Not many people know about this, but I struggle with chronic pain.

It’s mostly deep in my neck and back. A combination of injury and poor posture. And that would be bad enough as is…

But in recent years, there seems to be a growing tendency for the two to come together like a toxic cocktail that can sometimes produces the most debilitating migraine.

It’s not something I find easy to talk about partly because of the appeal of denial.

What I mean by this is: If I don’t really talk about it, I don’t have to face up to certain uncomfortable facts.

Like this is a pain that has been in me and hasn’t left for years. Or that I’m a relatively young person who has to face this pain.


I don’t just feel weighed down physically, but mentally too.

I’m not referring to the migraine that, like an unwanted acquaintance, comes by to knock on the door of my skull every now and then, before eventually starting to pound it. It’s the shame I feel whenever the pain grinds my day to a halt. 

I take pride in the fact that I don’t really care about what others think about me (or at least I think I don’t), but waves of pain have slowly eroded that façade I’ve put up. I’ve come to see that I really do feel very ashamed when pain has got me down.

After all, in my church, we talk a lot about being victorious in Christ. 

But when I’m lying in the dark, frustratedly waiting for the pills I’ve just popped to take effect, I find it hard to feel like an overcomer.

In the very worst moments, I’ve felt instead like a fraud in the faith. Or, worse, that God has abandoned me somehow.

In the thick of it, there can really be so much fear as well.

I have felt a rising panic within me when my noisy nephews and niece (and I love them) run rings around me, all while I’m already nauseous from the pain of a spinning head. 

How will I raise my own children if it’s like this next time?

And I’ve faced anxious thoughts, even as I’m jamming my index fingers into my throbbing temples, wondering if this if a foretaste of what’s to come as I grow older. 

I’m only 29… Will my quality of life keep dipping? 


So, I bust my gut to keep fit in the hopes I will get stronger and ward off the aches.

I take a leave day to visit another far-flung chiropractor. I cautiously hope that the traditional Chinese medicine I’ve paid way too much for will work. 

I figure out the triggers. Work on breathing. Posture. Hydrate. Sleep well (or try). Create periodic reminders to get up and walk. Invest in a great desk. Buy a beat-up, $300 Herman Miller Aeron (verdict: not bad, but filthy).

Each purchase brings its own fresh burst of optimism. Followed by disillusionment. Familiar disappointment. 

Nothing seems to have worked, but I’m working on coming to terms with it.

That’s been much of my journey. Which brings us to where I am today: Nothing seems to have worked, but I’m working on coming to terms with it.

And since we’re already here, might as well make the most of it. So let’s talk about some things I’ve seen or learned through living with pain in my life. 


A few weeks ago, I had a headache that lasted a for a couple of days. Those kinds are the worst – they really put a dampener on the week.

On the worst day, I laid in the dark for a long time. And as I grew impatient and angry, I found myself typing out a message — with frustration and exasperation in equal parts — to my spiritual community.

After I pressed “Send”, I laid there feeling like a fool for a long time for having actually sent it out.

Christian writer and cell leader and this is how things look in my life. Great, now everyone knows there’s still been no breakthrough. Surprise – they must be even more tired of my same recurring issue and whining than even I am. 

But I had said it. I had admitted my weakness. 

I felt blessed that people cared enough to pray for me since I didn’t feel like praying for it myself any longer.

The funny thing was, however, that through the responses which came back to what I had sent out, I realised I was actually met with grace. 

My friends simply agreed with me that it sucked. They told me they were praying for me. And the younger ones I led whom I had shared this with? They did the same. 

While those messages did nothing to take my physical migraine away, there was a different kind of assurance that came from reading them. 

I felt grateful that I could be real about my pain. Seen. And I felt blessed that people cared enough to pray for me since I didn’t feel like praying for it myself any longer.


I must have prayed thousands of times for God to take away my headache. More often than not, the prayer doesn’t “work”.

But I was reading a post written by Nightbirde some time back, and I found that I had to reluctantly agree with one of her conclusions drawn from her own battle with suffering.

“When it comes to pain, God isn’t often in the business of taking it away. Instead, he adds to it. He is more of a giver than a taker. He doesn’t take away my darkness, he adds light. He doesn’t spare me of thirst, he brings water. He doesn’t cure my loneliness, he comes near.”

I’ll probably have days where I feel tempted to think that’s an ugly Christian cliché, one that’s cruel at the expense of all who suffer.

But writing this out right now, with a clear mind, I’ll tell you I believe it. I believe that it’s true. After all, I’ve seen it in my own life.  

God has added perspective to my pain. On days filled with agony, stuck at the familiar well-worn bottom of my personal pit, I’ve come to see that all I can really do is to look up.

Light at the end of the tunnel. Hope. Silver linings. 

God has added perspective to my pain.

I’ve had nights where I laugh in my heart at the idea that I could ever be healed of this ache or that pain.

But as time goes by, I’ll find that my arms are raised, lifted high towards the ceiling overhead.

Not by my own faith, but by an invisible hope — that tethers me mercifully to something higher even as I feel low.

And because I know what a low feels like, I savour the highs as they come in life. 

Kayaking with my wife on the river, bathed in Singapore’s sweltering sun, I give thanks that I can have this joyful experience — undiluted or marred by suffering.  

I cherish the good gift of days like these, especially when the band around my head constricts painfully again.

But nowadays, when that happens, as I debate internally about whether my quality of life will decrease or not, I console myself with the fact there will be an immeasurable and eternal uptick after this life.

Jesus defeated death, sickness and decay (2 Timothy 1:10). He loves me. He sees me. He won’t leave me alone. He’s coming again to fix everything.

And I’ll never feel pain again when He does. 

  1. Ever felt that your prayers don’t “work”? How do you deal with such disappointments?
  2. What hope can you hold on to amid the suffering you might be facing?
  3. What can you give thanks for today?