Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Exchanging One Set of Problems for the Next

Several months ago I read a little book called Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic. Rachel is a young mother with 5 children under kindergarten age, including twins, and is pregnant with her sixth! The book is only about 100 pages and has 20 short chapters making it a practical, easy read for the mother of toddlers.

I am a mother to an only child, but a lot of Rachel's words resonated with me. Perhaps being a mother of one with chronic pain is similar to being an able bodied mother to several children. With chronic pain, everyday "mother" activities like washing clothes, preparing meals, and playing with your child can often be a daunting task. I'm sure even if I was healthy raising one child would be challenging because being a mother is hard, draining work! Rachel admits mothering is not easy, and she shares practical examples of how she must so desperately cling to God for strength.

One of my favorite illustrations she uses is the "Fruit of the Spirit Speed Quiz". She explains how each day we have basic Christian living challenges brought to us daily by our children. She says,
We struggle our way through, and our score is not so good. So the next day, we will be given another test. As we get the hang of some problems, they disappear off the test and new, harder ones replace them. Eventually, the situation, which would have made us lose the bubble when we started the class, doesn't even cause us to hesitate. Easy peasy. Great! Time to move on!
I found this so applicable to life with chronic pain, or dealing with any other life circumstances and family members as well! Sometimes I feel like I should have "arrived" already in dealing with chronic pain. I mean, I've dealt with pain on some level for over 3 years now (I know 3 years isn't very long, just humor me!).  It seems like I am constantly battling the same frustrations and temptations to worry or doubt or not be patient. I often wonder when will this not be so hard?!

But in reality, this is the life of the Christian. We are constantly moving from one set of problems and challenges to the next. I was talking with a friend with chronic pain recently and she mentioned how her pastor explained that we are either just finishing a time of suffering, in a time of suffering, or preparing for a time of suffering. How true! Suffering is needed in order to sanctify us and make us more like Jesus.

While we will never "arrive" at perfection on this Earth, due to sin, we can, by God's grace strive to follow Him despite the challenges that come our way. Just like progress is made with our children when disciplining them, God uses suffering (not necessarily always as discipline) to conform us to the image of His Son. Rachel says,
And if you have been faithfully repenting of your own failures and looking for chances to grow, you are making progress too. You might feel just as tired, but you are now running ten miles instead of tow blocks. Take a moment to remember what used to annoy you when you were single --are you done howling with laughter yet? Do you see how totally unchallenging that looks now?
The things that bothered me pre-pain seem like nothing now and I'm sure in 5 years, if I'm still dealing with pain, the challenges I face today will pale in comparison. I hope the growth I feel inside is apparent to others. But, when my pain is searing, my husband is working, my daughter is irritable, and another bill comes in the mail, I do not always respond with the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). But I want to. The question is, am I willing to endure whatever it takes to make me more like Jesus?

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