Last summer, I wrote the first part of my story. If you haven’t read that yet, click here to read the beginning of my journey.
I am excited about this part of the story, and I know it must be written. Because, this part of the story shouts to the sky of God’s mighty power, His glory, and His unending love for me. This part of the story will still amaze me when I’m old and gray. This part of the story is more joyful than I could have ever imagined. This part of the story has become a resting place in my Valley of pain.
Since last summer, my health has steadily become worse. The days of constant pain were far greater than those in my senior year. Living every day became the hardest thing for me to do. My body was tired, and my heart worn.
There were days that I was overwhelmingly frustrated, and sometimes very sad. Every couple of weeks, I would be sick with something, because my immune system was weak. I would be over the trash can throwing up, unresponsive with a migraine that took me out of life for 24 hours, or just stuck in bed because my body was unable to function well. I spent the year in and out of sickness along with the never-ending presence of chronic pain.
There were some moments that I was crushed beneath the weight. There were some days that I was on top of the world. There were other days that the pain was so small that I actually felt like a normal human being!! It didn’t take long for me to be reminded that I wasn’t. There were also nights that I chose discouragement, and I chose to feel sorry for myself. Those are the nights that I regret. Those are the selfish nights that my Savior took upon His cross.
It was in this year that I realized how much I worshiped my pain. How my pain became my idol. How it was the pain, and only the pain that was worth my thoughts. God, in His grace, showed me how wrong I was in thinking this.
During this year, I realized yet again how physically weak I am. How completely unable I am. God showed me that I am nothing without Him. My body is simply sustained by its Creator. It took chronic pain and months of sickness to teach me that. I also fully realized the glorious truth that life is a vapor. When I was in the most pain, I reminded myself that my life is a vapor. This pain won’t last forever. One triumphant day, I will be completely relieved of its grasp! My life is a vapor. I rested in this truth.
Pain is hard, but undiagnosed pain is harder. At least, it was this way with me. I felt like I couldn’t help myself, because I had no idea what was going on inside of me. I felt scared sometimes. I felt as if I was half a person, because I was limited in so many ways. My limitations were great, but then God taught me something very encouraging. Yes, physically I was unable. Physically, I was tired. Physically, my 100% looked like someone’s 40%. Physically, I was very limited.
But guess what? God taught me that those limitations could not limit my love for people. I could still give them my love. My physical pain could never limit me so much that I would have to stop loving others. This became so encouraging to me, because the second greatest commandment is to love others as ourselves.
Yes, I am still very much a sinner. Yes, I didn’t always love others as I should have. In fact, I have failed in many ways concerning my love for others. But even if pain could take away my energy, my stamina, and my work…it couldn’t take away the second most important command given to me–to love others. Though, I wasn’t always able to give my energy at work or participate in activities, with God’s grace and His strength, I could still give my love to others! What an encouraging thought!
All of these lessons carried me to last week. The pain was still great, and still constant. But last Tuesday night, I made the decision to go into the ER even though I didn’t have insurance. I had applied for insurance several months earlier, but my application hadn’t come through. I was at a stand-still. I knew that I needed to be examined, because the symptoms were getting worse. But going into the ER with no insurance made me a little uneasy.
I sat with my best friend that night. His name is Ben, and he has helped me through this very tiring year. He stayed with me, even through my most discouraging moments. There were many. He always turned my eyes to Jesus. He would constantly remind me of God’s love for me. I needed this. Because, my way of thinking was selfish. My way of thinking only included me. I needed to meditate on God, not myself.
Ben has helped me countless times. He called me during my 24 hour migraine and read the Psalms to me. Nothing could have helped more than to hear the Psalms during a time of complete weakness. He has been my companion on this leg of my journey, and I am thankful to God for placing Ben in my life.
After I made the decision to go into the ER, Ben and I just sat and talked for a little while. I wasn’t really worried about the ER visit, because the worst they could do was stick me in a hospital bed. I was really only nervous about the bill I would receive. Near the end of our conversation, I turned to Ben and said, “God is doing something.” And Ben agreed, “Yes, He is. He is doing something.” I didn’t know that something would be overwhelming blessings in an ER. The same place that just 2 years prior, my heart shook in fear.
The next afternoon, I sat in the ER with Ben. I answered all the initial questions that they ask you, explained to them my problem with insurance, and took my seat in the waiting room. I had no idea how this visit was going to turn out, or how big the bill would be. After all, I didn’t have insurance.
Finally, my name was called! I passed the people who were already being cared for, and was reminded once again that there is always someone in greater pain than myself. I sat on the hospital bed, just waiting. The nurse came in and took some more information. I explained to her my insurance troubles in greater detail. She told me several of the options, and then said that she would put all of my information into the system to see if I had insurance. I doubted that I would have it. In fact, I didn’t even hope for insurance. I just kept sitting on the hospital bed, waiting for the doctor.
Awhile passed, and the nurse came in again. Words that I did not expect came out of her mouth, and they are words that I will not soon forget. “I plugged in your information, and you do have insurance.” How could she say it so calmly?! I have insurance! I have insurance! I almost cried right there on the hospital bed, because God answered my prayers, Ben’s prayers, and so many others who have prayed for me. God could have had the insurance cards sent to me through the mail, but He knew that He would be most glorified if He answered all of our prayers in this way. I hugged the nurse, and marveled at God’s provision. For He is great!
The doctor came in shortly after. I was in good spirits, because God had been taking care of me all along! He had never stopped. What a thought! How could I have ever doubted Him? The doctor asked me questions, examined me, and then in the most calm, reassuring way diagnosed my months and months of severe pain. Just like that, the months of waiting were over.
But even now, I realize how backwards my thinking has been. I’ve always had answers concerning my pain. I’ve never been without answers. I’ve been without a diagnosis for many years, but answers? I’ve always had answers to my pain. The diagnosis doesn’t matter, I have always had answers to my pain.
Because, the answer is God always provides. The answer is, He will always love me. The answer is, He will always choose the path that will most glorify Him. He will always walk with me. He will always teach me. He remains faithful. He is forever! He carries me through my darkest hour, then diagnoses me when it is beautiful in His time. I’ve never been without answers. I’ve just been blind to them. The answers are always there, because God is always here.
I’m not ready to be out of this Valley yet. I still have steps to take in order to heal completely. I still have pain, and certain parts of my pain may last forever. But you see, I don’t mind anymore. Because this Valley brought me to my knees time and time again. Through this Valley that has seemingly lasted forever, God has taught me one recurring truth over and over and over again. I am weak, but He is strong.
Now, the ER is one of my favorite places. Why? Because, it was there that I first began to fully trust God with my life. And just 2 years later, it was there that God gently reminded me that He has heard all of my fragmented prayers, and all the groanings too deep for words. He has always known that I would be diagnosed on June 11, 2014. The ER has become a place of reflection in my Valley, simply because it is here that I fall on my knees, and remember the mightiness of my God, His love that covers me, and the beauty that He has prepared in His time. It is here that I have learned to truly trust in Him. And the truth is that I’m no longer vulnerable, because I am in my Savior’s care.