The last three months have been physically challenging for me. In the past, I haven’t really dealt with physical pains other than migraines and pregnancy related discomfort. But that all changed this fall. Lower back pains that started in July and kept getting worse with each passing month. Simple tasks such as putting on socks and shoes sent pain signals shooting up by leg to my lower back. Just a few months previously, I was enjoying ballet barre exercises, and now I can barely touch my toes.
I tried everything I could think of to find relief: chiropractic care, stretching, resting, over the counter pain medication, and rotating between icing and heating the sore areas. Then during the second to last week of October, the pain started stretching from my lower back through the back of my knee. The more frightening part was when the pain switched over to numbness. As the week continued, this numbness stretched into my right foot. At this point, I knew it was time to seek out additional medical help. Fast forward through weeks of debilitating pain where there were days I literally couldn’t get out of bed without my husband’s help, I fi nally made it to the MRI appointment.
When the words came through on the My Mercy portal later that evening: central herniation and disc extrusion, all at once the reason for the pain and numbness made sense. While at the same time, a heavy cloud of fright settled over me. Will medicine and physical therapy be able to cure this or will I have to undergo back surgery before I turn 40?
One of the frightening things about being able to see test results before you have a trained medical expert to explain it to you is that our fears can tumble out of control if left unchecked. Word after word of unfamiliar multisyllabic medical terminology left me searching what each word and phrase meant. The more I read, the more fearful I became at the source of all of this pain and numbness. Google is helpful, until it’s not. Even my sister who is a nurse told me, “Kallie, I think you are going to have to have a procedure to fi x this.” In her compassion, she didn’t even want to say the scary word “surgery” to me.
However, something the Lord keeps showing me is that in every season, we all go through seasons of waiting. How we wait for answers and solutions is sometimes more important than the solution itself. Experiencing this physical pain has already taught me fi ve important lessons.
When parents go through seasons of health challenges, this can be an opportunity to model for their children:
- How to handle pain well and not lose hope even when you experience debilitating injuries. I pray none of our children experience medical challenges, but odds are, at some point in their life, they will. I want this season to be a stone of remembrance of how they might deal with pain well, too.
- How spouses take care of one another in both sickness and in health. I will never forget the excruciating days when Nathan had to function like crutches for me to help me get from our bedroom to the bathroom. As I slowly stumbled across the family room, I looked up to see Mackenzie observe this process. Her eyes locked with mine and the look on her face was both fearful of the pain I was going through and gratitude for the ways her dad taking such good care of me. She saw her dad be the hands and feet of Jesus as he patiently helped me move from room to room. She saw him instantly dropping whatever he was doing to help me when I couldn’t help myself. If we have to go through seasons of pain, we want our children to know that this is how they can show love to their spouses one day in the future, too. Even though none of us would wish this on our children or their future spouses, chances are, in one season or another, they will either be the caregiver or the patient. The marital vow of in sickness and in health is playing out daily in our lives, and I’m so grateful Nathan compassionately helps with so many tasks that I completed in the past without thought.
- How extended families and church families can support your spouse and children when you can’t do it yourself. If it weren’t for my mom, Nathan’s parents, and my sisters, and our church family, my kids would have missed out on many activities and ball games. When I couldn’t be there for them, our families stepped in and made sure they could experience normal life. From making meals to doing laundry to taking me to my doctor’s appointments, this season has shown me another reason why this was God’s timing to have us move back home in this season. I also realize how important it is to be in close proximity to your family, so that in the next season of life we can in turn be that same kind of daily support for them, too.
Acts of service and quality time have been benefi cial, but the support from our church family has also been a huge source of encouragement. Our church family stepped in to send messages of encouragement, prayers, and flowers. So many people intentionally let us know they were praying for us each step of the way. Although these may seem like small gestures, their encouragement has been a Godsend, and has shaped the way that I want to be more diligent to encourage and pray for others. When people help share your burdens, the load feels less heavy to bear.
