Growing up on a farm, playing sports and being generally careless have provided me with ample opportunities for pain. I have had my head stitched a number of times, my leg cast and my lip sewn up. I’ve had back surgeries, my appendix rupture and my tonsils taken out. I’m still ticked that the tonsil doctor promised me all the ice cream I could eat but my throat was too sore to have much.

But the pain I was experiencing at age 55 was different. It was subtle, like the constant dripping of water on the forehead in Chinese Water Torture. For three years, I had struggled with fatigue. I would get up and though I wanted to take on the day, I felt like I had the flu. My mind was foggy. There seemed to be no reason for this condition. A trip to Mayo Clinic gave me a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. There was very little that could be done to alleviate my symptoms and so I went home with a prayer that some day, I would regain my strength.

And then things changed. February 28, 2012 is a day I will never forget. On that day, I suffered a severe emotional breakdown. It is something that to this day, I can’t explain. The pain was the most intense pain I had ever experienced and bore down on me with unrelenting force. I spent several months in bed, praying that soon this emotional, spiritual, and physical pain would subside. As I became more cognizant of what had happened, guilt and shame dogged me. I was in a clinical depression. I reasoned, “How could a Christian, much less a pastor, suffer from clinical depression?” I could not sleep but I could not get up from my bed. Nothing relieved the pain. My wife stayed at my side nearly every hour of the day. I would ask her over and over, “Am I going to get well?” She would lovingly comfort me by saying, “Yes Dan, you’re going to get well.”

My progress was one step forward and two steps back. Finally, after three months of bed-rest, I began to gain ground. After five months of medical care, counseling, hours of prayer from dear friends and family, and the unconditional love from my wife, children and grandchildren, I was experiencing a gradual but significant lift in my wellbeing. I was able to get out of bed and function with relative normality, something months before I thought I would never experience again. I was still weak and insecure but my emotional state had greatly improved. Though I had some reservations, I was looking forward to returning to my work.

Then on July 30, 2012, while sitting in our family room, the room began to spin. I tried to get up from my chair but fell to the floor. I didn’t know what was happening to me. My wife was outside and so I managed to call her on her cell phone and told her I needed help. I could hear her calling 911 and shortly after, I was taken to the hospital by ambulance. I could not open my eyes knowing that the spinning would cause severe nausea and vomiting. For six hours, I lay in the hospital with my eyes closed tight. I could hear the voices of the doctors and nurses but I could not move. Doctors did a myriad of testing for anything from stroke to brain tumor. The final conclusion was that I was suffering from a severe episode of vertigo. After six hours, I slowly opened my eyes, expecting to see the room spinning and to my surprise, everything had come to a stop. Though the doctors were stumped I was released from the hospital. I was thankful to again be on the mend.

Four days later my world began to spin again, only this time it was more severe. Keeping my eyes shut didn’t help. I could not walk. My son nearly carried me to the car. As he helped me into the car, I vomited on him. I remember him saying, “Its OK Dad.” My only comfort was remembering all the times he had vomited on me when he was a baby. I thought, “Sorry Son, it’s payback time.”

I was in the hospital for two days and finally began to feel the spinning slowing down. I was referred to a specialist and his diagnosis was that a “shingles-like” virus had attacked my left inner ear and the nerves that give a body balance had been burned away permanently. The doctor said that it would take time, the length he did not know, for the brain to make the necessary adjustments so that my balance would return and the vertigo eliminated.

All this happened in the early part of August 2012. As of today, November 7, 2013, I still struggle with vertigo. It is a continual “thorn in the flesh.” I am forced to get up carefully, walk more slowly, and change my line of sight gradually or my world begins to spin. Moving from bright light into dim or dim into bright makes me feel like I’m going to fall. It is an annoying condition that if I think about it, gets me pretty discouraged.

OK…now I’ve done enough complaining. For the next couple of blogs, I’d like to describe what I believe I have learned through this difficult season. Pain accomplishes certain things in life that nothing else will. Next week, I want to describe how pain has both demanded “movement” from me and slowed me down at the same time. If that sounds paradoxical, I guess it is. But the idea that there is no point to pain, I reject. I believe God never wastes your pain, whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual, relational; whatever the pain, God does not waste it.

If you have any thought of your own on this subject, I’d love to hear from you. I am still learning and though my world spins occasionally, I am seeing life much straighter than I ever have.