HEALTH/ Spiritual

A Life Changed By Chronic Pain



“Unlike delivering grace, which once received, inadvertently moves us to greater independence from God, 

sustaining grace keeps us tethered to Him.” –Vaneetha Demski



{A Guest Post by Carissa Harms}


My story is one of a life changed by chronic pain. 


It’s hard for me to share, but I know it’s good for my heart to do so, and is an act of obedience to my frequent prayer that God would be glorified through this. That this suffering would not be wasted.


5 years ago I injured myself playing sand volleyball with my husband at the age of 27.  My resulting situation is abnormal in the degree of disability I’ve experienced because of it, the lack of clarity about my diagnosis, and the absence of successful treatment so far.


The pain in my lower back and pelvis initiated by the injury, and worsened by a subsequent pregnancy, has steadily increased until 2 years ago I became primarily bedridden. I spend about 75% of my day in bed or on an air mattress in our living room, with brief periods of time being upright standing or sitting in my orthopedic chair. The deep vice-like burning pain is unforgivably constant regardless of my position or treatments and can build to mind-fogging unbearable at times. 


My medical resume is disappointingly extensive. 
-had every scan and test we know about (many of them multiple times)
-seen multiple doctors per specialty
-a dozen therapists/chiropractors
-lots of diagnostic injections 
-3 trips to the Mayo Clinic 
-3 rounds of out-of-state prolotherapy/PRP treatments (averaging 200+ injections each)
-an inconclusive exploratory surgery
 -various alternative and natural products/treatments
-too many medications to count


The closest thing we have to a diagnosis is “Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction (SIJD).” Basically meaning my pelvic joints are unstable. My symptoms are not completely consistent with this, and most likely there are other contributing factors yet to be named. The unbelievable frustration from these failed medical pursuits does me more harm than good, so I have come to let it go. We are continuing to pursue new things knowing God may still choose to use medicine to heal me this side of heaven, but my hope is now built on Him, and no longer on “them.” 


Battling pain like this day-after-day without a clear explanation or any promise of relief in the future is enough to send someone over the edge…swallow them whole…rewrite the definition of insanity.


Then there’s the grief-pain. Grieving the loss of sitting through a church service, attending my son’s school functions, a dinner out, shopping, a walk with the family, trips, all the activities I enjoyed with my husband, serving others. Too many to name. It is unavoidably trying physically, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually. 


But thanks be to my good & gracious God that this is not ALL of my story.


There is something else that is also unavoidable. Despite my frequent attempts to downplay it for the sake of self-misery, it remains. Something MORE than I could’ve hoped for in this time of hopelessness. If someone would’ve told me what my life would hold these last 5 years, I would’ve said that it would be utterly unbearable! It would take more grace to endure than I could conceive. And therein lies the cause for praise. 


 “In the gap between what we want to happen and what God provides for us, is always sustaining grace.” …


Our “gaps” have been meticulously filled by the Lord. His tangible hands have been friends, family, and complete strangers taking care of our family’s (with 2 little boys at home) large list of physical needs. Gap filled. Many a divinely timed word of encouragement from someone. (Once, my phone rang in the very middle of my prayer petitioning the Lord on that specific matter)! Large gap filled. Unexpected financial gifts in the exact amount needed for something, random connections leading us to new treatment options to pursue when we thought we had done it all, and even a donated private jet ride to get me to Mayo (so I could lay down in-flight). Gaps overflowing! 


But by far the most steadfast provision from the Lord in my wavering faith has been His unwavering faithfulness to me. Not a burden of heart has been unanswered without a promise from Him I could cling to. While I have longed to be protected FROM this trial, I can’t help but recognize God’s protection IN it. In my discouragement, protection from complete despair. In my anger, protection from bitterness. In my pain, He has brought blessing.


cont…“God’s sustaining grace can’t be experienced while resisting His will.” (Andy Stanley)


How true this has been for me. Greater than the battle for healing is the battle of surrender that wages in my heart. It is not a one-battle-war! I have experienced first-hand the grace, peace, and joy that comes when I am fully trusting that God has allowed this trial out of His goodness, for the good of many, that “none of His plans can be thwarted,” and the finish line of His glory will reveal that it was all more than worth it. With Him in complete control, I don’t have to fight the ride. But fight the ride I often do nonetheless.



