a gift. Marcel Proust is quoted as saying, “Illness is the doctor to whom we pay the most heed: to kindness, to knowledge we make promises only: pain we obey.” Not something to be ignored, pain can be the compass that ultimately points us in the direction of help and healing.

Pain has helped me gain perspective, causing me to become more grateful for many things: over-the-counter pain killers, access to health care, health insurance, compassionate physicians who have devoted their professional careers to caring for the back, and having a physical therapy clinic next to my work.

Pain has helped me become more diligent with stretching. I’m not usually very dedicated to it; it takes time and is a slow process. I know it’s an important daily task, but often falls into the pile of, “Things I should have done today.” This incident has caused me to remember its importance. I’m sure it will pay off in the long run.

What has suffering produced in your life?

How have you responded to your pain?