Something that has surprised me in this chronic illness journey is the unveiling of my own pride. You’d think when you are at your lowest that godly humility is an instinctive, reflective posture. But sin creeps in, attacking the soul when the body is hurting and vulnerable.
These song lyrics struck me when I heard them recently:
“My heart is drawn to self-exalting
Help me seek Your kingdom first”
You know, even in pain, we can self exalt. I’ve done it many times – elevated my sorrow, my grief, and my pain above everything else.
Yes, while the body screams for relief or the heart cries out for healing, the rush to treat the wound takes precedence. And, as a child of God, there is no doubt a place for lament and honest cries for help – the Psalms are full of words we can borrow for our own desperate prayers. We are wise not to rush these steps.
At times, however, I’ve allowed my lingering pain to become my idol, a ruthless dictator and god of my thoughts, actions, and reactions. Elisabeth Elliot calls it “making a career out of our troubles” in her book Suffering is Never for Nothing.* Pridefully, I was building a strong resume as Sufferer of the Year.
I’ve allowed my lingering pain to become my idol, a ruthless dictator and god of my thoughts, actions, and reactions.
I’ve let no other truths seep in, except to cry:
“I’m in pain. Help me.”
“I’m the wounded one. Heal me.”
“Fix this, now!”
God’s words of comfort, peace, and even correction (which are exceedingly gentle with his hurting children), could not break through.
When I was 20 years old, during a six-month-long health battle, I prayed along with my family, “Lord, bring healing quickly and completely.” In my mind, the answer could only come in my prescriptive ending: “quickly and completely.”
To a 20-year-old, six months is not quick (though at 43 it seems like a blink). Complete healing came, we thought, after that final surgery … only to find out years later that I carry an incurable genetic disorder.
A Better Plan
My will was a life back on track with no more detours and no more pain. God’s will was to take me to a place of utter emptiness, a channel to dredge out dreams of ease and replace them with a deep-rooted faith in a good Father. It is an exchange that could’ve come no other way. Should the ICU ever come calling again, I pray these lessons have settled so deeply that I can recall them with peace and clarity.
My will was a life back on track with no more detours and no more pain.
Two decades later, I see it now. For the blood-bought child of God, complete healing is coming, and this lifetime of waiting will be oh-so-worth-it. Quick healing is relative, too – this life is a vapor. Eternally, I will have a body that doesn’t fall apart and my worries will be replaced with unhindered worship.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
1 Peter 4:13,19
As I wait for this glorious redemption, I can trade my exalted pain for a humble posture. I can watch His glory unfold as my story tells of His mercy and sustaining grace. And your story can, too, friend – as you entrust your souls to a faithful Creator even as you suffer.
It’s not easy to see our own pride and confess and repent of sin when we’re in the middle of the storm. But when we do, it replaces an angry fist with a grateful whisper: “Father, not my will but Yours be done.”
City Alight – Your Will be Done (verse 3):
When I am lost, when I am broken
In the night of fear and doubt
Still I will trust in my good Father
Yes, to one great King I bow!
As Jesus rose, so I shall rise
In ransomed glory at the throne
My heart restored
With all your saints I sing:
“Father, not my will but Yours be done!”
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