Despite frequent “falls” of discouragement, I praise my Mighty Savior that my hand is buried firmly in His! He has not allowed me to be “hurled headlong.” With each fall, His grace either eases the pressure of the burden or increases my strength to bear it. 


I know that many travel with the companions of sorrow and suffering on their life journeys. Both visible and invisible pain. Some much greater than mine. As my faith has been strengthened in joining other’s journeys through suffering, I pray that because the Lord has chosen to make mine the visible kind, someone would find encouragement and hope in God’s story of faithfulness to us. 


A note from Amy:

Carissa is a dear friend of mine.  Our relationship goes back to our newlywed days where we attended the same church and small group study.  She has always been a light to me, and I have learned so much from her by just watching her life.  Her story of pain has touched me deeply and I am so thankful to share some of her with you all today!

You Might Also Like

  • Ginger
    July 26, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    I can relate to All of you Sweet Lady’s,,,i’ve been very sad the past couple of weeks my nerve pain is worse the past few months very scary,,iys my back and neck from a car accident,,love to all

  • Anonymous
    April 30, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    I also have chronic back pain that goes done my left leg,I tend to fall at times,I get up brush myself of and keep going,I bough a horse a few months ago,I have ridden all my life,but let the pain rule my life,I need help to put her saddle on,but once I am on I feel free for awhile,I finially figured out I could live with just pain,but picked my passion and deal with the pain when I get home. There are days that are much worse than others and on those days I can not ride,so I go to the barn and just groom her and sit and watch her graze,it makes me glad to be alive,I will continue to do this until I can no longer get out of bed,the old saying if you feel pain you know you are still alive. Jesus suffered for me on the cross and died,so why should I complain about my suffering.

    • Carissa
      May 11, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      I’m sorry for your suffering, and admire your strength to fight for your passion in the midst of it! Sometimes increased pain is a sacrifice worth making when it results in intangible rewards that keep our spirits alive. God bless you.

  • Star
    April 30, 2015 at 1:05 am

    i have been in chronic back/leg pain for thirty years. As bad as it all has been, with 2 failed surgeries, the very worst of all has been how those who worship power and the ever loosing war on drugs, have made it so hard if not impossible, for physicians to adequately treat the pain patients who don’ t abuse or sell their medications.

    • Carissa
      May 11, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      Star, I’m sorry for your pain & empathize with how difficult it is to get adequate care! Especially lately, the new laws are making it even more burdensome on people who can’t get around. I pray God will give you grace for the shortcomings of man and the medical system. Blessings to you.

    April 29, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story…I have peripheral neuropathy so I too live with chronic pain day in and day out .I have a young daughter and I have missed out on all her school functions and it breaks my heart .I’ve been down with this since 2009 And I’ve been on a long pity train I miss out on so much with her but we have long pillow talks we share in so many different ways and you have opened my eyes to that I have faith in God and total trust even more so now and I would just like to say thank you for your journey I pray for healing but it don’t seem so bad now thank you and God bless you

    • Carissa
      May 11, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Thank you, Carla!
      I’m familiar with your condition and know how painful neuropathy can be! By far, the hardest thing for me is missing out on the kids stuff. =( You are right about the blessings of time and conversation at home. Not only is our journey unique in this world, but our children’s is too. I’m trying to trust the Lord that what seems to be losses with them, are really gains from Him. Thank you for your encouragement.

  • Jennifer
    April 29, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    i don’t even know what to say! I was so moved by your post….I’m sitting here in tears. I have a chronic condition and it took about 10 years to get the correct disgnosis. On top of that, I also have migraines and vestibular migraines. I have been in the midst of a major pity party the last couple of weeks. I have fallen in my faith at times during this journey. It’s pretty low at the moment, so reading your post was very timely. Definitely saving the link so I can come back to this and be encouraged. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Carissa
      May 11, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      I’m so sorry, Jennifer.
      Thank you for taking time to share and encourage me.
      I’m saying a prayer for you now, that God would show Himself near to you.

