I have been thinking a lot over the last few months about many things – pain, suffering, comfort, The Abundant Life, God’s will, his sovereignty, my faith, my prayer life, and more.
My mom, my best friend, faithful daughter of the King, went to heaven July 12. It was unexpected, and so very, very sad. But I saw it, and still do see it as a gift from God. Her suffering ended. She had been in chronic pain for many years, I could hear it in her voice when I spoke to her. Yet she rarely complained to me. Her lifestyle was slowly stripped away as she lost ability to do many of the things she used to do and enjoy. But she continued to pray, read the Bible, have many spirited conversations with Dad and I. We would pray for her pain to ease, but it never did. I suppose that is life – as you age and your body deteriorates, and then it ends. God finally called her home the way we all wish it could happen, at home and in her sleep.
My body has been deteriorating as well. Lupus has been progressing, slowly, for which I am grateful. I still have really great days, weeks, months even, and then I don’t. Sometimes it is a short setback, sometimes it’s a major flare that won’t stop. So my rheumatologist decided it was time to take an immunosuppressant, as lupus flares means your immune system is super overactive. I felt great for 2.5 weeks! I could feel myself improving and feeling like myself again! And then… Why did there have to be an and then?
I got shingles. I didn’t know what was happening at first so I went through pretty awful pain for 6 days until it became so excruciating I couldn’t really walk. I finally was seen at urgent care and then got the antivirals. Let me tell you, this pain was like nothing I had ever experienced. It was constant and then it would shoot in my leg and back and I was in such agony. I am on the 3rd day since taking the medication and it has eased up somewhat.
This severe pain had me thinking all kinds of things. First, I cried out to God to remove it. Then I cried for him to at least relieve it even slightly. This pain was relentless. Day, night, sitting, laying down, no relief. How do people live like this? Every day? I thought of my mom, I thought of a woman I follow on Instagram who has chronic pain and is mostly bed ridden. These two women have been examples of how to still praise God even in their pain. I thought of Job, and all he suffered, I thought of the apostle Paul, and all he endured. I knew I needed to turn my mind towards finding something to be thankful for.
I have a wonderful family and friends that have prayed with me, brought me meals, walked my dogs. There are small things.
But the pain is all encompassing. I can’t make it stop. I can’t even cry because for some reason that made the pain intensify. I begged God again. I said, my God, why?
Then I had the picture of Jesus on the cross. His agony was so much worse. And he cried out, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?!”
Pain, suffering, comfort, God’s will, praying. How does it all fit in to the life of a Christ follower?
One part of me said, pray harder, have more faith, believe it and God will make it happen! God help my unbelief. Okay, what did I do wrong, I followed the formula but God didn’t answer my prayer how I wanted. Here’s the deal – what am I going to do about it, if he doesn’t answer prayers the way I pray them. Is He enough? Even if this is what he chooses for me? I need to not only be okay with the body and all its diseases, but to have joy and be thankful. That is hard stuff!! You must truly believe God is who he says he is or you’re going to eventually walk away from faith. He doesn’t always give us the life we envisioned for ourselves. If we are going to thrive and have the abundant life, then we need to praise God, no matter what.
“Always be joyful . Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thes 5:16-18
It is so hard not to complain, to compare, and to become bitter. But that improves my life Zero percent. In fact I think those things make my life worse. My church when we lived in Albuquerque had a phrase, ‘Preach the Gospel to Yourself’ often, over and over, anytime you need to. We are frail humans. We forget God’s word. Stay in it, surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable.
“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate each other to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25