- How to wait patiently for answers while trusting in God’s provisions medically. When the pain was the most intense and I couldn’t get out of bed on my own, I wanted answers and relief as quickly as possible. The soonest MRI appointment wasn’t available for 2.5 weeks, and I couldn’t start physical therapy until another 6 weeks. Now that I made it through the MRI, I realize that without that extra time for the medicine to reduce more of the inflamation, I don’t think I could have laid still enough in the MRI machine to complete the test. Then after receiving the test results, I now understand why God knew I needed the wait for physical therapy, because I wouldn’t be able to stretch or strengthen myself into complete healing.
Although I could get angry and dwell in the state of frustration of not being able to move more quickly with treatment, the Lord continues to teach me that He already knew all of this was going to happen, and He has my best interest in mind for my longterm healing. He will sustain me and restore my health in His time and in His way.
- How to show empathy and encouragement to others who are going through health challenges. Before now, I had not experienced a MRI. When others had asked for prayer for their own MRI tests, I intentionally prayed for the situations. However, before I experienced it myself, I didn’t have compassion for the process these tests require of a person both physically and mentally. I prayed for the person having the “MRI,” but I had no idea what it really entailed. From the moment the MRI technician started pushing me back through the tube, instantly I knew that I needed to squeeze my eyes shut, intentionally focus on my breaths, and pray straight through the 30 minute test.
Before you think I am super holy, please know that I had a strong hunch that my thoughts would go into hyperdrive if the Holy Spirit wasn’t calming the racing thoughts in my mind. When I started to feel the anxious thoughts rise up from the constant loud knocks, buzzes, and sirens of the machinery, I reminded myself to keep my eyes closed, breathe, and pray. The ear plugs the technician gave me to drown out the sounds merely softened the loud noises. When the technician pushed the button to roll me out of the tube, she thanked me for lying so still and making her job easy. I quickly confessed to her, “I just prayed through the entire test. This is an answered prayer that I could lie so still for so long and not be overcome with pain.”
Knowing that I had a minor MRI test experience as compared to some of the longer versions, I can only imagine how much more intense the experience is with contrast dye and longer testing. Now when I pray for others who are needing this test, I can look at them with eyes of compassion and pray for their needs more accurately. Paul teaches us in the second letter he wrote to the church at Corinth that the God of all comfort, comforts us so that we can in return comfort others.
This is not an experience I would wish upon anyone, but like you, dear friend, I know we both want to wrestle through our challenges well. Just like Jacob wrestled with God before meeting Esau in Genesis 32:22-32, we want to wrestle through our pains and come out on the other side more like the Lord. We don’t want to rush through the trial just to make it to the other side. We also don’t want to just wait idly by waiting for our trials to end; we want to be transformed through the process. And in turn, we want this to be a stone of remembrance for our children for when they walk through their own challenging health conditions. WIth the hope that they will be able to stand in faith knowing the Lord will be right with them through every step of the process.
Friend, I hope and pray that you aren’t going through the physical pain that I am experiencing right now, but in reality, the odds are you are walking through your own trial at this moment. I’m learning that we are all either in the middle of a trial, fi nishing a trial, or preparing to enter a new season of trials. Challenges are part of our human experience.
How we wait matters.
These challenging moments allow us to experience the compassion and comfort of our Heavenly Father while also being confident that we will be able to offer comfort and compassion to others walking a similar path in their time of need. I pray that the Lord will help us both wait well and to empower us to allow the Holy Spirit to transform this test into our testimony of His faithfulness to be present with us moment by moment until we are healed. Either on this side of Heaven or when we see Jesus face to face, our Heavenly Father will compassionately bring about our healing.
Thank you for inspiring Paul to write these words to the church at Corinth, so that 2,000 years later, we could confi dently experience the same comfort and compassion you extended to them. We pray that you will bring others into our lives to help us when we don’t have the strength physically to meet our immediate families’ needs. We ask that you bring others into our lives who have walked a similar road. Help them share helpful strategies, suggestions, comfort, and compassion, so that we can see glimmers of hope in our present challenges. Thank you for creating us to thrive in community, so that we can share the comfort you have given to us with others.
In Jesus’ name,