Have you ever wrestled with God over a thorn in your side for years? You’ve begged him for relief. You’ve asked him for healing so much and heard his “no” for so long that you’ve surrendered to a life of struggle. Not in a defeated sort of way (okay, maybe sometimes), but more of an acceptance of his will. His will that you know is good even if it’s hard sometimes. Maybe it’s chronic pain, relational struggles, infertility, or mental illness. Whatever your thorn is, you have chosen to rest in his sovereign care and set your eyes on glory, knowing one day you will be healed. Maybe you don’t even believe healing is possible in this life.
Well, me too.
This month marks 20 years of searching for answers to why I have had so much stomach pain for nearly my entire life. Truthfully, I had given up the hope that I would ever know what’s wrong with me. So when a recent CT scan finally brought the diagnosis I never dreamed I’d find, I was stunned. Utter disbelief.
I’ve been processing all the emotions and implications of this for a few weeks now. The high of finally holding answers in my hand has subsided a bit as I’ve become acquainted with the condition I never knew I had.
The reality that my intestines are literally in the wrong location and will always be, is setting in. Though I could undergo what is called the Ladd’s procedure to prevent a major bowel obstruction, there is only one surgeon who can truly “fix” intestinal malrotation. He surgically places the intestines in the anatomically correct location—a surgery that is risky and requires a long and intense recovery. A surgery that I cannot undergo while caring for my boys.
The previous excitement which boiled over in my heart that I might one day be healed, has lowered to a low simmer as I hear stories of struggle even after the Ladd’s procedure.
Fear has also set in. There’s a real possibility I may have trouble finding a surgeon who is knowledgeable enough to even perform the procedure, as it is rarely necessary among adults. Every pain in my stomach now feels a bit scarier knowing all it takes is a full twist and my life would be threatened. I’m consistently submitting these fears to God.
A few weeks ago, it seemed a future with the potential of no more chronic abdominal pain, food intolerances, severe distention, and sickness lay before me. Less moments stuck in the bathroom instead of making memories with my family. Less moments of gripping, twisting pain rippling slowly through my entire abdomen. What would it be like to go on a date with my husband without the fear of needing to rush home to a bathroom? Or to enjoy my children as they play on the beach instead of being stuck in the beach house sick? Truly, I cannot fathom it. I had begun to dream that these things might be my reality soon. Even typing those words feels faulty. They are faulty; because healing is fickle.
I don’t want to place my hope there. I can’t place my hope there. Because this life and everything in it is ever-changing. Maybe the surgery will bring the relief I’ve been desperate for. Maybe not. Either way, God is still good. He always has been. We stand amazed at his goodness in the healing, but I’ve witnessed his goodness and his faithfulness in the valleys of my suffering too. From the trauma of my childhood, to the loss of my babies, and to the chronic illness I’ve faced, his love for me and presence with me has shined through it all. My hope is sturdy and steadfast in Christ alone because he is sturdy and steadfast. The Solid Rock on which I stand.
I’ve been recalling these truths as I spent the last 24 hours in waves of horrible stomach pain. I held to his faithfulness as I spent the hours in between my baby’s cries in the night tossing and turning from the pain.
When I’m tempted to feel like healing was dangled in front of me, only to be snatched away just as I reached to grasp it, I have to recall God’s character. He is good, faithful, and kind. He doesn’t tempt or taunt. He loves all his children. He loves me. The proof is in the cross.
I was telling a sweet lady in my Bible study how, even though it’s hard, nothing has really changed. I had always believed I would battle chronic illness until heaven. My hope has always been in eternity. I deeply long for earthly healing, but earthly healing is not a safe place for our hope. Healing may never come. It may touch our bodies and minds for a fleeting moment, only for a new thorn (or the same old one) to burrow in our side. Jesus Christ is the only place where hope finds its footing. Whether healing comes or not, our hope is secure if it is in Christ. He has redeemed us and will bring us into glory where we will be eternally healed.
So, I grieve what’s lost, what should’ve been, and what hurts. I weep as I wait. I lament to God for a miracle. And I fix my eyes on Jesus. In him, and only him, my hope is found.