  • susan
    April 29, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Bless you, I know exactly what you speak of. But I have yet been able to put pen to paper, to write about it, or my experience. I do know of the burning pain you speak of, as just one of my problems was caused to my right leg, when a surgeon got into the femoral nerve area to repair a hernia, and failed to call in a neurosurgeon to help before he just put a plug in the middle of it, and mesh over top of that, and closed me up. I don’t even think he covered the actual hernia. But my upper and lower back have issues, and being the fragile state I have grown into over the last two years, they don’t want to even touch the upper back. But what has rang true is the gaps being filled by God’s mercy and grace. My life looks so different to a once, get her done girl, and social butterfly ( I love people) I have run the gauntlet of emotions, that come with such a change. Thank the lord, I think iam at the one day at a time mindset. And if I think beyond tomorrow, anxiety attacks follow. I know he has his reasons, at 56 yrs of age the future sure look different then this. Love and grace be yours

    • Carissa
      May 11, 2015 at 3:27 pm

      Thank you, Susan. Your situation sounds awful!
      I know what you mean about it being a big change, as I was much like you. And at 34, I can’t imagine a lifetime of this either. Yes, so we rely on God’s daily bread…one day at a time. Love and grace to you too!

  • Martha Lemos
    April 29, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Has anyone mentioned Tarlov cysts to you? They are easily seen on MRI, but many doctors ignore their presence because they mistakenly believe that they never cause pain. Sacral pain and pressure is often due to them however. Please get copies of your MRIs and the reports associated with them and make sure that those are not your problem. There are several neurosurgeons who have successfully done surgery on these cysts. Just want to make sure that you have ruled out everything that has a possible treatment. I have them and my doctor totally ignored them on the radiology report because he didn’t know what they were and just assumed that because he had never heard of them that they couldn’t be important. They are also called sacral cysts and perineural cysts.

    • Carissa
      May 11, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      Thank you, Martha!
      Yes, I am familiar with these, and they have not shown up on any of my reports (and I’ve had several spine and pelvis MRI’s). It’s too bad, but I’ve experienced similar situations where radiology findings were overlooked/ignored by doctors.
      I recently actually got diagnosed with EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome), which is so simple to test for & would’ve been really helpful to have known 6 years ago (so I could’ve avoided some treatments that I did which I should not have with this diagnosis). We have to be so assertive as patients, and yet there are times when things are still out of our control.
      Grace and blessings to you.

  • Vaneetha Demski
    March 28, 2014 at 12:14 am

    Oh Carissa- Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your courage and love for the Lord is inspiring in the midst of chronic pain. God’s sustaining grace is evident in you!

    Blessings, Vaneetha

  • Anonymous
    March 11, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    I am weeping as I write this comment. I am weeping because of the great spiritual encouragement you have been to me. Last year I helped my husband install wood flooring in our historical home we are renovating. I worked all day on my knees with my back bent. The next day, I could not lift my legs and was in excruciating pain. I went to numerous doctors and it was all connected to the sacroiliac nerve and joint. I have endured this pain for a year, not being able to sit, walk, etc. I felt so convicted reading your post. I did not see God in it as you have. I will not erase your post from my email, but have reread it several times. It is such a blessing to me. I asked God to please forgive my shortcoming and make me to experience complete surrender as you have. I am doing better physically now and rejoice every day I can walk normal. Please know what a blessing you have been. You model true Christianity.

    • Anonymous
      March 13, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment. You bring tears to my eyes as well! I was having such a tough day…considering the er for pain management, loosing the battle for hope & surrender. As you know, there aren’t sufficient words for how difficult this is! God used you to encourage ME that He is still working through this, that it’s still worth fighting for. I do not always see it as I should either, but I’m so thankful that He never gives up on us. God bless you sister! -carissa

  • Anonymous
    March 8, 2014 at 12:06 am

    Your story sounds much like our son’s except that he has had debilitating pain for “only” 2-1/2 years. But God has been–and continues to be, amazing and gracious. I will pray for you when I pray for Joel, and God will know what to do with those prayers.

  • Anonymous
    March 5, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story–it is helpful to others going through a similar situation to know they are not alone.

