For the past 10 years, I have suffered from a painful autoimmune disease. It causes inflammation and pain in my joints and has often been the cause of distress within my spirit. Though I’m well acquainted with physical pain, I am no stranger to various types of heartache due to many trials I’ve endured.
The first one that I remember was losing my best friend at the age of 16. She had a seizure in the middle of the night and was found unconscious the next morning. Just two years later, my dad took his own life shortly after the passing of my grandmother, for whom he was the primary caregiver. In the midst of all of this, my mom and stepdad split up. Fast forward about eight years, and along came a divorce in my own life, a chapter written in my bio that I never planned on.
Looking back over the years of loss, I realize how thankful I am to have made it through those times when my heart was shattered. There were moments when I felt like the pain was too much to bear. I felt like I was going to die from a broken heart, but God was with me. His Word ministered to my brokenness. It seemed like no matter how deep the hurt or how confused I became, there was an appropriate response from God through Scripture to heal me. It was just as this verse says, “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:19).
When I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 24 years old, it wasn’t part of my plan for my life. I was a new mom and I didn’t have time to be dealing with the type of pain that it was causing.
One Sunday morning at church, I was anointed and prayed for healing from God.
He answered my prayers and my disease miraculously disappeared.
I was so thankful.
Almost two years after that precious moment of healing, my disease returned with a vengeance. I rushed to my doctor’s office and was able to once again find some relief with pharmaceutical medications. I was glad that science had given me the ability to live a more normal life, but I was still devastated. The long-term effects of taking the prescriptions for this disease are not flattering. They do damage to internal organs and can cause premature death. So, yes, I was scared.
In an effort to take another route, I started experimenting with alternative options for treatment. This included taking supplements that worked more toward healing the problem instead of just masking it.
It was a painful step of faith. Literally.
(I’m not advocating for those suffering from any type of disease to come off of their prescribed medications. I believe that God can work through those as well. He gave me my life back through a trio of different meds, but I wanted to try another route. This was a very personal decision.)
Although the physical pain and emotional pain I’ve endured have been some of the darkest valleys of my life, I found that over time, God would renew my spirit. Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” I could pray and apply Scripture as necessary. The hurt was overwhelming at times, but I still felt like I could reach my Healer through prayer. I would ask Him to give me strength, courage, and to make me brave. I would put one foot in front of the other and was able to move forward physically and spiritually. “When I called out to you, you answered me. You made me strong and brave” (Psalm 138:3).
Physical pain is so much different.
When my body hurts, it’s harder to pray. The pain overtakes my thoughts because that is all that I can think about. It gets in the way of life. Even though the sun rises in the morning, the physical suffering leaves me in the darkness of fear. It’s in those moments I am comforted by Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
I know that God loves me and that there is no fear in love, but my pain can lead me to depths of the questioning where I often find myself believing I am alone. The reality of the restrictions my disease puts on my life can feel depressing. When I make plans, they often come with a disclaimer, “I will meet you this weekend depending on how I feel.” When I am caught off guard with crippling pain the morning of a planned event and I have to cancel, I pray for understanding and compassion from others.
No matter how isolated this disease makes me feel, I know that God is with me. John 14:16-18 says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The World cannot accept him, because it neither sees him or knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
Jesus suffered all things and endured the cross so that we can have Him as an advocate on our behalf. So, we can confidently pray to our Father because the pain that Jesus suffered on Calvary was meant to be our hope. “And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
With His sacrifice, He said to the world, “I understand. I know. I love you so much. I am here because I am sending you my Spirit. I will help you.” He selflessly suffered so that we can have faith that God does understand our physical pain. Listen, Jesus Christ died on the cross for you. He relinquished His life to give you this endless, eternal hope no matter what. He made a way then so that when we believe, we now have a way out.
Look to the Bible for your encouragement. Jesus suffered so that when you wake up in pain, you can remember that He deeply cares about you. Christ overcame the sting of death on the cross because the Father had a plan.
There is a purpose for all of the pain we suffer in this lifetime. God has a plan for you.
Take courage good and faithful servant, and remember that you are never alone!
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