Pain. It has become a very familiar thing these past few months. I don’t think I remember what it feels like to wake up and not think, “Okay, I’m gonna lie here for a little bit and try to see how bad we are today. Is this gonna be a clean-my-room-maybe-eat-more-than-crackers kind of day? Or a stay-in-bed-all-day-and-try-not-to-die kind of day?”
So for nine months I’ve been sick. Can’t eat. Can’t exercise. Can’t exist without pain. It’s a reality I have slowly begun to accept. Don’t get me wrong, I am waiting for surgery, and will do all within my power to get back to health, but until that happens I’m trying to make the most of my life.
I would say the thing I’ve lost the most through this is probably my dignity and pride. I pride myself on my ability to achieve. I’m a people pleaser, what can I say? I take pride in being the strongest base on the cheer squad, having the cleanest room in the house, being disciplined in my workout routine and meal prep. I’m constantly in a state of bettering myself. It’s honestly a hobby (Okay, maybe an obsession) for me to push my limits and see how far I can go.
But when you can’t eat? When you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without pain? When you are dependent on a feeding tube to stay alive?
I couldn’t cheer like I used to.
I couldn’t workout, most days I couldn’t get out of bed.
I couldn’t eat.
I didn’t have the energy to make my bed.
So, what did I do? Looked to the heavens and found immediate peace? Yeah, not exactly. Try ugly cried my guts out. To my credit, thats only happened like four times which I think is a pretty good track record, considering.
It took time. I had to grieve the life I lost. I still do. Then I had to figure out where my worth was. I had to look to Christ to find my peace, my worth, my confidence. I was stripped away of all my earthly boastings, and I had to find joy in Christ and Christ alone.
Do I always think like this? Nope. But hey, sanctification is a process.
The point is, we all have things happening in our lives that makes us feel like giving up. We can complain or we can seek the Lord, and let me tell you, the latter is much more fulfilling. When you’re in the ER at 2AM, or lying in your bathroom floor unable to move, your ability to please people doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is God. He’s the one you’re gonna be crying for. He’s the one who is gonna get you through that. Through anything. Through financial stress, relationship struggles, heart break, breakups, loneliness, grief… He is there for it all.
I can’t wait to not be sick. I can’t wait for the day I can run again, eat again, take a full breath again. But while I’m waiting, I will cultivate a heart of contentment. I will pursue Christ with reckless abandon. I will let God work through me during this time. While I’m waiting for this storm to pass I will praise Him endlessly. I will look for Him in everything. I will look for Him in the stars, in the friends who are always by my side, in the not so bad days, in the nurses at the hospital who make me laugh, or the moon in all its glory. He is there. I promise. He promises. He is everywhere. He knows what you need moment to moment in order to survive. In order to thrive. It’s okay to break down, it’s okay to be weak, and sad, and scared, and tired. His strength is perfected in our weakness.
Just know that He sees you. Despite your emotions, despite your doubt, despite your inability to see how on earth this trial is for your good, He is there. He is faithful in spite of our faithlessness. Isn’t that wonderful? Cause boy, I’ve had a whole lot of unfaithfulness in my life. I’m thankful for a God that loves us through that. I’m thankful for a God who forgives our past, present, and future sins. He wants you to come to Him through these trials. He wants your messy, your ugly crying, your fear of the future. He wants to hear about your dreams, about the people you love, about the fear that swells within you. He wants you in all your imperfect, selfish, sinfulness. He wants it all. He wants to wash you white and make you new. When we’re scared, when we don’t know what the future holds, it’s easy to focus on our anger. It’s easy to get into comment wars, it’s easy to blast a politician on social media, it’s easy to put your rights and opinions ahead of your faith. It’s easy to use times of stress to state your opinion, and what you think needs to happen, but it’s hard to have grace. It’s hard to admit that you are scared and you have no control. But it’s necessary.
Look for Him. In everything. In the flowers, in your morning coffee, in the sweet smiles of your children or siblings, in the wind, in the sun, in the rain, in the car that cuts you off, and in the family member who won’t give you a break. Look for Him everywhere, and praise Him for all of it. He is using every bit of it to mold us into what He wants us to be. He has blessed us so much, sometimes you just have to pay attention to it. He is always teaching us and it’s easy to miss those moments.
Every moment is an opportunity to grow in patience, love, and joy. If you can praise God when the car has a flat (because, hallelujah, there’s a spare in the back), then you can praise Him when life is out of control (because, hallelujah, we have a God who is in control). If you can be joyful when things are bad, then you can also be a light to the people around you. To your children, your friends, your parents, your siblings, to complete strangers. It’s why I will never not be thankful for my feeding tube. If I can find joy in having a feeding tube on my 18th birthday, then I can find joy anywhere. In all honesty, it’s not even about finding joy, it’s about opening your eyes to the fact that there is joy everywhere. God has sprinkled joy throughout our lives and most people don’t even realize it. But look for it, friends, look for it when you’re broken.
Just when you’re feeling alone, He’ll remind you of His love.
Just when I’m tired, and in pain, and lonely, because pain is so isolating, Mom tells me that whole churches are praying for me. That there are people in other countries that I don’t even know who are praying for relief for me. That, friends, is a soul-healing, heart-mending, prayer-answered, overwhelming kind of love. That is a Jesus kind of love. He is everywhere. He is blessing us all the time, and sometimes we don’t even know it. He is so good. There aren’t enough words– there aren’t enough ways–to express how good He is.
I’m terrified of the future. Of surgery, of recovery, of the uncertainty of it all. But He hasn’t failed me yet, and He won’t now. I know He’s working this for His glory.
All I need to do is be still and trust.
(For more information on MALS, which is the vascular condition from which I suffer, click on http://www.thevascularexperts.com/median-arcuate-ligament-syndrome/ )
(Update: I’m currently waiting on surgery, but for now I’m on a nerve medication that is helping tremendously with my pain)