  • eggthoughts
    March 4, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Thank you, Amy and Carissa, for sharing. I have several friends who have chronic pain and this was helpful for me.

  • Alissa Waller
    March 2, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story of battles and triumphs. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. You have encouraged me to push on through so many of my struggles. Thank You and God Bless.

    • Anonymous
      March 3, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      Thank you, Alissa. God Bless you too! -Carissa

  • Cheryl @ Bingle Bears
    March 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing this Carissa (and Amy, too!). Your story rang so true . . . and familiar. Chronic pain is the way of life for me as well. Living hour to hour until I can take my next pain pill. Missing being able to go to church. Missing the experiences other people just take for granted. I’m no longer bedridden and am thankful for that. I also have times where I can take a shower without needing a shower stool–and then can (amazingly to me!) blowdry my hair without first laying down to rest for 30 minutes. It’s hard for people to understand the extent that chronic pain changes your life.

    It took 7 years to get a diagnosis. Before THE diagnosis, I had little diagnoses, or “pieces of the puzzle” as I like to call them. Littler things like asthma, hypothyroidism, hormone dysfunctions, constant infections, and chronic bronchitis that need to be understood and kept under control so as not to disturb the beast of fibromyalgia that gets uncontrollable. A lot of people and doctors don’t know that fibromyalgia can get so severe as to make a person bedridden to the point of having difficulty even walking a few steps. And, of course, being bedridden leads to muscle wasting which then leads to even more pain. In the end, I found the diagnosis that explained so many things and lead my doctor to confirm it.

    Being 13 years into this journey, I can see the many blessings that it has brought me, my husband, and our children. It’s not a “normal” life, but it is a good and blessed life. I believe you feel some of those blessings as well. I pray that you and your doctors will soon diagnose your pain. Chronic pain can be the result of so many things and finding an accurate diagnosis helps pinpoint the best way to treat your chronic pain.

    Gentle hugs,

    • Anonymous
      March 3, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      Yes…thank you so much, Cheryl! I relate to the “recuperation” from small activities like a shower. It really is difficult for people to understand (including myself back when I was healthy!) It is truly good and blessed in a non-normal way. I appreciate your story and your prayers. -Carissa

  • Carolyn, Living the gypsy life
    March 2, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Finding Beauty in the Ashes….that is what you are doing. What a beautiful story of Hope. Thank you for sharing from the depth of your pain, and your transparency. There is no “happy” ending. But, I LOVE your idea of the Gaps, and that is the happy in between. My prayers will be with you. You are an amazing woman of God, fragile, weak, strong, honest, and confused. Sounds like a perfect woman of God to me. I live with pain in my ankle, from a 12 foot fall on Concrete, and your words of the Gaps is so profound to me this morning. Thank you.

    • Anonymous
      March 3, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      Thank you for the sweet words-Carolyn. I pray God will too fill your gaps with the “happy in between.” (I like that 🙂 -Carissa

  • Courtney
    March 2, 2014 at 12:03 am

    Carissa, your faith and trust in The Lord (always) brings tears to my eyes. What an example you are to so many. And although I wish you were NOT in chronic pain, I am testimony that your suffering is not wasted. As I’ve said before, I have learned so much from you! You are an amazing woman of faith, and I look up to you in so many ways. You are an incredible mother, and I am beyond grateful for your friendship! I love you, friend!

  • Stacy
    March 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. For those of use that are younger and live with some for of Chronic pain and medical issue, life is not always easy. We often wonder why God has chosen this path for us, but we know that He has His plan for our lives and that He is with us no matter what. Some days life seems overwhelming and the medical issues never ending, but I know that God is right here with me, He is beside me and no matter the pain, no matter the recovery, He has me.
    Thank you so much for letting those of us that are out here know that we are not alone. We often suffer in silence, but occasionally we know that we have someone out there that stands up and says “Hey, I’m here too”.

