Painful healing

Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Read time: 6min

 I also write for Hatfield Christian Church's Newsgirl blog, you can read Painful Healing there.

Have you ever broken a bone? Do you still remember the pain, or have you managed to block it out?

I broke my first bone at the age of 20 in a not-so-typical way. At the time, I was recovering from phenomena. But, I decided it would be a good idea to go out on a cold winter’s night to attend a friend’s 21st birthday. In short, my barely-recovered lungs were not pleased with me. The cold air irritated my airways, causing a lot of coughing. I tried to be polite and not cough all over the people seated at the table around me. With every cough that I tried to contain, my lungs tried to expand against my restricting diaphragm until one of my ribs couldn’t take the pressure anymore.

Yes, I managed to break a rib by coughing!

Most people are in awe of how I managed to break a rib by coughing, seeing as this is an achievement usually only reserved for the old and frail. But that’s not the point. Why am I telling you all of this? Because something so ridiculous and seemingly insignificant changed the way I live my life. So often in life, there are events that are seemingly irrelevant but that cause us a lot more pain than we might have initially realised.

The pain I experienced that night was so intense that I felt nauseous. I remember thinking I’ll just try to sleep it off. But, unfortunately, sleeping doesn’t come easily when you are in a large amount of pain. This was particularly problematic for me as sleep is my coping mechanism – it’s an avoidance technique. Maybe you can relate? When we feel really overwhelmed or unsure we try to avoid whatever maybe causing us to feel that way, through whatever technique that we’ve learnt works for us.

But there was no escaping my pain. I couldn’t just slap on a cast and carry on with life. It is actually quite difficult to determine if a rib is broken, cracked or bruised. The only way for a rib to heal is to sit still and wait – two things that I am not particularly good at.

When we experience pain, our first instinct is to try to fix the problem or patch things up ourselves. If that doesn’t work, we seek out the help of a professional. When a professional can’t help and we’ve run out of any other ideas, only then do we turn to God.

I don’t know why He isn’t the first place to which we run, but He’s not. In those bad days, when all that consumed my mind was thoughts of pain and discomfort – to the extent that I couldn’t remember what living without pain felt like – those were the hours I would lift my eyes to the Heavens. “Ease my pain, Lord,” I’d pray feebly. A prayer dealing only with the after-effects of the bigger cause.

The pain would eventually ease as I rested, or when the pain meds finally took effect. When there was no pain, there was no longer a need for the Lord. It was under control. For the moment. And the moment never lasted very long. I went from enjoying my daily life to just trying to make it through a day pain free.

It took me 6 months of pain ruling my everyday life for me to realise that something had to change. How stubborn must we be, subjecting ourselves to so much hurt, before we are willing to admit that something drastic needs to be done? Only through this realisation did I seriously turn to God in the hope that He would heal my broken rib.

We have this idea of healing which we come across a lot in the New Testament: healing is miraculous. This is our expectation of healing. It is instant. It is significant. It will be a WOW moment. I am not saying this isn’t true or doesn’t happen anymore. But what we forget is that God is much more concerned for our spiritual well-being and can use physical pain to strengthen us spiritually.

I had numerous people pray for me for healing and lay hands on me. Secretly, I doubted that I would be healed. It was the classic scenario of ‘God does it for other people, but not for me’. I didn’t have the faith to pray for my own healing, so I got other people to do it for me. Side note: once again, this isn’t a bad thing. There is tremendous strength in people interceding for you. But God wanted to grow my faith. He wanted me to stop doubting. Healing is oftentimes a journey of learning, faith and trust.

I had to learn to trust in the character of my God. The bible tells us that ‘by His stripes we are healed’ (Isa 53:5). I had to take that head knowledge and make it heart knowledge. And once I finally did, I clung to it. There were days where I believed it 120%. Those were normally the good, pain-free days. On the bad or ‘set back’ days, I would lie in bed crying; alternating between reminding Him of this promise of healing and begging Him just to bring healing.

This was a journey of trust, and of having faith for things that at the time seemed impossible. Through all the days, good and bad, my desire to be completely pain free remained. God helped me to shift my perception of being pain free from an impossible desire, towards accepting being pain free as my reality. It was a journey of trusting that He would come through and that He is faithful to His Word. He told me ‘I am healed’ and I needed to trust, regardless of how I felt, that I was healed.

Pain limited my life.

It was not what God wanted for my whole life. But He used pain to slow me down from my busy life and fix my thoughts onto Him. And He often works the same way with all of us. He does this because He cares and He wants to correct our incorrect perceptions. Those are the real limits on our lives; they are what is truly painful. Physical pain is just a temporary limit.

My reality is that I lived one whole year with pain dictating my every day. I lived with the belief that my broken bone may never truly mend. But I rejoice because my life it no limited by this physical pain. And I rejoice even more, as I am no longer limited by the perception of what my God can do.

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