We were conducting a program of sing-along, Bible reading, and prayer at a nursing home. My husband John was wheeling in residents to the dining area where we held the program as he had always done for the past fifteen years. This time, however, I noticed that he was doing something that I knew could have devastating consequences on his back. In the process of positioning the chair-bed type contraption that one of the residents was in so that it would face the front, John was lifting it sideways. He was lifting not only the weight of the chair-bed, which looked heavy, but the man in it. John wasn't a huge, strong man; he was only 139 pounds. Sure enough, the next day, John complained of back pain that intensified as the days and weeks went by.
I took him to the chiropractor. We went for over four months, but John's situation had not improved. The pain had not abated. We then went to our doctor who recommended that John undergo an MRI to determine what was causing his severe back pain.
The result of the MRI indicated a herniated disc. This malady could be corrected through physical therapy (traction) or surgery. We decided to do physical therapy and see what happened. Surgery would be a last resort. We went to physical therapy for several weeks. Still, the pain was not alleviated. We started to think seriously about surgery.
Our primary physician had given us a referral to a neurosurgeon for a complete back surgery. I wasn't sure if that's what we wanted done so I went to the Internet to see what corrective measures are out there and what would be the less invasive of all the procedures used for herniated discs. I found out that the endoscopic discectomy would probably be the way to go. This procedure was not done by the neurosurgeon that we were referred to so I asked for another referral to one who does the procedure.
The endoscopic discectomy was scheduled and performed. We praised God it was successful. The pain had improved somewhat but not totally eradicated. We figured in time, the pain would go away. Three months passed but instead of going away, the pain intensified; and it was presenting so much problems for John. He was totally incapacitated, he couldn't eat, and he was losing weight. The neurosurgeon did not think that the pain was coming from his back. He wanted us to check with our doctor to find out what was going on. He suspected kidney problems. We feared the malignant tumor in his left kidney, which was in remission for over nine years, was coming out of remission and wreaking havoc in his abdominal cavity.
Another MRI and bone scan were scheduled and done. We prayed and waited for the results. The results of the MRI indicated a hernia in the diaphragm region, but this shouldn't be causing the intense pain John was experiencing. The tumor in the kidney was still calcified and inactive so this, too, was not causing the pain. The neurosurgeon already told us that he didn't think the pain was coming from his back. For all practical purposes, there was no physiological cause whatsoever for pain. So what WAS causing the pain?
The doctor explained that it was phantom pain that John was experiencing. His body had experienced the pain from the herniated disc for so long, that when the malady was corrected, the body continued to experience the pain. I thought how terrible that the body could be held in bondage and captive of a pain that was not even there--imaginary pain yet real as real could be. A paradox indeed! But the body reacts and responds according to messages coming from the brain. Could John be thinking pain and illness instead of wellness? Prov 23:7 says: "For as he thinketh in his heart (mind), so is he." Whatever we allow our minds to dwell on whether it be good or bad, wellness or sickness, the body responds correspondingly and sympathetically. Oh, how we need to perish all thoughts of ills and pains for they affect our bodies negatively and hold them captives.
As I contemplated on phantom pains and their ill effects in the physical realm, I thought of phantom pains and ills in the spiritual realm. I wonder how many of us are phantom Christians. After we have come to know Jesus Christ and accepted Him as our personal Lord and Saviour, we still go around as a band of mourners or captives instead of enjoying the liberty that He has given us. Oh, how we need to let go and let God. In Isa 61:1-3 we read a messianic prophecy: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, and oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
God wants us to be happy Christians filled with the praises of Him that we might be called the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified.
"O that this might be the purpose of our lives! Then we should have regard even to the expression of our countenance, to our words, and even to the tone of our voice when we speak. All our business transactions would be wrought in faith and integrity. Then would the world be convinced that there is a people that are loyal to the God of heaven...God calls for all to come into harmony with Himself. He will receive them if they will put away their evil actions. By a union with the divine nature of Christ, they may escape the corrupting influences of this world. It is time for every one of us to decide whose side we are on. The agencies of Satan will work with every mind that will allow itself to be worked by him. But, there are also heavenly agencies waiting to communicate the bright rays of the glory of God to all that are willing to receive Him. It is truth that we want, precious truth in all its loveliness. Truth will bring liberty and gladness. (MS 43, 1908).