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  • Writer's pictureBecky Proctor

Lesson in Empathy, or Why People with Back Pain Walk Funny

If you’ve never had back problems, I hope you never do. I had not until I took a fall recently.

Though nothing was broken, the impact exaggerated a misalignment in my lower back and pelvic girdle, leaving me in pain before and during treatment.

Now I know why people with back problems walk funny.

All these years I never got it. All that slow movement, wincing, gasping for air before standing and the stiff, side-to-side, stiff-legged walk that reminded me of Lurch from the Addams Family tv show.

Now, I get it. After ice packs, anti-inflammatory meds and lots of time on the flat of my back, I get it.

During the worst of my pain, I realized several things beyond the obvious discomfort and inconvenience. I realized that people who are in pain have trouble concentrating, and sleep often eludes them. Time nearly stands still for people immobilized. The minutes and hours crawl by, the hands on the clock barely moving. Streaming commercial-free tv is a blessed distraction when you can find something worth watching.

What surprised and dismayed me was the faltering of my faith when I was in pain. I had trouble seeing beyond the moment. Future responsibilities and commitments loomed large and the voice of unbelief in my brain kept repeating phrases like “you’ll never be able to,” and “you’re not getting better” and “give it up.”

But my heart knows better.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I love God. I do. But apparently I have some issues in the trust department if I am giving audience to the negative voice in my brain.

It’s important to remind ourselves that thoughts are just thoughts.

One of the things I love about God is that His lessons are so powerful. How else could I learn empathy for anyone with back pain, unless I, myself, had experienced it? It is not a lesson I asked for, but I am a grateful student.

Sympathy is saying, “I am sorry.”

Empathy says, “I’ve been there.”

Any hardship you and I have or will experience can be used by God to alleviate the suffering of others if we are willing to be of service to Him.

We can bank on it.

Lord, You never cease to amaze me with Your wisdom, giving me what I need and growing my faith and understanding or who You want me to be and how I can make a difference in the lives of others. You are wonderful! Amen.

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