Editor’s Note

by Rachel Davis

I’ve lived my whole life with chronic pain.

Well, not me personally, but up close with people I care deeply about for whom chronic pain is a part of daily life. Because of these relationships, I’ve always been tuned in to the nuances of managing life with pain that doesn’t go away.

I’ve also experienced the way faithful individuals and congregations fumble around the edges of good intentions when it comes to supporting people who live with chronic pain.

It’s hard. Often the pain is not visible. The person might look just fine. So how do we have any idea what the person is going through just to be present on a Sunday morning, for instance? Is the person “better”? Other times the pain is so visible that it makes us uncomfortable. We simply don’t know what to do or say, because nothing will make it “better.”

I adopt the language that says chronic pain is a “no casserole” issue.

Because it’s ongoing, friends and family aren’t sure how to help. It’s challenging to sustain long-term support. Even with my depth of experience with loved ones in pain, I still tend to feel helpless around others with chronic pain.

Often small talk is the worst thing for someone in pain. Sometimes it’s hard not to want to scream. Sometimes they want to talk about their pain, and other times they don’t want to talk about illness. Every person is different. Every relationship, every conversation, every moment is different.

We are exploring the congregation’s presence in the face of chronic pain in this issue of Church Health Reader because it’s important that faith communities be places where people living with pain can find connection and hope amid ongoing suffering. A place where they can be honest about daily challenges. A place where they can be vulnerable about emotional roller coasters. A place where they can relax in the security of belonging.

How can we, as people of faith and entire communities of believers seeking to embody hope and healing, better understand the theological implications of pain? How can we understand the way physical pain affects so much more than a medical experience? How can we use this new understanding to receive and include and minister to the people in pain among us?

This is the conversation we hope this issue of the magazine will provoke.

Blessings for whole-person health,

Rachel Davis

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