A Hug From An Invisible Cactus


Good intentioned people often ask me “What is the pain of neuropathy like?” It is such a strange and unseen condition that folks can’t relate to it. So, their curiosity prompts them to ask. I answer them by saying it is a lot like being hugged by an invisible cactus all over your body. That usually paints a vivid picture of the pain one endures with this terrible condition. Sometimes that answer just doesn’t do it for them. They need a little more relatable explanation. Then, I usually tell them the story below that takes place almost every night.

Startled, I throw off the covers in a sweat. Pain…a jabbing, needle-like pain is poking me viciously behind my eyes; in my toes also. Not ready at all, I am ill prepared for this onslaught of neuropathy at 3am. So waylaid by being assailed in my slumber, I sucked in a quick breath as a sharp pinch in the chest hit without warning. Now that the cobwebs have been fully cleared from my head, I make my way to the end of the bed.

On the edge of my place of rest, I thought about what it like when this neuropathy started three and half years back and how I was unready for this big change in my form. Another lovely curse from the terrible disease of Diabetes was starting to make its indelible mark.

Small changes started to happen all throughout my body. My fingers on my left hand would go strangely and unexplainably numb for an hour. The middle toe on my right foot would start to itch and appeared slightly swollen. Later, the itching and the numbness increased in frequency and duration. Then, these effects would travel to other places upon my body; my arms, legs, eyes, groin and back of the throat; until I was sitting on the couch one night during a hockey game and received the shock of my life.

“Arrrghh….Ouch…expletive”…I screamed out like an insane person from inside my make-shift man cave. Before I could keep the unintelligible words from escaping my mouth, I discovered I had yelled aloud because something had caught me off guard. The most intense, quick, needle-like jab had just poked me under my arm. My hands quickly searched the area on my body that the pain had come from sweeping up and down the spot. I was expecting to see blood on the hand I was using to search the area the poke had come from; for I thought I might have been stabbed. As crazy as that sounds, and I know how wacky it does, I didn’t find any blood.

This obviously required an appointment with my doctor and that’s where I discovered what was causing all of this pain and confusion: Diabetic Neuropathy. Well, after having been educated on the subject, it left me with not such a bright and shining future for my latter years.

So, in the beginning, I would massage the space where the pokes would occur with worry etched on my face. I became very wrapped up in its effects and would allow it to stop the momentum of my day, as I was truly afraid of the damage this was causing within my body. Until…I found a wonderful scripture verse to hold onto.

Here’s what God wanted me to grasp within my spirit: “For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.-Ecclesiastes 5:20(ESV)

Something changed when I read this verse. God spoke to me about my future. I was to trust that it would be good, it would be prosperous. No longer did I worry about the future effects of the many ailments of my body; my heart was going to be occupied by joy. Joy? Yes… yes indeed. I could definitely do that. Will I face challenges? Yes. Will I have to shed a few tears now and then? Probably. But the sum total of my life was not going to be the management of pain; I am going to be pre-occupied by and engrossed in joy.

Now, while I am dangling my feet off the end of my bed, my thoughts come full circle as I realized how I handle this pain today. No longer do I rub my hands together in fretful worry. Neither do I allow a gut-wrenching fear to grip my heart. I run to Jesus. As the pin pricks commit their assault over my entire body, I am reminded by the verse in James 1:2-4; you know, the “consider it joy” verse. Therefore, as the battle for my body rises and swells, I thank God for this pain; what it’s proving in my life, how it is fashioning steadfastness within me. Then, I ask for victory over the pain at that moment and the strength from the Father to endure what He needs me to.

Since I have let go of that worry, I have experienced such joy, peace, and a mission from God(pun intended. lol). When I made the decision to not let the management of pain dictate the direction of my life, the joy came flooding in; every crack and space of my heart.

The next time the invisible cactus tries to give me a hug, I will calmly fix my gaze upon Jesus and receive the strength and peace that He has for us all!

If you are struggling with chronic pain, please let me know so I can pray for you. You are not alone and God sees your tears and pain. I hope this post tugged at your heart to hold on a little while longer and encourages you to be more than a manager of pain.

Please take the time to comment, hit the “Like” button of Facebook and Twitter, and most of all, tell others what you read here today.

The Great Plains Poet

Please enjoy the poem below

A Hug From An Invisible Cactus
by Chris T.

No rest tonight,
For fear tries to take hold,
Attempting to send my spirit into fright,
And the prick of the needle feels quite cold.

Worry could cascade over top,
And wash me out to sea,
If I listen to the crash of waves that chop,
As a riptide of pain carries away the thoughts of me.

And as the assault will continue to rise,
I will shake off its sting,
Of jabs, pokes and tries,
Turning to the Savior of which I cling.

Throughout the years, as they pass by,
Each might bring turmoil, some might bring lies,
I’ll be engrossed in thoughts of joy sublime,
Making it worth all the shouts, tears and cries.

