Browsing Tag:

grace

chronic pain: exchanging my brokenness for God’s wholeness

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There is something about suffering. For those of you who read this not near me on a daily basis, a little context: for 2+ years, I experienced constant pain in my neck. What began as a (surprising) pinched nerve after a 10k race resulted in a variety of doctors’ appointments, physical therapy sessions, x-rays, dietary changes, a steroid injection, and lifestyle changes, with no relief.

I have, however, become quite educated on the spine. (If you aren’t interested in the anatomical explanation, feel free to skip down.) Hereditarily, I have a more ‘upright’ neck where most are curved. I also have disc degeneration (which is not uncommon) and a bone spur on the C5 disc. The facet joints, in between each disc, are primarily long and flat, but with my neck’s lack of curve, around the lower discs, those joints are shorter and steeper, causing sharp pain and stiffness. (Let it be noted with joy that I am now seeing a chiropractor and experiencing genuine relief.)

After two years with no real change, I was in a pit and needed new vision.

My feelings and knowledge were at odds with each other, and the battle was exhausting me.

When we choose Jesus, a desire is permanently implanted in us to glorify God with our lives. But when suffering walks in and decides to stay for a while, weariness, discouragement, self-absorption, and a lack of glorying can mark the days. I’m sure everyone can relate to this.

How do I magnify God when I would rather stay hidden from the world and distract myself from the pain? How do I glorify God when my body isn’t what I think it should be, when every other movement hurts, restful sleep is a struggle, and giving of myself feels impossible?

My injury wasn’t debilitating, and didn’t call for surgery (for both I am deeply thankful), but managing daily chronic pain was new territory for me.

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My desire to be good enough grew bigger than my desire for God

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In grace, He leads you where you didn’t plan to go in order to produce in you what you couldn’t achieve on your own. In these moments, He works to alter the values of your heart so that you let go of your little kingdom of one and give yourself to His kingdom of glory and grace. Paul David Tripp

It’s difficult to pinpoint when it began — the uprooting of self and replanting of God’s fullness.

We are all made up of unique upbringings, personalities, and passions, with an implanted desire for Someone Greater. Personally, it’s fascinating to encounter humans of all kinds, their stories, and how God helps them work out their salvationIf you asked me today what has colored my life most often, in various hues at different times, I would say fear of man.

Ed Welch helps clarify what fear of man entails:

“Fear” in the Biblical sense is a much broader word. It includes being afraid of someone, but it extends to holding someone in awe, being controlled or mastered by people, worshipping other people, putting your trust in people, or needing people… We exalt them and their perceived power above God. We worship them as ones who have God-like exposing gazes (shame-fear) or God-like ability to “fill” us with esteem, love, admiration, acceptance, respect, and other psychological desires (rejection-fear).

In my experience, living this [false] belief of ‘people are bigger than God’ bears fruit of anxiety and pride. Growing up in church weekly and attending a Christian school, it surfaced in the pressure of prioritizing appearances and managing perceptions. I was happy when feeling like I was doing great for God, but when I wasn’t, I felt terrible. So I strived to always be ‘good.’ By my teenage years, the belief system had grown deep roots: I knew what I should do, and as long as I continued, I would be good enough. Good enough for God, good enough for other people, good enough to believe I was strong, beautiful, or capable.

 

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Gradually, my desire to be good enough grew bigger than my desire for God.

I just didn’t know it at the time.

Life became shoulds and shouldn’ts, and believing myself worthy became the foundation of my identity and my joy.

Maintaining approval, from God and others, became my measuring stick for godliness. 

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releasing more of me to receive more of God

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I need a daily intervention for this reality: choosing Jesus means you live entirely for Someone else.

Choosing Jesus changes the game from “you’re the best, you can do this!” to “God is the best. You can’t, but He can.”

Choosing Jesus replaces self-promoting tendencies with God-exalting habits.

Choosing Jesus fills you with durable hope, compassion, and generosity that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Choosing Jesus gives a posture of upward and outward affections, in contrast to the life-imploding desires we have without His rescuing.

Choosing Jesus challenges you not to settle for immediate gratification and worldly successes, but aim for the smile of Heaven.

Choosing Jesus means that your passion, beauty, confidence, and purpose in this life is grounded in Someone else.

Have you experienced these fruits of choosing Jesus?

I certainly have, but they didn’t start blooming until I honestly found, and decided, that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are better than every single joy, ability, decision, achievement, relationship, skill, and activity.

Having an active relationship with God deepens everything, but what it has done for me most is shift my heart, soul, and mind’s energy from myself to an open-handed, joyful, adventurous journey towards Him.

And something incredible, He knew I would be terminally imperfect at living this way, but He loved so dearly He sent Jesus to die in my place, bearing all of my sin, my lack, my imperfection. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, because of Almighty God’s perfect plan, nothing separates us. Not my weak ways of loving Him, not the sinful choices I willfully and unintentionally make, not my inescapable humanness.

Choosing this Jesus in our daily life — this Creator, Sustainer, and King — is what gives eternal color to everything we do.

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