I said “I hate my body.”
The words came out like venom. And in that moment, I meant each one. It’s not even just the way my body looks. No, it’s the way it feels. It’s the persistent bloat that presses tightly against even my sized-up jeans. An ever expanding pressure; a ticking time bomb. It’s the searing, twisting cramps that creep slowly through my entire abdomen as we head back home instead of going to small group. It’s the feelings of failure as I hear my baby cry and can’t run to him. Or the pain of his weight on my stomach while nursing him during a flare. It’s the wrestling with God over withheld healing. It’s the frustration of missing out on another family walk.
It’s the fact that I can’t even capture all the things it does to me in words. It feels like a prison—a place where pain reigns. Because, now, it’s not just chronic stomach pain. It’s the back pain, neck pain, arthritis in my SP joints/bones. Most joints in my body ache every day, literally from neck to feet. If you didn’t know, I spent 3 1/2 weeks unable to walk postpartum because of severe sciatica. Not to mention my hormonal problems and heart issues. I feel like I’m just waiting for my body to fall apart. Like it might simply crumble in a moment.
Maybe I just hate how it limits me. How I’m tempted to skip dinner just so I don’t have to cancel fellowship with other saints. Or how the sweet moments of rocking my baby turn into hours of unending back and neck pain. A short walk down the street leaves me in need of an ice pack.
Here’s the other thing: I know I am often a slave to comfort. I fear sickness and despise physical pain and limitations. So, I guess it makes sense that in order to grow me in this area, God would allow me to experience these discomforts, ranging from mild to excruciating. Yet, all of them are momentary right?
Right. They are. That’s what God’s Word says, isn’t it? And I believe it. I really do. And I’m okay. I really am. It’s just hard sometimes.
When it doesn’t feel momentary or my body feels like a trap, I have to remind myself of my eternal hope. One day, God really will wipe away all of it. That’s not just something we Christians tell ourselves when mornings are hard to face and nights feel unending. It’s the very truth spoken by our Savior who is coming back for us soon (Revelation 21:5; 22:20).
This is how we fix our eyes on Christ. “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:2). The pain we experience in our earthly bodies is real, but so is the fact that one day we will shed this perishable body and God will replace it with an imperishable body (1 Corinthians 15:53). We will instantaneously be fully healed of every pain or illness.
My friend, Brianna, often reminds me that even though our bodies are tainted by sin, God still calls them good. We must guard ourselves against becoming modern day gnostics who believe the body is inherently evil. To be honest, I struggle to think good thoughts about my body. Yet, isn’t this the body that bore two beloved boys who will prayerfully grow to be God-fearing men (Lord willing)? Didn’t this body keep working despite the desperate loss of our other babies, even when my heart failed me? This is the body that I will live in my entire earthly life as I seek to make disciples and partner with God in his Kingdom work. I’m ever learning to align what I deem as “good” with what God calls good. Truly, this body is a gift from him.
Chronic illness or not, we all have times where we wrestle with the ways sin has marred the goodness within our earthly vessels. Yet, we can (and should) praise the Lord for them. I’m learning this, slowly. I’ve likewise learned that it’s good to run to God for help and reliance—that though the pain is not good, what God produces through it is a blessing.
Take heart, dear saints. He is coming for us. In the meantime, he will see us through every dark night. The Spirit is our guarantee (2 Corinthians 5:5).