Both Joice, my wife, and I have dealt with sciatica problems—in fact, I am still “dealing” with mine. Joice’s was so severe that we scheduled a series of “treatments” with a physiotherapist. She had almost instant recovery. On the other hand, mine comes and goes, but mostly comes.
It seems like many people I meet and mention the problem to have had sciatica pains. They have tried a variety of treatments and offer advice on exercises, creams, compounds, pills, acupuncture, massage, and assorted magic, none of which I have found completely successful. Coupled with my sciatica is also arthritis, so I have had information about dealing with it as well.
Even the doctors and physiotherapists aren’t sure about sciatica: “try this, try that,” they say, “but avoid surgery,” which is one piece of advice that I gladly follow. Life without pain may be true for some people, but not generally if they are 90.
One of the websites I visited is The Sciatica Institute: “A beacon of truth pursuing a natural, at-home treatment to Lower Back Pain.” It claims to have “easy and fast exercise that can quickly relieve” our sciatic nerve pain.” Like all similar websites, it offers a “presentation,” which is much longer than you anticipated, and then something miraculous to buy.
I got sucked into one website called “My Back Pain Coach” because it sounded so convincing, and I purchased their DVD. We watched it: Our “coach” was a young man in his early 20s who demonstrated his exercises on a man of about the same age. Both were sleek and fit and obviously did not suffer from sciatica. The coach had his “subject” lie flat on a thin piece of matting on the floor. He then instructed the man to bend one leg at a time back toward his chest, six reps at a time, then the other leg, then “more toward the chest,” with a focus on the core and the abs. I haven’t been able to get in the position he wanted since I was in high school. After watching the subject be manipulated for 15 minutes in various positions, I was convinced that the back pain coach was trained in mild torture and only subjects that were already completely physically fit could endure and benefit from the “exercises.” I was convinced that I had just wasted some money.
As one website wisely put it: “Everybody is different, so even though we cannot guarantee that our program will work in every case, we do promise to help you every step of the way.” The “help” consists mainly of reminding you to breathe, not give up and, if the pain continues, buy their great supplement for $69.99 a month that is guaranteed to help “or your money back.” Have you tried to get your money back from a TV advertiser? It may end up hurting more than the back pain.
The word “grace” is different: when some people hear the word, they may think of your aunt or your cousin. What I refer to cannot be bought, although it is sometimes offered on TV, mainly late at night. Although you may think of God as the sole healer, there is freedom from pain offered online, and some TV evangelists have a ready supply for you. Of course, it will cost you some money, but none but the naïve expect anything free on TV.
God’s grace has not been the cure for my sciatica, although it often overcomes my pain to an extent, and I am grateful for it. How can this be? For one thing, it puts the pain in perspective. For pain, as C.S. Lewis once said, is “God’s megaphone,” blaring out to me, reminding me of my mortality and need for prayer.
Life is not “pain-free,” and if you don’t have sciatica or arthritis, try to be thankful to God. People rarely go through life on this earth without some malady, so be ready for it. These verses in James chapter one sometimes haunt me by pointing out my weakness: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
I pray and think about those verses almost every morning when I walk. Do I find “pure joy” in trials of any kind? Not usually, but often when I look back and reflect on them, I see that they accomplish exactly what God says: perseverance to carry on, and wisdom about what is or has happened.
I have not yet have found “pure joy” in my trials and temptations, but I do want to persevere and eventually be “mature and complete, not lacking anything,” even if I seem only to be making baby steps in that process here on earth.