Healing requires suffering

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Sometimes suffering is necessary for healing.

On March 9 a car pulled out in front of me while I was going 60 mph.  It was her fault.  I suffered a broken heel and assorted minor injuries.  Twelve days later I was rushed by EMTs to the hospital with an intestinal blockage and a swollen infected foot (opposite the broken heel) which required five days of IV antibiotics and then oral antibiotics which I'm still taking.

One of my friends compared my situation to that of Job in the Bible—absurd, undeserved, bad luck, manure happens.

A truth which was confirmed to me by the experience was that healing usually requires pain.  In the emergency room thirty minutes after the accident, the medical staff had to figure out what was damaged in my body before they could treat me or even give me pain medication.  So there I was in the x-ray room hearing the radiologist asking me to roll over so they could get a good picture of my right foot.  I gritted my teeth and complied.  Every part of my body hurt.

Then when I was taken to the emergency room again, the first thing the EMTs did was to start an IV.  It's going to "pinch" a little is what medical folks always say.  That first one didn't hurt too much, but that vein only tolerated the needle for two days, at which time the nurses had to find another vein.  As the good veins began to be used up, the pinches got increasingly painful.

What's more, the anti-biotic was, in the words of one nurse, "toxic."  It burned as it entered my vein and made the site of the needle's insertion get red and swell.

Every morning the blood guys would come to draw blood from the arm that didn't have the IV and another person would prick my finger to test my blood sugar.

To mitigate the effect of the intestinal blockage, a tube was inserted into my digestive tract through my nose.  More discomfort.

And then, when I started feeling better, the physical therapy and occupational therapy people pushed me to do things which my mind understood to be part of the healing process but against which my body protested.

All I wanted was more morphine or vicodin or codeine.  "Lord, please remove the pain," was my prayer, and God's answer was, "Some pain is required if you want to be healed."

Some suffering seems to be necessary for all healing.  Recovery from addictions requires some scary, difficult emotional and spiritual work.  Mending broken relationships is usually painful.  Facing your own demons in therapy can be terrifying. 

If some suffering is required for healing, then it is disturbing that our culture's default reaction to pain seems to be denial, distraction and medication.  The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that 22 million Americans are addicted to drugs, alcohol or both.  Another 3 million are addicted to gambling.  When our neighbors are stressed out, many over-eat, over-shop, over-work, and over-sex.  The Nielsen organization reported that the average American watches 34 hours of TV a week.  That's almost 5 hours a day, and that's not counting time spent on social media and video games.

Does our culture teach and reinforce us to avoid the suffering required for healing, health and wholeness through entertainment and drugs?

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