    • Anonymous
      March 3, 2014 at 8:36 pm

      You’re welcome. I too have found some of my greatest comfort in sharing in the sufferings of others. Blessings to you. -Carissa

  • Lori
    March 1, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    (((((Carissa))))) Thank you for sharing your story because this morning it has filled me with hope. I was brutally attacked almost 12 years at the group home I worked at and I now have a neck and skull injury. I live with pain 24/7. The first 2 years I was so hopped on strong narcotics I couldn’t function and yet I was still in pain. I went through a pain program to get off everything and to learn how to manage the pain. Which helped tremendously but still I live in pain. A year ago I had a procedure that brought my pain level down a lot. They want to do it again but workeres comp is fighting it again(they did the last time and it took 2 years of fighting in court to get it) and I am left wondering if I have it in me to fight for it.

    As of late, I have become very discouraged and am losing hope. I keep crying out to God and there are day’s it feels like it falls on deaf ears. When I imagine living like this the rest of my life I cry and just want to give up. I miss out on so much living because of all this. I miss my old self and abilities. I hate what it does to me emotionally and mentally. Pain that gnaws on a person day and night affects how I see life. Your words have renewed me this morning. Honestly, they are a gift and I can see God’s handiwork in leading me here because this past week all I’ve thought about is dying. I don’t want to live anymore. Your words have reminded me of truths that I know but lose sight of in the heat of pain. Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me this shot of hope that I so needed. God bless you in your journey. My heart certainly goes out to you and your family. I pray you get some relief and of course healing.

    • Anonymous
      March 3, 2014 at 8:01 pm

      I’m so sorry, Lori. What a difficult road! Thank you for taking time to share your story. Your words are so true & I feel each one of them myself. It blesses me in return that Lord used it to encourage you. I will pray for you, warrior sister. You are not alone. -Carissa

    • Anonymous
      March 4, 2014 at 4:16 am

      I hope your holding in there. Lots of love to you.

  • Mel
    February 28, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    ugh- I can relate on so many levels as I have the same. Each new day brings new rise and fall as with anything. {Hugs} to you

  • Anonymous
    February 28, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Sad but very inspiratioal story.thak you for sharing it New Nostagia, i pray for the best for Carissa

  • Anna@stuffedveggies
    February 28, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    I can relate so well to your post! My Mother, of Blessed Memory, spent 30 years trying to get a diagnosis for her major health issues – to little avail. Including a month at Mayo Clinic (Right after she left Mayo, our local hospital discovered a MAJOR health problem that Mayo had failed to even investigate -despite ample symptoms. The condition necessitated emergency surgery to save her life, yet Mayo had missed it).

    In any case, after 30 years of searching, finally she fell into her final illness – then all of the sudden the doctors discovered a full page – single spaced – of long standing TERMINAL diagnoses – nearly all of which had been missed by her doctors – despite the fact that she had gone to doctor, after doctor, after doctor.

    It is SO frustrating to live in constant pain with no diagnosis.

    I have suffered substantial pain myself for decades now, and only got a diagnosis about a month ago. Thank goodness, mine -tho not treatable – is not life threatening and does not confine me to bed.

    Remember Mark 5:26 “She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.”

    This problem is nothing new!

    And yet, our physical illness can serve to aid our Spiritual growth! What we miss in modern society when we pretend that suffering is only something to be denied or disposed of – it can be a great aid. The Bible, as well as many of the historical writings of the Church from the first centuries speak of the value of suffering and “askesis”

    • Anonymous
      March 3, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      Wow. Yes we (I) put so much faith in man-made medicine comparatively to these God-made “miracles” we live in. Thank you for your story. What you speak of suffering makes me think of something I read yesterday,

      “We call those things mercies which please us, ease us, suit our wants, and fall in with our cravings. Truly they are so, but not less gracious are those benefits which cross us, pain us, and lay us low.” ~Spurgeon

      I wish you well. -Carissa

  • Anonymous
    February 28, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this most up-lifting witness to the power of God with me! I live with a man who lives in Chronic Pain in his back as well and due to his other health issues treatments are not an option for him. His doctor tries to keep him as comfortable as he can with medication, but the deep stabbing, burning pain never leaves. It can consume your life if you allow. We too have great faith but still need sweet reminders! Prayers for your friend Carissa. Cheryl

    • Anonymous
      March 3, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      Thank you, Cheryl! -Carissa