February 1, 2008

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Bible passage triggers thoughts about pain

Shirley Vogler MeisterWhile casually flipping through a magazine in the waiting room of a physiotherapist’s office near my home, I came across this Bible verse: “Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world, as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain” (Phil 2:14-16).

Why did that speak to me? Because I had been grumbling and questioning for many months as a result of formidable back pain.

When St. Paul wrote his Letter to the Philippians, he was not referring to pain.

However, that is why the Bible is so remarkable. Through its truths, we even receive insights that might stray from the author’s original meaning, but still are applicable to one’s life.

Such revelations help us reflect on all possible purposes that St. Paul and all the writers of the New Testament had for what they revealed. I latched onto Philippians 2:14 because it reminded me that, as aggravated as I am by pain, grumbling does no good.

However, pain led me to questions, such as: Why is this happening and what went wrong?

I didn’t feel sorry for myself, but needed to understand the reasons that took me into a month of physiotherapy twice a week last November.

The physiotherapist was an expert, using exercise techniques and massage in painless ways that allowed him to assess my back’s condition.

After receiving his report, my doctor ordered medical tests for me in early December. The bottom line is that I have fractures in two thoracic vertebrae.

Because of the holidays and personal reluctance, I have not yet discerned all of my options. However, I do ask for God’s support with upcoming decisions.

Meanwhile, I am finally using common sense and not doing anything to accelerate the pain, whereas before the diagnosis I thought I had to “tough it out” and continue doing even the activities that hurt badly. I learned that the adage “No pain, no gain” does not apply to all situations.

Years ago, my first doctor told me that I have a high threshold for pain. I didn’t believe him until I got myself into later health dilemmas because of avoiding reality.

However, the most important lesson learned now is how much I need to focus on St. Paul’s words: “Do everything without grumbling or questioning …” (Phil 2:14).

St. Paul was not thinking of physical or emotional pain when he wrote that, but I am taking his words to heart anyway.

My husband and family and friends surely appreciate that.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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