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spiritual growth

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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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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a godly woman’s strength is hope in her God

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The deepest root of a Christian woman is hope in God, and it yields this strong tree of fearlessness in the face of suffering.

Do you remember my favorite verse in the Proverbs 31 woman chapter? Proverbs 31:25: Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.

I love that verse. “Everything that’s coming at me, I’m laughing at you.” That’s a woman. She doesn’t cringe. She doesn’t run. She’s not naïve about what’s coming. She knows what’s coming and she laughs because holy women of old hoped in a sovereign God who promises to help women whenever she needs him.

A woman in Christ knows her Bible, knows her theology of a sovereign God who makes promises, knows his promises to be with her, no matter what. She draws strength down from this and a certain kind of tree grows up from this massive deep root of hope in God.

This hope in God yields fearlessness.

— John Piper, in a sermon on April 15, 2007

 


 

I think of the legacy of women before me, my sister, the woman I call my best friend, the sisterhood of friends in my life, and I thank God for His grace that strengthens, challenges, and inspires us.

Let’s worship God for His power, His character, for His thoughts higher than our thoughts, for the reality that we are never fully satisfied with knowledge of Him. He is our greatest, never-ending adventure. I pray this for you too.