The moment when it feels like your body is eating itself alive is when I am reminded that suffering is a gift. I know that sounds masochistic, but it’s not. I. Hate. Pain. I avoid it if I can.
Much of the time I’m like a cranky bear shot up with rock salt and those days are especially hard for my family. I can declare a time-out, but that doesn’t stop the world. My family still needs me even when I’m at my worst.
Some days I’m able to move around with fluidity. There is no hobble. You will hardly see a grimace. Other days are unpleasant. Days like today.
My feverish knees feel like they are on fire. My ankles feel like the synovial fluid was replaced with pulverized glass. Tendons in my legs are tight. They feel stretched. Maybe they are. I was dealing with a torn meniscus a couple of months ago.
Then there is my back. I’m trying to stretch my back to maintain mobility in my spine. My vertebrae feel heavy and sluggish. Have you ever held two bricks against each other? They do not readily slide against each other. They grip each other and you have to use some effort to push them against each other. I think that is the drag coefficient or shear viscosity. It’s just a lot of math telling me that bricks don’t glide easily. My spine feels as if the vertebrae are made of brick.
Writing about my ankylosing spondylitis seems to be cathartic. Having a conversation about how I’m feeling is unhelpful. It’s actually quite boring. Usually I’ll grit my teeth and say, “I’m just terrific.” That tells it all.
I’m shuffling like a seventy year old today, but in spite of my physical problems, I’m reminded of the hope I have in Christ. Unbelievers can’t understand. They are angry for me. They stamp their feet and squall that it’s not fair. My typical response is something like this–
Of course it’s not fair. Should I wring my hands about my problems? Where in the Bible does God say that He is fair? If anything, God is demonstrating his love.
Consider Hebrews 12:7. It says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?”
Or James 1:2–“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kinds…”
Paul has insight on this matter as well. In Romans 8:18, he says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Another helpful passage is 2 Corinthians 4:8-10–“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”
I wish I was Mr. Eloquent and could recite those verses from memory, but I more or less am able to explain my attitude towards my physical adversity. I also am quick to point out the fact that my pain drew me closer to God.
I was given a gift. It is more than I can bear. It always is. I’m reminded of that useless platitude that God never gives you more than you can handle. That’s nonsense! If you are able to bear the hardship, you don’t need God.
I’m glad it’s more than I can bear. That way there is hope that others may see Christ working in me.