I wrote this article several years ago now. It’s one of the articles I refer people to who are just starting or who are growing wearing in their chronic illness journey because it’s so uplifting to think of your trials, your struggles in this manner.
If you’ve read it before, take another few minutes to read it through again. I promise it will help you put things in a more positive light and a better perspective.
The Blessings of Pain
Okay. JoJo’s gone off the deep end! Brain fog has taken over and she’s completely out of her mind! I hear ya out there. You’ve stuck with me through some of my other unusual posts, but this one’s gone too far. Stick a fork in ‘er, she’s done! As someone who is in a fair amount of physical pain as I’m typing this, I understand your horror at this title, but give me a few minutes of your time and I think you’ll see my sanity returning and you’ll be blessed.
This idea started as a debate topic. You see, (those of you who may not have known me long) in a former life I was an author and speaker on communication skills at www.ArtofEloquence.com. I used to teach speech, debate and communication classes both online and off. Nowadays, I’m too tired, overwhelmed and in pain to run my business much less teach so I only do that on rare occasions. This month was one such occasion. I am teaching a homeschool co-op class on debate. One of the topics I picked was Pain is Good. I figured it was something with which most teens would be unfamiliar and would be a good life lesson as well as a great debate topic. Pain keeps us from more harm. Even babies would remove their hand from the fire, right?
As I began putting my week’s lesson plan together, it occurred to me that, while I am not a fan of pain (emotional or physical) itself, enduring it can bring some blessings that I’d never have had the opportunity to experience had I been healthy. There are some lessons you only learn from pain. There are some lessons life cannot teach without it. There are some blessings you will never notice unless you’ve been through a day where you felt your head would explode or years when you thought if you woke up without pain one day, you would HAVE to be in heaven.
Pain itself is bad, but enduring pain can be a good thing and bring blessings you’d never have known-but you have look for them. They can’t always be seen by the naked eye or heard above the white noise of the TV. But as soon as I reveal to you how pain can bring blessings, you’ll never look at it the same way again. There are several ways in which pain can bring blessings into your life and the lives of those you touch.
1. Pain makes you compassionate.
The people who have suffered the most, tend to be the most compassionate. The more struggles a person goes through, the more they have compassion for others who are going through difficult times. I’ve known some amazingly compassionate people who consistently take time to support, uplift and help others. I almost always find that they have suffered a great deal in their own lives and have a calling to be of help to others. There is a saying,…
Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
So, long before we were born, God knew what our lives would look like and He gave us what we needed to do the good works that we were created for. The challenge for us, then, is to seek His guidance in how we do that because life can change drastically for us. While that’s not news to the Lord, it may require some tweaking on our part.
Some Background: I was perusing Facebook the other day when I came across a long time friend’s post (Cindy Rushton) talking about being an overcomer. She posted, “You are designed and destined to be an overcomer!” My first instinct was to be sarcastic so I said, “Well, I certainly have been given enough to overcome!”
As the discussion went on, I relayed how I had to make some adjustments over the years in order to keep writing. The limitations of chronic illness had a profound effect on my ability to write from the thinking process to the physical act of writing. However, I have found workarounds and even changed what I wrote about over the years-lending my voice to different passions I’ve had…and I’m still writing!
I’ve written a lot about my life on this blog and all the adjustments and limitations I have had throughout my years, but I had really never thought much about the ways in which I had to make changes in order to continue writing until one of her last comments to me, “That was powerful!
As I looked at her words typed there to encourage me as she so often does, it suddenly hit me that my writing testimony really IS powerful. Right then and there, I felt the Lord leading me to write a part of my testimony that I had never considered much up until this point.
I was born a writer and I started writing even before I knew the Lord at the age of nine. I wrote poems and songs in my youth. In my teens, I began writing humorous one-liners about life I called JoJoisms. I’ve got well over 700 of them now. When I began homeschooling, I wrote books about communication skills and articles for homeschool magazines. And my most recent writing passion is here writing in support of those (like me) with chronic illness.
Now, when God gives you a passion for something, He doesn’t usually give you a clear path to success. You may have noticed that people who have gone on to incredible things have usually had a lot of struggles along the way. The Lord allows struggles: heartache, difficulties, and trails because many times that is exactly what it takes to get them done.
