I really need to get some things off my chest.
I have felt so weighed down lately.
Usually a bad relationship will drag someone down. Or a crappy job. A fight with a friend. What’s crazy though is that all these things in my life are great… the weight I’ve been carrying is my own body.
Every day, it takes all my strength just to get out of bed and face the day. Not because I’m depressed. But because my body is just so weary. I hurt.
This time in 2010, the worst year of my life was finally coming to an end. The paperwork had been signed and I no longer had to use every ounce of my being to fight for a broken marriage. When it was all over, I had lost 15 pounds, a lot of my hair, and even eyelashes. For the first time in my life, I had developed high blood pressure.
It seems now, looking back, that my aches and pains I’ve dealt with for years were amplified during and since that time. Stress really does crazy things to your body.
And now, as I’m preparing to leave the United States to enter a mission field that has been on my heart for years, I feel like I, myself, am falling apart.
It has become overwhelming, especially in the face of wanting to be healthy while in Haiti.
I was recently diagnosed with IT band syndrome. I have been having hip problems for a couple months and it even became so difficult to walk that I had to stop working out very shortly after I had just attempted to try to work out again after a long hiatus this summer (moving twice, being out of the country, etc kind of put a damper on my routine). I have to stay in shape because of my scoliosis and hypermobile joints (my joints come out of place very easily… in other words, I’m too flexible). Not to mention my job is very physically demanding, and being out of shape is just asking for an injury or 8 daily hours of suffering and dragging your butt.
So an injury causing me to not work out was a huge blow to my overall health. And without the ability to do a cardio workout, I am also not doing any favors to my heart, which regularly beats way too fast.
Are you exhausted yet?
I feel out of breath just typing this.
As if the neck pain, scoliosis, IT band syndrome, and high blood pressure weren’t enough, I’ve started to have more and more restless leg sensations. Last night, I could hardly sleep at all. If you’ve never had it before, I’m not sure I can put in to words how incredibly disturbing it is. It’s like you have to yawn, but can’t… but it’s in your legs. You have to move them. It’s a creepy, totally annoying sensation that prevents you from relaxing despite how completely fatigued you are.
So not only am I in pain, I’m exhausted. My exhaustion then makes me feel so ugly. I have noticed how old and worn I look to myself lately. I think I’ve aged 8 years in the past 2. No joke, at least 5 different people have asked me in the past two weeks what’s wrong, or if I feel bad when I thought I had looked fine. They could see my worry wrinkles or see the pain in my eyes. So then I start to worry that I’m going to be so incredibly ugly… I’m already gaining weight because I can’t exercise… and then comes the anxiety… and the circle of pain and exhaustion continues.
It bothers me so much because I have people counting on me every day to head out in to the world with a smile on my face and Christ emanating from my heart. I have patients that are sick or hurt and need someone to walk in their room and leave them better than when I found them. It takes a lot of energy to walk in to multiple strangers’ rooms every day with joy just oozing from you. I want to carry Christ that way. I want patients to know that He’s in me, even before I tell them.
Today, after an extremely difficult day at work (due to very little sleep last night), I admit… I cried the entire way home. I was crying so hard, I was even having trouble seeing the road and admit I probably should have pulled off somewhere. When I got home, I laid down in my bed and sobbed until I couldn’t breathe. And after encouragement and a reminder from my supportive best friend and boyfriend, I devoted time to just cry out to God.
Oh, and boy did I. I got on my knees and wept until it was time for church.
On Wednesday nights, I usually help with the junior youth at church. But tonight, after crying out to God, I felt that He had more to say to me… so I followed in His leading to go to the main worship service instead of serving tonight.
I love when He leads this way, because it always means He has something to say… and it’s always so perfectly clear. It’s firm correction, but it’s always so so loving. And this is why I love my Father so much. He doesn’t always give us what we think we need… it’s better than that. It’s a gentle turning to truth and righteousness, and away from our sin. He points us back towards Him. He seems to wrap our hearts in his hands, and with the warmth of His incredible love, heal the broken and hardened places.
God did this for me tonight.
My body feels broken. I’ve even started to wonder how I can ever serve God with a body that just hurts so much I can’t see past the pain to love others the way I know He wants me to. And then… I feel ugly. Who will want to love me back?
Pastor Jamie taught us tonight through God’s word in Acts 11 that we are so much more than our outsides… the Jews couldn’t believe that the gospel was being shared with and believed by the Gentiles. Just like people can’t believe that there are black people and Asian people in our “white” church. Just like God doesn’t care about the color of our skin, He is also not focused on how we have “polished” our outsides.
Maybe some of you are surprised to read about my struggles… I have several friends who know what I deal with on a daily basis, but I’ve been told by some people that they think I really have it all together. My brothers even joked I was the “perfect” one or favorite child. Guess what. I’m not!! I don’t have it together! I really struggle! Maybe that’s how it looks on the outside… but here’s a newsflash: On the inside, I’m a mess. I am so sinful. I need Jesus.
Without Him, I am a crumpled heap on the floor who doesn’t get up to go to work. Who doesn’t smile. Who doesn’t live out each day fully. Who selfishly lives for herself. Who lives for fleshy desires. Who trudges along until death with no purpose or accomplishment in life. Who simply was born and returns to the dust from which she came.
Here’s the beautiful thing:
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, God says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul referred to having a thorn in his flesh to keep him from becoming conceited.
But it never prevented Him from advancing God’s kingdom… from spreading the gospel. If anything, it strengthened his cause. In Acts 14:19, Paul was even stoned and left for dead! But the next day, he walked at least 20 miles to the next town and continued to preach God’s word.
Can you imagine what kind of impact that had on those who had stoned him? To those who knew of his pain?! Paul was a walking, talking witness of God’s power through Paul’s weakness.
I don’t have to be any different.
Yes, I’m getting older. I have more wrinkles. I have cellulite and will never had a perfectly flat stomach. My heart has been broken and stressed and doesn’t work as well as it used to. I get out of breath when I go up stairs. I may walk with a limp or pain every day. But no amount of outward looks or pain affects God’s ability to work through me.
If anything, He will show what is possible through my weakness.
The rest of verse 9 and 10 in 2 Corinthians says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
If I had a perfectly healthy body and mind and never faced any troubles, others may have trouble believing it was actually God working through me to love on my patients every day… or going around the world to spread the gospel. They’d start to believe the glory was mine.
The beautiful thing about my weakness is that anything I do, God gets the glory. My weakness shows off His strength.
I even believe, that if it is His will, He can heal me completely and miraculously of everything that causes me to suffer physically. Will He? Time will tell.
But until then, I rejoice in my sufferings.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:1-8)
John Piper says in his Desiring God blog,
“When you dive in the sea of affliction, keep on rejoicing. In fact, keep on rejoicing not in spite of the affliction but even because of it. This is not a little piece of advice about the power of positive thinking. This is an utterly radical, abnormal, supernatural way to respond to suffering. It is not in our power. It is not for the sake of our honor. It is the way spiritual aliens and exiles live on the earth for the glory of the great King.”
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13)
Rejoice and keep on rejoicing…
and someday… this body will be made perfect.
No more pain, no more suffering, and I will continue to rejoice with Christ throughout all of eternity.