Poems by Charlene

An Ode to Pain and Then to Hope

Due to the pain that was worsening in my hands and arms I have been on as much of a writing break as my self control has been able to succeed in. I have of course penned some lines here and there, and this poem was written in fragments, usually at a low point when needing an outlet. It is one thing to write a poem when feeling victorious, and another to write in the middle of struggle and doubt. I wrote not long ago:

Poetry is
A force of honest answer;
In between, or dampened souls
Can’t feign rapture.

And that is part of the beauty and power of poetry. You cannot write well if you lie to yourself and your reader.

All this being said, I have probably had equal parts rejoicing as I have struggling. God is undoubtedly good, and my soul knows it full well. I hesitate to share this poem because I am not sure it will be very well liked, and probably, I am opening myself to some scrutiny. However, in my own search for Christian writing on the topic of chronic pain there is shockingly little to find, (though I’ve found refuge in an abundance of great hymns on suffering, which seem to speak with an honesty that seems rare today). So I share this poem for that reason. I think if anyone benefits it will be others with chronic pain, who so often feel isolated and alone (though chronic pain is far from rare).

Well, here it is.

An Ode to Pain and Then to Hope

I’ve known you when I drive
With blurry eyes
And take the long way ’round
To clear tears
Lest they soon be found.

I’ve known you on my bed
Those endless hours
Marked by dread,
When for escape
A bath is run
Perhaps three times
Before the sun.

I’ve known you in my cries,
That raw, whispered agonize
That moment when my courage breaks
When I add fury to my aches.

I’ve known you when I walk
A few steps then as if to mock
It stabs
And “how long ’till a bench?”
I think,
But used to walk a block (or a mountain)
Without a blink.

I’ve known some small reprieves
When like a phantom seems to leave
But soon returns-
And thinking then
Was better when
Forgotten was
That easy way
Men live their day.

I’ve known you when I write,
But what?
To stop without a fight?
I call it war
But it brings sanity
If pain is not to bare
In vanity.

The great confronting force
That floods my forecast
With remorse.
I said “Tomorrow
I’ll go here, do that, do this”
And quite amiss,
“You do not know
What tomorrow brings”
Much truer rings
When today has stings.

That torches all my plans
Which fall like ashes from my hands.

I said “All I need is Christ”
Before you’d entered in my life
And how like costless words they fell
Before I felt this life was hell.

It strips, it presses,
It rends,
Those marching forward
Backward bends,
Applying force
As if to break
Not so much the body
But spirit to take.

It came in like a thief
To tinge each moment
With its’ grief,
And yet its’ color
Black and bleak
Hasn’t seeped
So as my faith to keep,
Although it seeks.

There’s a Greater Seeker
Mining out that hidden nature-
What to make out of a heart
That cowered greatly at the start-
And still.

The forces solids
Through a strain!
Is it not possible to tame
A wandering heart
By softer names?

Well, I did ask
But then it still remained
And behind it was
The God who made my frame.

And what has He accomplished
Through such frightening means?

To bend a rushing river
Into softer streams.

I used to think this life
All mine to shape and mold,
Vaguely aware the Potter
Somewhere stood
But I’d been told
To plan steps
Give God a nod
And watch it all unfold.

So I thought it
Quite uncalled for,
Perhaps cruel
That God should use
A winepress
As His tool.

The Sovereign hand that stings
Also has healing in His wings
And though I see no calm
He smoothes a healing balm
On all my grief
Even without that pain’s relief.

When courage breaks
He doesn’t take ‘way grace.

Sometimes I go forward
And can’t see Him there,
On the left hand
He is working
Even through despair.
I look behind
Sometimes I don’t perceive the good
But in time this dreary mine
Will be understood.

When I come out
(Yes when)
From this way He’s paved
After the black and bruised
Stumbling and my lack of brave-
Whether the tunnel crumble in
Or finally open up,
He will bring me out gold
From this broken cup.

Job 23:8-10 “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there,and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take;when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

If you are looking for a good resource on chronic pain I will turn you towards the book “A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty“, by Joni Eareckson Tada.


Previous post

Pleading For and With Youth, by William Cowper

Next post

The Triumphs of Our King

Charlene Nelson

Charlene Nelson

Welcome to the poetry blog of Charlene Nelson. I view poetry primarily as an expression and means of seeing and savouring Jesus Christ, while inviting others to join me. Some readers may even want to join by writing and submitting their own poetry- and I hope they will! I also intend to use this as a place to share hymns and poetry of times past.