The “chronic” part of chronic pain means that things get old pretty quickly. “Things” meaning thought processes, daily routines, joints, etc. And over time, you’ll need to experience a variety of emotional responses.
Yes, chronic pain can be daily frustrating and exhausting and disappointing. But it can be other things too. Even in seasons of chronic pain flareups, joy can and should be found. One way I try to look for joy in my situation is through humor, whether that’s my own jokes about my pain or laughing at others’ jokes about my pain or their own. Here’s why.
- Humor cuts the tension of not knowing what to say. When multiple of my extremities have on noticeable braces, and when I can see your look of confusion about what to say, I feel more sorry for you than you do for me. Cue the jokes. Pain-related humor opens the door to talking about the obvious. You may be afraid of phrasing questions about my situation the wrong way. Jokes are sometimes my way of helping you out.
- My situation actually is humorous. Maybe in the moment, it can be difficult to see the humor. But sometimes my life is so ironic that I have to laugh in the moment. Like that one time I was trying to finish a paper two hours before it was due, and my shoulder dislocated–while wearing a sling that was supposed to keep that from happening. In that moment, it was kinda hard to breathe from the pain, but I was still able to send out a PSA that school is dangerous. The fact that I can injure myself doing the most mundane tasks makes my life so much more interesting. Sometimes I imagine my life being livestreamed in Heaven with God as the “heavenly host” [not the punchline], complete with questions for the audience such as “Will she be able to take out the trash without further injuring her arms? Let’s find out!” My life is never boring anymore, so I try to take advantage of it through humor.
- When chronic pain limits my abilities, I know that I still have the ability to make myself (and hopefully other people too) laugh. My use of the phrase “I can’t” seems to outweigh my use of the phrase “I can,” as of late. Especially since I’ve lost my ability to perform music, I’ve been trying to remind myself that my life isn’t over, even if my performing career is. Sometimes my self-pep talk consists of a mere “I can do things!” My goal in making jokes about my pain is not always to get other people to laugh. If I make a joke, I think it’s funny. And that’s good enough for me.
- I can either laugh or cry. Confession: I do need to cry over my situation every once in a while. It can relieve tension and make me tired enough to get some sleep. But the benefits of crying don’t outweigh the benefits of laughter. Laughter takes away the sting of the moment and replaces worry with peace. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” I choose the medicine of a joyful heart over dried-up bones. I’m having enough problems with my skeletal system as it is.
- Making light of my situation reminds me not to take this life too seriously. If this present life is all that I am guaranteed, then I would definitely take my health (or lack thereof) seriously all the time. Thank the Lord that this is not the only life I will live or the only body I will possess! Philippians 3:20-21 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” Paul is reminding the Philippians that, although this present life matters, the next is what we’re living for. Hope for tomorrow makes today not only bearable, but also enjoyable, in that it provides a greater end goal than immediate health.
- Jesus is better. Paul understands me. I relate on a spiritual level. When God told Paul that His grace was enough to sustain him, despite his thorn in the flesh, Paul responds in a way that can’t make sense to non-believers: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10). I looked up some definitions for verse 9. The Greek word for “boast” means “to glory on account of.” To “glory” means to “take great pride or pleasure in.” Paul found pleasure in his weaknesses as opportunities to magnify the power of Christ. Chronic pain as an opportunity–what a thought! I can be content with my pain. For when I am weak, then I am strong.