So when the invisible cactus attempts to give me a hug,
With all of its pin pricks, stabs of pain,
I’ll shake off the effects with a shrug,
Looking to a Savior who will always reign.

16 thoughts on “A Hug From An Invisible Cactus

  1. Chris: It is so lousy you are dealing with the pain you do! But thank you for writing this. I am trying to learn from people are able to focus on Christ, on joy, and better cope with the painful realities of our earthly existence, and appreciate your candor. Blessings, Diane

    1. Diane,
      It is people like yourself that this blog exists and is used by the Lord. My story is quite a bit more extensive than the story you just read. I learned a wonderful principle that the Lord taught me by putting others first even through the pain and constant hurt. For further explanation, please read the posts: “Life Deals Deadly Blows, God Works Miracles” and “Healing: Listen Not To The Pain.” These two posts will give you insight on how I make it day by day, after so much functionality has been taken away from me, through pain and memory loss, with Joy, Peace and a obedient, servant’s heart. God bless you Diane and if you need prayer at all: Please email me confidentially at: thegreatplainspoet@sio.midco.net
      You walk in victory today!!

  2. Today I was listening to Insight for Living with Chuck Swindoll. Pain was a theme running through his message, referring to Joni Eareckson Tada. It was perfect timing for me to hear.

  3. Please keep my mom lifted up in prayer. She too suffers from neuropathy. She has lupus and has suffered from this pain for years. She doesn’t complain but I can see from her facial expressions when some days are more intense. I’ll keep you lifted up in prayer also and will share this post with her. I thank God for your openness to share your testimony.

    1. I will keep your mom lifted up in prayer. That is why I do what I do. If you feel comfortable telling me her first name so I can write her down in my prayer journal, then reply to this message. If not, email me privately at thegreatplainspoet@sio.midco.net

      It is my calling to be laid bare and open so others would be drawn to Christ and the hope and healing he has for those who will believe.
      May God richly bless you and your mom today.
      Because He Lives…..I can face tomorrow
      Because He Lives…..All fear is gone
      Because I know He holds the future
      And life is worth the living just because He Lives!!

      Amen to that!!!!!!
      Woo, I am feeling His love today!!!!

  4. I found you from your comment on The River Walk. I grew up on the Great Plains (OK Panhandle) so figured I’d better connect.
    I’m humbled by your story, which is your truth. I’ve been dealing with the expected pain from a total knee replacement 32 days ago. It doesn’t seem eager to leave and sleeplessness is my frequent companion. Nevertheless, it’s a mere whisper compared to your daily portion.
    Two verses confront me when I’m tempted to say, “I quit.” First … “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” And then: I Cor 10:13, “No temptation (or trial) shall confront you but such as is common to man. And God is faithful and will not let you be tempted (or tried) beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
    I’m sure you have gone to God’s Word time and again in your 3 1/2 years of affliction. Your lack of bitterness could only come from Christ Jesus.
    And I shall pray for you.

    1. Samuel,
      This blog exists to give glory to God and to minister to those out there who need a kind word and reassurance that God IS real and loves them, and here you go and “flip the script”(as the kids today say.lol) and minister to me. Thank you so much for affirming what God is doing through my witness for Him. I face much spiritual attacks by stepping out in faith and obeying the call of the Lord on my life. It is very difficult due to my afflictions and a lot of other Christians out there won’t even pray for my ministry. So, it can feel lonely sometimes doing this work. But, I absolutely KNOW that God has called me and my family to do it. Thank you so much for your prayers. Very few people ever offer to pray for me and what the Lord is doing through me.
      The very verses you have quoted to me, I have on 3×5 cards and say them aloud everyday; to remind me of the great power and peace that exists through knowing our Lord
      May the Lord keep you, bless you, restore you , affirm you and establish you today.
      Thanks from the bottom of my heart,

      1. Chris, I’ve got your back. Thanks for your transparency, and for your prayers for me.
        BTW, I just picked up R. A. Torrey’s little book, How to Pray. You might find it in a used bookstore, as it’s been out for decades.
        I invite you to check out my blog, accessible via my website, samhallwriter.com.
        Oswald Chambers said that “Faith must be tested, because it can only become your intimate possession through conflict … everything that challenges you will strengthen your faith.”

      2. Samuel,
        I checked out your website and left you an email. It was wonderful.
        I appreciate that such a seasoned servant in the Lord has taken time out of his day to minister to me while I minister to others. God bless you for that.

  5. I just had to read more to find out why you were having such pain and now I know. I too have many sleepless nights due to pain. I have degenerative disc disease in both my neck and lower back. Next time I am up walking off the pain in the middle of the night I will be praying for you too. I have index cards with peoples names on it and what illness they have and I carry them around with me praying for them . . . your name will be added! ~ Prayers and Blessings ~

    1. I never thought of the 3×5 card idea! I will add your name to my new prayer card. I like to pray for my readers and all who the Spirit leads me too. Thank you for blessing me today and the prayers! God Bless.

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