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I’ve started to write this post a hundred times. Today I’m finally finishing it.
My son was born in April of 2016. It did not go well and things were scary towards the end, but he was born alive. His cries were the sweetest sound I’d ever heard. I was hurt very badly. (I did not have a c-section. Everyone asks that. It is in fact possible to have a baby without a c-section and still need emergency surgery. Who knew??)
The precise details of what happened to me are not important. This story is not really about me. It’s about Jesus, and how I found hope in Him.
The days passed. The pain was excruciating. I could not sit down for the first month. I told myself that this was normal. After all, six weeks of maternity leave is standard. No one at the hospital said that my recovery would be any different from anyone else.
Six weeks passed and the pain continued. Maybe I’ll just need eight weeks, I thought. Some people who have c-sections say it’s more like eight weeks. I did have surgery. Maybe it’ll just be more like that.
Eight weeks passed. Twelve weeks. Sixteen. All through those sixteen weeks, my baby cried. They told me he had colic. It only added to my growing sense of failure.
When my son was 4 months old, a lactation consultant who was otherwise completely unhelpful and insulting made a passing comment about how it would take a year to recover from the type of complication I had.
Every month that passed brought new discouragement as I, the healthy 21 year old, continued to live with chronic pain. I carefully calculated how long I could sit per day. There would be no snuggling with my sleeping baby in the rocking chair for hours, as I had imagined when I was pregnant. I tried to tough it out, but I just couldn’t. It hurt too much.
Mondays were the worst. I would sit through Sunday school, a morning service, and an evening service on Sundays. I paid the price on Mondays. I went to everything because I thought it was the right thing to do.
Why am I suffering so much from doing the right thing? I wondered. It didn’t seem fair.
After six months of this, I reached my breaking point. I felt the Lord say “Laura, do you trust me?”
I ignored the question for weeks. Then I finally decided that I didn’t need to hide what I was thinking from God. He knows everything anyway.
No, Lord. I really don’t. I don’t trust you. I did all the right things and made good and moral choices and this is how You repay me.
That’s awful. I know it’s awful now, and I knew it was awful then. But being honest with God about it was the first step towards healing spiritually.
Christianity doesn’t guarantee an easy life.
This is the question: Are you using God to get something from Him? Or is God Himself the goal of your striving? – Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ to Die is Gain
When I first read that quote from, it hit me hard. That IS the question! Am I a Christian because I think I’ll get more perks and have an easier life if I do the right thing? I certainly shouldn’t be!
Think of Paul, who was perhaps one of the greatest Christians who ever lived.
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. – 2 Corinthians 11:24-27
Does that sound like someone who followed God because it made his life more comfortable? Certainly not! This concept of only serving God because it makes things easier slips in subconsciously at first, but it is toxic. Nowhere in the Bible does God make the claim that bad things only happen if the person deserves it.
We don’t always know why things happen.
I wish I could tell you that I have arrived, that I am so thankful to have started living with chronic pain at the age of 21, and that I completely understand why this happened to me. Those things would be lies.
What I have learned though, is that we have to believe that there is a larger story at work here that we may never know this side of eternity. I will have questions when I get to heaven, and I think that’s okay.
As I write this, it is April 2017. While the pain has dulled somewhat, it is still there. Sometimes my friends will ask me if I’m going to get better. Honestly, I don’t know. I still hope so, but I just really don’t know.
But I’m no longer placing my ultimate hope in a pain free existence.
Too often, my hope is in my ever-changing circumstances. I say things like, ‘I really need the baby to take his nap this morning,’ which is a fine thing to say and a fine thing to look forward to. But if, come lunchtime, the nap hasn’t happened, and I’m so emotionally wasted by it that it ruins my afternoon, then I’ve probably put more faith in that nap than in the never-changing circumstances of the gospel. – Gloria Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full
My hope is not in getting better, it is in the knowledge that I’ve been saved from the depths of hell by a Savior who loves me. It is the knowledge that I will be in heaven someday.
Sometimes God doesn’t fix it, at least not to my human standards. But He is there. And He is good.