Have you ever heard of an accomplished pianist, a professional basketball player, a famous band, an accomplished actor, or a prolific writer who went from zero to hero in a straight line? Everyone has struggles to overcome on the way to where God leads them. It’s not the absence of trials that brings success; it’s what you do with them. It’s how you handle them, how you overcome them that defines you.
When God put a calling (writing) on my life, He factored in my limitations, my frailty, my stupidity, my fatigue, my pain, and my stubbornness! And my stubbornness is one of the reasons I didn’t give up my calling, my dream, my purpose, and my ministry! The other is Almighty God. Because…I AM an overcomer. …And I’m still writing!
Pain and Fatigue: One of the first things that began to impact my writing was pain. Arthritis, neuropathy, and Fibromyalgia made my fingers and wrists ache. In addition, God only made me 5′ tall so, when sitting at a normal-sized desk, I was unable to reach the keyboard properly.
My first adjustment was to sit on my legs as I typed. Unfortunately, after doing this for many years, it took quite a toll on my lower back as well. Not too long ago, we solved that problem by switching me over to a laptop computer that I was able to use on the couch.
As the fatigue from Fibro began to increase, I was forced to let go of some of my other online activities in order to have the energy to continue writing. I had begun a copywriting service only to abandon it shortly after it launched as I didn’t have the energy to pursue that stream of income. However, that was for the best as I felt the Lord leading me to write in my own voice. …And I’m still writing!
Broken hand: About six years ago, I broke my hand in three places after a roll-over car accident. My left hand was in a splint for months and when it emerged, I found that my middle finger had decided to hug my ring finger when I made a fist. Not thinking that this was a big issue, I decided not to have another surgery to fix it as I thought it only was an issue of aesthetics.
Not too long after physical therapy, I realized that I would have to relearn how to type! It took me several months to get decent enough to go back to my blogging and about a year for it to become natural. I still can’t snap my fingers with that hand, but fortunately, that’s not a skill that is required to write! …And I’m still writing!
Essential Tremors: A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with Essential Tremors. That’s what doctors call it when they can’t find a cause for your shaking. I had always had what I called jitters, but I had been told it was a sugar issue. It’s true that it was worse when I was hungry, but in the last few years, those jitters had followed fatigue and stress as well as JUST BECAUSE.
Further, they had spread from my left hand to my right hand, both legs, and my head when it was particularly bad as well as internal tremors that feel like I’ve just been asked “Your money or your life!” As you might have guessed, it’s even more difficult to type when your fingers have a mind of their own.
Part of the challenge for me now is that I like to write my notes for an article or book in a notebook, but it’s a bit hard to read my writing–even for ME! Lastly, it takes me 10x as long to type (or mistype) or write than it used to. I’ve been known to backspace and retype something six times and still have it come out wonky.
Final Thoughts: The Lord’s call on our lives is still the same, even after the heartbreak of trials and the limitations of this life. It might not look like we expected it to, but it can be even better if we stay the course and cling to Him.
So, it’s been a bit of a journey to overcome these obstacles, but with God’s help, I’m adjusting. …And I’m still writing! What are you still doing with God’s help?
About a month ago, my husband was working a ten-day streak at a temp job 82 miles from home. Our son was visiting and it was Sunday morning. We only have one key for the car I drive and though my husband left the car for us, he forgot to leave the key so, we weren’t able to go to church or to the store to buy groceries. It was my last day with our son before he had to go back to college and I was in more pain and fatigue than usual due to a Fibro flare.
Sitting at my computer working for my clients’ social media accounts, I “penned” the following because it suddenly occurred to me that the things I was praying ABOUT were the very things I was praying FOR not too long before. It received so many responses from people who said they needed to hear it that I decided to share it here so folks could always find it if they needed it.
When I am worried about my husband having to drive 82 miles one way to work, working ten days straight, leaving at 5:30 am and not getting home til 9 pm, I am reminded of when I prayed to the Lord because he was out of work for months.
When I am sad that my son is leaving again to go back to college, I remember how I prayed that God would keep him safe in utero and how the Lord performed several miracles during his birth.
