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  • Jeff Moser

Finding Hope in our Pain

Everything changed in an instant…

One moment I was on a dead run going after a cross-court volley and the next I was looking up at the sky wondering what had just happened! Laying on the ground I felt that ‘after the collision’ shock that one feels after you think you’ve been hit by a Mack truck (or a chain link fence in my case!). My right arm was numb, and my head was spinning. As I sat up my doubles partner ran over to check on me and I had a sinking feeling that something wasn’t right with my shoulder. Little did I know!

When something traumatic happens in our lives we go through a ton of emotions. Counselors tell us we’ll go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and then eventually acceptance. But they don’t tell you how long those stages will last and they can’t tell you how it’s really going to impact you! When the doctor came waltzing into the exam room with the words “you have a MASSIVE Rotator Cuff tear!” it all suddenly became real. My world and my plans had changed drastically!

My tennis teams did well this year. My ‘old guy’ team won the State Championship, and we were headed to Sectionals. My 18 and over team had won our league and was headed to State. Both of those tournaments were now out for me. My summer and fall were now going to consist of surgery and a long, painful rehab. And, by the way, EVERYONE wants to tell you how bad Rotator Cuff repair surgery is and HOW PAINFUL the rehab will be!

In an instant, my immediate future changed. The doctor had to reattach one of the tendons in my shoulder to my arm. Afterwards I was put in an ‘abductor’ sling and told basically not to move my arm for 6 weeks. Not that I could anyway… Sleeping was an issue, bathing was an issue, working was an issue. Everything was hard. And my shoulder hurt. That was BEFORE the visits to the Physical Therapists began! Six weeks after surgery, my first visit to the PT consisted of letting my arm dangle and swing a little and the PT would move it around for me. THAT was fun! Over the next few weeks, I started stretching the tendons and muscles. They protested, vigorously! A few weeks later I tried lifting a 1-pound weight above my shoulders and that almost buckled my knees! Yeah, rehab hurts! My PT son says the only difference in a Physical Therapist and a terrorist is that you can probably negotiate with a terrorist!

It’s now close to 6 months since my surgery. A few weeks ago, the doctor released me to play tennis again. I’m not 100% recovered by a long stretch, but I am swinging a racket again with little pain. I still put the heating pad on it every morning and ice it down after every match, but my shoulder is healing. It’s probably another 6 months before I will be able to play without thinking about it. But this whole experience has me thinking about healing of a different sort.

This has been a particularly hard season for our friends and family. Many of “Our People” are hurting. Many of our family friends have lost their patriarch over the last few years. One family has lost 2 godly men 13 months apart. One friend has been fighting an up and down battle with prostate cancer for close to 10 years now. Another friend has successfully defeated cancer only to discover he needed multiple heart bypasses, all while having dialysis 3 days a week! My pastor has been diagnosed with kidney cancer. And these are just a few of the things I could list! It’s hard to fathom really. One day life is moving right along and the next the doctor gives you a 0% chance of living 5 more years. One day you’re cheering at the top of your lungs for the Braves and the next you’re struggling just to breathe. One day you think you just have a kidney stone and the next you’re battling kidney cancer. One day your job seems to be going well and the next your position is eliminated. Everything can change in an instant.

When you’re in the struggle it’s hard not to think about the pain. Even though I knew that the exercises I was doing were going to eventually help me heal, THEY STILL HURT! For my friends that are facing their first or second (or more) Christmases without their loved one, IT STILL HURTS! It’s still discouraging! You don’t think the pain will ever stop. You don’t think things will ever feel normal again. And, well, they won’t completely! Because something was broken or torn (a ligament in my case) or taken away. No matter how well my surgeon repaired my arm, it’s not in the original mint condition! It will get stronger, and it will heal, but I still have 5 little surgical scars and some artificial parts that held me together while God’s amazing creation healed. Things will never be the way they were before!

But God! -- There’s something about experiencing pain that makes us more open to God’s amazing grace! It sharpens our senses. Pain allows us to see our need for God more acutely. It allows us feel God’s love and provision more fully. Jesus sees our pain! He saw Mary and Martha’s pain over Lazarus and He wept. He saw the leper in Galilee, who had been suffering for years as an outcast, and healed him. He felt the darkness in the blind man’s existence and gave him sight. He saw the desperation of the demon possessed man and healed him. And yet, as many people as Jesus healed during His time on earth, every single one of them eventually died! Those particular healing miracles were only temporary. And for every person whom Jesus healed there were scores who were not healed for whom the only difference was their proximity to Jesus throughout the region. Dealing with pain is just a part of living life. I think this is why Jesus left these words for us:

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” Jn 14:27 NLT

As we enter this Christmas season, I urge you to remember the story of how Jesus gave up his seat at the right hand of the Father to be placed as a baby in an animal’s dirty feeding trough. Remember how He lived, enduring hardship and pain so we would know that He knows what pain is all about. Remember how He loved us, forsaking physical and emotional comfort for the pain of the cross. Remember how He died, declaring that it was all worth it, that “It is FINISHED”! And remember that because it is finished, the pain you may be experiencing today will one day be over. One day God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Every pain, burden and heartbreak will be instantly eliminated. Hope will give birth to Joy! But until then, we can take our pain to God, because He understands. He doesn’t promise to take the pain away, but He promises to give us the strength to endure it. Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning!

May the God of peace, the source of our hope, fill you with joy this Christmas! May God grant you the peace that passes all understanding.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” Jn 14:1-3 NLT

Merry Christmas!

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