For the last six months I have dealt with excruciating monthly periods, something I never experienced in my teenage years or adulthood. When it first happened, I had to be brought to the hospital, fearing that appendicitis was the cause. Edric took me to the ER at about 3 AM only discover that there was nothing wrong with me apart from the fact that I was probably dealing with extreme dysmenorrhea. After that month, the pain recurred and my personal research pointed to endometriosis. This was confirmed by doctors as well after two ultrasounds.
For those of you who suffer from the same, you know what it’s like to be bedridden and on painkillers to alleviate the feeling of one, never-ending contraction. The pain heightened to such severity last month that I threw up and felt like I might collapse.
As I have wrestled with this new reality, praying countless times for relief and healing, and being prayed over by others, God has taught me many lessons as the symptoms persists. I would like to call these the gifts of pain in my attempts to see its divine purpose. Of course, I still pray and hope for healing, but in the meantime, here are my reflections…
The gift of empathy. Since I was healthy for most of my life, there was only so much I could grasp about people’s physical pains or their dealings with debilitating conditions or sicknesses. Even today, my physical struggle isn’t likened to those who agonize on a daily basis in their fight against cancer or a life-threatening disease. (What strength these people must have to battle their pain day in and day out!) Yet my pain issues, the monthly ones and the random ones, do give me greater comprehension of how difficult it must be for those who suffer without relief. Now, I can sincerely tell people, “It must be so difficult for you. My heart goes out to you,” and really mean it!
The gift of humility. I consider myself to have a pretty high tolerance for pain. I birthed five children with no anesthesia. However, the discomfort I feel every month is so debilitating that I can’t attend to Edric or my kids, and fighting the pain exhausts me. Homeschooling happens on my bed, as the kids bring their books to my room and do their work around me. Eating and exercise have to be foregone, especially on my second and third days of menstruation. It’s humbling to know that I am not that strong after all. Whatever health, wellness, and physical abilities I have are the grace of God and nothing I can take credit for.
Last month, while groaning on my bed, trying to maneuver to a comfortable position without success, I eventually prayed out loud and said, “Thank you, Lord. You are my strength, you are here with me.”
When pain weakens me, it’s an opportunity to remember just how dependent I am on the Lord.
The gift of joy. Amazingly, God gives joy in the midst of pain. Although I get deeply frustrated about not being in control, and at times worry that there could be more serious things wrong with me, I fix my eyes on the Lord and the fears and discouragement dissipate. I do not have to make my joy dependent on my pain. As author and pastor Stephen Furtick said, “Will your chains break your praise or will your praise break your chains?”
This past week I was anxious because my daughter, Catalina, had five days of strange, fluctuating fever. It was gone in the mornings and returned in the afternoons and evenings. However, God spoke to my heart with this word, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
I started to tear as I read this passage because my thoughts were clouded with fear, and I was restless with worry. Yet, the Lord assured me that He is ever in control and ever on His throne, and there was joy.
I don’t rejoice in my problems because I like them, I rejoice because I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and has a plan for every circumstance in my life, as well as the lives of those whom I love. He may not always cure a disease but this doesn’t change His character or downgrade His power.
The gift of gratitude. When I first found out that I had adhesions in my pelvis as well as a suspected cyst-like structure in my right ovary due to Endometriosis, I felt discouraged and down. I try to be healthy, eat right, and exercise. I never had operations in my abdominal area to cause the adhesions. Furthermore, I really wanted to have another child, but the Endometriosis contributed to fertility issues. In the past, one try and it was like, boom, baby! Not this year for me…
Well, of course one of the obvious answers was age. The other, more medical reason was that I may have hormone imbalances (to be confirmed soon by a test I’m doing with Life Science). I will do another post about all the natural ways I am trying to “fix” my Endometriosis, but let me see if they work first!
Initially, I battled self-pity and a victim-mentality but then I was like, hey! There’s so much to be thankful for! I still get to walk, run, read, write, sing, eat, teach my children, spend time with my loved ones and friends, serve the Lord, appreciate and explore the world He made, and delight in knowing and loving Him. That’s a lot to celebrate!
The gift of perspective. In the midst of the pain I tell myself, this body will be replaced by a new and perfect one someday. I think of what heaven will be like when all agony and crying will be gone. This promise makes me look forward to eternity. It also prevents me from getting too comfortable on this earth. My body’s health problems point me to the hope of my eternal life with the Lord. They lesson the grip of this world on my heart as I remember that it is passing away.
“We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life…Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:2-4, 8
As I close, allow me to end with this insight…I did not choose my pain, but Jesus Christ willingly entered into your pain and my pain when He gave His life for us so that we might be healed of our greatest problem – the problem of sin. That’s our real disease. “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
When people ask me if I believe that God heals, my question is what is the healing that we seek? Is it merely to be liberated from physical pain? If that is the case, then isn’t that failing to understand the more important reason for Christ’s wounds? He gave His life “so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” as the passage explains above. Since our earthly existence is a dot in comparison to eternity, His priority is to heal our relationship with Him first. Mark 8:36, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”
If we read verse 25, following 1 Peter 2:24, it says that we were straying like sheep (our real problem…turning away from our Creator) but now we have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (a picture of our spiritual healing, being reconciled to God).
So while I believe that God has the power to heal us from ailments and diseases and we should pray in faith for physical healing, I also believe that He may not always alleviate our physical suffering if it accomplishes a greater purpose in our lives and the lives of others, namely our spiritual healing and the spiritual healing of others. So here in lies the greatest gift of pain…when it reconciles us to God or draws us into a profoundly deeper relationship with Him.
I am still claiming healing in Jesus’ name for my Endometriosis and doing my part to make lifestyle changes. But even if God doesn’t make my life problem or pain-free, I still consider it a blessed life because He is my sustainer and provider. His grace and love never fail. His heart is for me and for my good. He is and will be with me through all the seasons of my life!