We’ve spent the last few posts in our Chronic-Thriving series discussing practical ways to live well with pain, but let’s talk about the emotional strain of it all.
In the foggy days of my journey, it felt as though chronic pain had frozen me in place. Everything I had been able to do I could no longer do. Everything I hoped to do had to be put on hold. And while I wasn’t paralyzed in body, I felt paralyzed in spirit. What was going on? How could I endure this? How much longer would I be forced to stay here?
I had been made invisible.
Chronic pain launched me into a life of being hidden, unseen. Not that people didn’t care about me, because they did and they do! But it seemed that the very core of me was suppressed. Pain had eaten up my physical stamina and energy, erased my desire to dream, and consumed my every waking hour.
I was pain masquerading as a girl. Or so it felt. I could no longer see who I used to be, and I had no excitement for who I may become.
It would take many years of chronic pain coupled with hardship, emotional & spiritual setbacks, tiring perseverance, and grief to bring the realization that I was meant to be hidden all along and that the richest life I would ever know would be found in my relationship with God—a relationship so intimate that the entirety of it remains unseen by others.
Pain first hid me from my own ideals and aspirations to teach me that being hidden in God is my greatest purpose. Pain first buried me deep to teach me that being hidden in God is where life begins and bursts out. Pain first made me blind to make me aware that my best joy in life is being hidden in God. Pain continues to sweep in and slow down my mad dash to idolize myself the image-bearer rather than God the image-Maker. Pain of all sorts has a way of hiding me first and then reminding me of the freedom I have in being hidden in God!
The complexities of life and unwelcome trials keep me grounded in my relationship with God. While pain is a Great Disrupter, it is also a Veracious Teacher of hope and freedom. After I’m forced into hiding, I discover the freedom of being hidden in God all over again! Un-tethered joy awakens and I respond with my life.
I am equipped–
In Ephesians, I read about grace and purpose. Because I am saved by grace alone, I am now able to do all that God desires and has prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:8-10). Yes, even with chronic pain and limitations. Even with grief and sorrow. Even with you name it!
It’s important to note that I do not work for grace (and will never have to) but because of God’s unimaginable grace, I now desire and am equipped to work for God and the furthering of His kingdom! In God, I can do His work even with a body that quits me, limits me, and discourages me. In God, I can also do His work with trials that confuse me, frustrate me, and devastate me.
I am made to know God and make Him known–
All through the Word, I see glimpses of the way God knows me. The beauty of His love is palpable, and I see that my ultimate purpose is to know God, be known by God, and make Him known (Ephesians 3:14-21, Psalm 139, Psalm 96, Matthew 28:19-20).
Although pain has disrupted my life, it can never alter my life purpose, because I am hidden in God. Therefore, my life purpose lies in my intimate relationship with God which remains fully unknown by everyone else. And yet from this intimate relationship, my whole life changes, grows, and responds. I am equipped to step into the place God has for me and into the work He has prepared for me (Philippians 2:13, Hebrews 13:20-21).
I am seen–
All the while, God sees me to the very depths of my soul whether the seasons of my life are quiet, loud, persistently painful, or misunderstood by others. As God fully sees + comforts me, He also always makes a way for me to live in worship and obedience to Him with this body, this mind, this heart, and this soul (Mark 12:31-31, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). While seasons come and go, my purpose remains undisturbed. I am still full of purpose from God, for God.
I can serve even though–
Pain doesn’t prohibit my ability to love God and serve others; I prohibit myself. God doesn’t say, “Oh Sierra can only do 40% of the “normal” 100%, she’s not as useful to me.” LUDICROUS! I’ll just go ahead and put 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 here one more time!
I must not categorize my usefulness according to my physical insufficiency or limited understanding of a situation or season. God never commanded me to hold that kind of weight. It’s burden I DO NOT have to bear! To know God, be known by God, and make God known is my purpose and it remains undeterred whether or not I physically heal while on earth or walk out of the painful trials before me now.
I will remember–
My pain doesn’t steal the good character of God, it reveals the good character of God to me. As God’s child, a long season doesn’t mean a stagnant season. AMEN and AMEN. My life should always be a response to what I have received in Christ not a reaction to what I feel I am lacking in life.
I am not a slave to fear–
I must not fear the life I am living, the seasons I may never live, the expectations others have for me, ideals for how it should be, or the world which equates my value with my abilities.
I can face any kind of season for any amount of time while stepping into my prepared work only when I am first grounded in the hidden place–my relationship with God. It is from here which everything flows–life, joy, service, and purpose.
It is only here that I am emboldened with confidence, filled with grace, equipped with hope, and unshaken when the world and long-standing ideals come to strip me of my identity in Christ. It is here in the hidden place that I offer beauty and become beauty for the delight of One–my God.
And it is here I freely live to my fullest potential no matter the pain that is present.