For about six months I’ve had increasing arthritic pain, and it’s gotten to the point where it is affecting my whole body. Some days I feel feverish. There are days when it’s very hard to get around at work (I’m an RN on a very busy medical floor) because my knees are swollen and painful. There have been times when it has been difficult to hold a fork or a spoon in my right hand to eat. There have been days when my poor husband Bo has had to help me get out of bed and help get me dressed for work because I was hurting so much.
Last night Bo was at a guy’s Bible study and I got home from a very busy, long shift, and I was determined that no matter how bad it hurt I was changing out of my scrubs into my comfy PJs… My shoulder and elbows hurt so badly that it took me several attempts to complete the task but when it was done I leaned against the shelf in the closet sobbing from the pain and also from the frustration of how incredibly difficult a seemingly simple activity had become. Getting in and out of the shower is a chore. Shaking someone’s hand at church is, well, not always fun. Walking around the grocery store and lifting anything remotely heavy is getting very difficult. Taking care of my patients at work is becoming much harder to do.
But enough about all that. I decided to write this blog post after writing in my journal today. It all started when I randomly woke up at 6:30 AM with a song stuck in my head that the youth group band at church often plays (Bo and I have started helping out with 8th graders there on Wednesday nights). The words to the song are like this:
You are peace, you are peace
When my fear is crippling.
You are true, you are true
Even in my wandering.
You are joy, you are joy
You’re the reason that I sing.
You are life, you are life
In you death has lost its sting.
When my fear is crippling…
Now, I know there are many people much more affected by arthritis than I am. As a nurse I’ve taken care of some of them, and trust me it’s not cool seeing pretty much on a daily basis how bad arthritis can get. I’m so very thankful that most days my left side feels fairly normal and I can still get out of bed, run errands, do my work at the hospital, etc. That being said, I’m beginning to become all too well-acquainted with dealing with pain on a daily basis. Well, some days I don’t “deal.” Some days I have a bad attitude and the devil discourages me and I become unhappy and my poor Bo bears the brunt of it. And on other days when I am faithful to pray, read the word, and focus on trusting God instead of how I’m feeling, I realize that there’s a much bigger picture than what I’m going through and that God is so, so good regardless of the aches and pains.
But as I lay in bed this morning thinking about those words, “When my fear is crippling,” I began to see the point that God was gently trying to get me to understand. This disease that is affecting my joints and making daily activities so difficult; making my body deconditioned because of lack of activity; making the full potential of what my body was created to do seem simply unreachable… well, just like this arthritis is a disease that can cripple my physical body, Fear is a disease that can cripple my spiritual body.
Fear can make the simple principles of the Christian walk so much harder than they have to be. Here are some examples just from my own life of some things that fear got in the way of:
- Trusting God no matter my circumstances
- Praying in front of other people
- Inviting people to church
- Showing love to someone I’m not sure will be accepting of it
- Continuing to be Christ-centered when I’m not around other believers
I’m sure if I sat down and thought about it for a few more minutes that list would continue to grow and grow. There have been so many times in my life where fear for myself and fear of what others might think of me crippled my soul and made it so much harder for me to do what God was telling me to do at the time. Indeed, fear makes us miss out on our spiritual potential.
I’m so thankful that God, “Jehovah Rapha,” which is a Hebrew term for God meaning “The LORD who heals” has the cure for this disease called Fear. And that cure is Love.
1 John 4 explains beautifully and much better than I ever could why love is the antidote for fear, and how we apply this concept to everyday living:
7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love casts out all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first.
20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.
As we live our lives trusting God, looking to Him for direction, seeing Him as our heavenly dad who loves us and cares for us unconditionally – it is then and only then that our love reaches its potential. When that happens, we are able to live our lives without fear, in a way where the love inside of us overflows and reaches those around us. It’s our job here on this earth to show the love we have to others, regardless of our circumstances, our health, or our current mood.
I’m looking forward to seeing a rheumatologist next month to hopefully get some answers and better treatment for whatever it is that’s going on. But until then I am determined to live with hope, knowing that what is going on in my body is simply temporary, and that one day, in His time, God will heal me and make my body perfect and whole again.
Through all of this, there are so many things to be thankful for. Our marriage has gotten much stronger. Our finances are still in good shape even with all the doctor bills. I’ve had so much encouragement and have been lifted up in prayer by so many friends and family – I’m so grateful for that. Everyone at work has been so understanding and helpful. God is so good, and I’ve grown so much closer to Him. There are many scriptures that prior to this had never really hit home, but now are very close to my heart:
- Romans 12:12 – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
- 2 Corinthians 5:7 – I will walk by faith even when I cannot see.
- Psalm 73: 23-26 – Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into gory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
- 2 Corinthians 12:9 – My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
I’ve shared this devotional from our young women’s Bible study on my Facebook page before, but I also wanted to post it here, because it really fits in with everything I’ve written in this post. This reading has helped me so, so much on those days when I get frustrated. It has helped me to understand that it’s OK to tell people about my weaknesses. It’s OK to share with others how hard what I’m going through is:
God Never Wastes Our Pain
By Glynnis Whitwer (paraphrased)
“What I’ve come to believe is this: that God will never waste my pain, but I can. When I’m not honest about the reality of how hard life is, I waste God’s offer of peace. When I try to do things in my own strength, I waste God’s offer of power. When I keep the pain to myself and pretend everything is perfect, I waste opportunities to minister to others walking a similar path. But when I confess my feelings of inadequacies, when I admit I’m helpless, I move into a place of reliance – and that’s just where God wants me to be. For in this place of dependence, God takes center stage.
Although I’d remove the pain with a snap of my fingers if I could, I know God is working in this – especially in this. I understand better now how the apostle Paul could be glad for his weakness. I’m not glad for sin or what caused the brokenness we face. But I see the pain for what it is – a condition of this fallen world and a place for God’s power to work. This perspective helps me face another day. My circumstances haven’t changed, but hope has seeped in through the cracks.
No pain is wasted when I submit myself to God’s plan.”
That’s all for now. I just really wanted to share this in hopes that it encourages someone out there! If there’s even one person this reaches, then it’s well worth it.