I write this letter to encourage people who are going through pain and suffering. I do not write as a veteran sufferer. For the past year or so, I’ve been struggling to walk without pain. I was a college athlete; but my senior year, I was unable to play due to arthritis in my hips. I recently had my left hip replaced and will be having my right hip replaced in three weeks.
This may be minor compared to what you’ve been through; so I’m writing from what I’m learning, not from a wealth of experience. I’m also writing to remind myself that God is totally in control. That no place could be more secure than to be held in the saving hands of God during my next surgery and the months of healing to follow. I am determined to not allow myself to sink into despair, but instead to embrace this trial by pressing into the gospel. My prayer is that you can find comfort and rest as I have done in the truths to follow.
At first, I was bitter toward the Lord when I learned I had a set of really bad hips and needed hip replacement surgery at 25. I thought, how could God still be good? I was upset that I could not live a normal life; and constantly felt selfish for focusing on the pain I was experiencing daily. I found comfort in realizing that God knows absolutely everything about my body. “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28) He also knows what we need. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) I continue to be in awe of how the Lord has faithfully provided in every aspect of my life during this trial.
I learned quickly after my first surgery that it is hard to see the kindness and goodness of God when we’re in pain. But that’s why we need God’s word. It took me a while to recognize that severe pain disorients you and does not allow your mind to work at its full capacity. The few days after surgery, all I did was remind myself of simple and short truths about God. The two sayings that I used were, “Lord, you are faithful to provide” and, “Nothing is too hard for the Lord who is working in me.”
Even when we’re surrounded by suffering and pain, God is still good. “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” (Ps. 100:5) It is a great comfort to recognize that God is in complete control. “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10) The process of healing doesn’t happen overnight, and I have learned the importance of relinquishing control to God and resting in his promises.
God’s Word has also helped me see that the trial I’m currently going through is God’s merciful refining of my faith. “You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trails, so that the genuineness of your faith more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire, may result in praise, glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
I often find myself grumbling and complaining about this struggle. It is amazing that we are called not to grumble, although it’s the most natural thing to do. Grumbling doesn’t take Christ, faith, or love. But I’m learning to look to Christ and his example. “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow his steps…When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:21, 23)
Finally, I’m learning that Christ is all-sufficient in every situation we face. God has taught me wonderful things about himself and my own self through this trial. I have realized the importance of placing my whole life in his hands and trusting in his timing and plan. My body will heal with time, and this affliction is not wasted. It is not an obstacle to just overcome; I must bear it in faith for the honor of Christ, as it will ultimately lead to God’s greater glory.
I want to end with a couple of verses that give me hope and courage for the road ahead and pray that they do the same for you. “We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal glory beyond comparison, as we look not to things that are seen but to things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Image: "Blacksmith and Apprentice," by Albin Veslka