On the one hand I've come to see that you have to devote some time to the project and work at listening for the Lord's voice in every circumsance of your life. On the other hand, I need to remember that what I'm seeking is a grace, a freely given gift from God rather than a result of my own efforts. Seeing some sense or significance to my suffering seems like one of those gifts of the Holy Spirit along with wisdom, understanding, fortitude and so on.
I discovered, in other words that there's an art to meditating on your pain. Of its very nature pain wants to just take over your life and your entire consciousness. So, to deliberately and systematically think about it is risky -- it can quickly make you narcissistic and reduce the vast expanse of the universe to the little point which is you and your pain. My life then, to paraphrase T. S. Eliot, is measured out in ice packs and Aleve tablets, varying with the vagaries of a couple of irritated nerves in my lumbar spine.
But as a Christian I know that suffering is somehow at the center of God's love for us, and that the mystery of the cross is at the center of God's saving action. So I forge ahead, trusting that the Lord will watch over me in my efforts to come to grips with the deeper dimension of my pain.
So lately I've learned to be humble in my thinking and writing about suffering. The pain in my back is child's play compared with so much of the pain that others are putting up with. All of us know certain people who live with severe, debilitating, mind-numbing pain. It seems to me that the proper attitude in the presence of that kind of suffering is an awed silence. You just take off your sandals and stand mute in the presence of such awesome power -- you're standing right there at the foot of the cross on Calvary.