When I’m lonely because my daughter lives in another state, I think back on the time when the Lord healed her completely after a virus had caused an enlarged heart valve.
When I’m frustrated with how tired I am and the pain I feel, I’m reminded that my God had given my surgeon the idea to take out my fallopian tube during a routine surgery for a simple cyst and found cancer in its infancy that is almost always found too late.
When I’m down, I look up to my Creator and marvel at His blessings for me.
So ends the Paul vs Job series here on Life Beyond Surviving, but I didn’t want to let you go without giving you some more “joy” resources. You see, I’ve been writing about this topic for quite some time. I started over on my JoJoisms blogsite. I’ve been transferring my most popular articles over to this site, but I’ve written so much that it’s not easy. It takes quite a bit of time so I’ve been doing them in bunches as these topics arise.
After this series, I thought about how a few of my other articles might be of some value to you. That being said, here are two articles I’ve written, a bit of what they say with links to the full articles here on Life Beyond Surviving.
There are many devotionals on thankfulness that talk about this so I’m not going to spend much time on it since you’ve probably read enough of them to quote them verbatim. I’ll just say that it’s important to continue to pray and read the scriptures even when we are at our wit’s end and even when we are no longer able to envision that God would help us because, the moment we no longer seek God, we begin to drift away from Him. “Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.” -Psalm 119:143
So how do we begin to feel thankful? Well, last week I prepared our hearts a bit by sharing with you what we should remember about struggles. But that often isn’t enough to bring us through from frustration and despair. After many years upon this earth I have found some things that have helped me to become more thankful and bring me to the point where I can praise God during the storms of my life. By the way…I wrote this as much for me as I did for my readers.
1. Start small and build
Thank Him for whatever blessings you can think of, even…
Click the above link to read the rest of the article.
Sometimes things that friends and family communicate to us can make our struggles more difficult, but there are things we can communicate to ourselves that can help us during struggles. Today I’d like us to consider some things that will help us remember that God is not out to get us when struggles come. God isn’t punishing us and that there is a reason and maybe even a blessing around the corner.
Here’s what we need to remember during hard times:
1. Even if we cannot feel Him, God is still with us
We can count on Him to help and support us through the difficult times. Often we feel abandoned by God when tough times come. It’s only natural that we may not feel close to God when we are struggling, but if we can remind ourselves that God has not moved away from us, we might feel Him near. It’s always harder to find something when we aren’t looking.
It’s almost like when you have a close relative who lives far away. You can’t reach out and touch them or hug them, but you can still talk to them on the phone, but only if we dial the phone.
2. This struggle may prepare us for an incredible opportunity
We may need to learn something from this horrible experience…
Click the above link to read the rest of the article.
I pray the Paul vs Job series has blessed you and your family and that these additional resources give you more to help you begin to work toward having more joy in your life despite the trails.
At this point, I’d like to take a moment to share more about what got me started looking into Paul and Job.
People who don’t have chronic illnesses or long-term financial (or other) issues just don’t understand what that means and so they’d say things to me like:
“I understand how you feel because I’ve had a cold recently.”
“But you don’t look sick!” or “It could be worse.”
“If you only had more faith…”
“Don’t you WANT to feel better?”
“Just be more positive.”
“Job was given everything he lost and more!”
Some were well-meaning. Others were just mean. LOL Both just had no idea that they were making it worse for me. Job’s trails were not permanent. Paul’s were.
Why was there no study on how Paul was able to have the joy despite NOT being healed and living his life being persecuted and ultimately jailed?
Here’s what I longed for someone to say:
“I’m so sorry you’re hurting.”
“I’m here for you.”
“Tell me about your disease/problem.”
“How can I help?”
“If you’d rather not talk about it…”
“I admire your courage and strength.”
“You’re an inspiration/encouragement.”
I have still not found a devotional about how Paul was able to find the joy in the midst of his long-term trials, but what I have found is what helps ME see the joy in the midst of several chronic illnesses, financial instability, and surgeries.
Next week, I’ll be sharing some insights of my own about living with chronic issues. Then the following week, I’ll share what I have found by going back to read Paul’s letters.