I used to love the season of fall and everything that came with it - sweatshirts and jeans, crisp mornings, a big bowl of chili. But not anymore. Fall is my worst enemy it seems. My pain flares more in the colder months, I can't find clothes to wear that are comfortable (other than my usual yoga pants), chili often gives me heartburn, and the 4pm sunset is pretty depressing for us all I think.
Even more, every fall I am reminded of my pain. This week marks five years with chronic pain. Wow, half a decade! When my pain began I could have never imagined it would become chronic, widespread, and debilitating as I was always so healthy and it started so spontaneously. Five years sounded like an eternity in my early days with pain, but in retrospect the time has actually passed quickly (though the days are often long). God has given me great grace to endure and continue to function most days with chronic pain. I remember the things I used to be able to do before pain, but I honestly don't remember what it felt like not to have pain every second on the day, and that's probably a good thing.
One of my favorite praise songs is "All I Have is Christ"(see video below). The last verse says,
Oh father use my ransomed life
In any way you choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.
I used to sing these words before chronic pain and I thought I knew what it meant to say "father use my ransomed life in any way you choose." After all, I had surrendered to a life of overseas mission work. If God called me to a place of persecution and I had to lose my life for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I thought I could do that by God's grace. But I never thought God might choose pain and suffering for my ransomed life. In fact I never really thought about suffering on a personal level much, although I had seen intense suffering while living in Africa. Despite being a nurse, I didn't really understand there was a world of young men and women suffering with chronic illness and pain.
My eyes have been opened to world of pain and hurt these past five years and I wouldn't change it. Of course I'd be happy to be done with this pain and have more active and easier life again, but the things I have learned through pain have changed me. They've given me great empathy for others in suffering and I've grown to trust God more than I ever did before. I've learned that this life is not about me and my happiness, but about God and His glory. I've learned suffering is the "norm" in the Christian life (John 16:33) and I shouldn't be surprised by it (1 Peter 4:12). While I don't always see the good in my pain, I know God is good and He is using this for my good (Romans 8:28). And I take hope knowing that one day God will wipe away all our tears and make all things new again (Revelation 21:4-5).
Sometimes I think I'd rather pick a different ransomed life with a less intense form of suffering, but I know God has chosen this ransomed life specifically for me to accomplish His purposes and draw me to Himself. The thought of another 5 years of pain (or 10 or 20) seems daunting to me, and sometimes I wonder how long my body will be able to endure, but in reality whether I'm healthy or not all I have is Christ. My every breath is under His control (Job 12:10) and because of that I know I can endure whatever comes my way.