Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. – 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9
This passage was taped to my wall for a while when I was single. It spoke to me in a really big way. It particularly stayed with me during Lent of 2012. God was working something in my heart, and I was feeling it physically. During this time, I was struck with powerful imagery of the humanity of Christ. The poor analogy I made was the scene of the cartoon film Hercules when he gave up his godly powers, but continued fighting. He experienced what it was to be human, and how that manifested itself primarily was profound physical weakness. While Jesus is far superior to the fictional Hercules, I imagine He experienced hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and physical limitations. Carrying His cross to Calvary was not a light, midday stroll. It was painful, difficult, and a burden He needed Simon the Cyrene to carry with Him. It was precisely through these moments of weakness & suffering, though, that Christ conquered. He reigned.
Now several years later, this is still one of my favorite passages of Paul’s. But it has take on different meaning. Since 2014 (maybe a bit earlier, but wasn’t paying too much attention), I’ve been struggling with a random assortment of health issues. Back in the day when I was so much more ignorant than I am now, I did not put them all together. Symptoms began popping up sporadically on top of things I had dealt with for years (but of course, was “professionally” told that all this was normal). So I really took my health into my own hands and began researching and experimenting.
2016 was the year of progress. I met with a surgeon who took my symptoms very seriously, and within three weeks I was recovering from a laparascopy during which they removed endometriosis. Then I began seeing a naturopathic doctor to continue my health journey – as I expected, we began to uncover much more. You see, for some reason, I was struggling with things like acne, daily painful bloating, stomach issues, back pain, random nausea, and continued severe menstrual pain even post-surgery. Much of this was all relatively new to me (who starts getting acne at age 25?!). Why now? And how come?
I’ve worked arduously to improve my condition, to eradicate these frustrating symptoms, and to reach a state of healing. While I had always been a healthy person by normal standards, I’ve done Whole 30’s, gone strictly paleo, and in the past six months been practically AIP (which basically means you never want to invite me over for dinner because it’s a burden on both you and me). I’ve swapped out pretty much any product in our home for a purely natural & organic substitute. I’ve strained the budget more than you can imagine trying to eat high quality food, while also eating substantial portions (it’s an effort to NOT lose weight). We’ve sacrificed a great deal in our life so that I can do acupuncture, take [the most expensive] supplements, do doctor-advised detoxes, and try out other occasional, but seemingly necessary, ventures.
And yet here I am. I am doing as much as I think I can do. And for the past month, an unwelcome friend came back to visit me. One that I have not had to really deal with since October 2014 when I gave up cow milk. It’s a golf-ball sized lump underneath the skin on my chin. The kicker is that unless the swelling really goes wild (which isn’t that often), nobody notices except me. But the discomfort, the pain, the inability to smile, the exhaustion of a long conversation, the difficulty with brushing my teeth or washing my face – it’s as frustrating as a mild health issue can be. I’ve experienced terrible illnesses & conditions in my life (besides the chronic pain with endometriosis, esophagitis takes the cake for the worst), but this one just seems to come with no explanation, interfering with my life in all the right ways. Why has it come back? After I finally felt like I was making some substantial progress all around? I have no idea. But maybe, just maybe, it’s something God allows me to experience, as Paul so beautifully states in 2 Corinthians, to keep me from being too elated. To rely on Him more than my own efforts. To recognize that I can do everything & anything, but He is healer, savior, & redeemer.
While I’ve learned so much over the past two years, I have come to accept that I may never know the source of all of these ailments. I can work towards healing, but even when I attain the type of health I am seeking, we still may not be given a child (which is what so much of this has been for). Some days, I wake up and want to cry because I can feel the lump or the pelvic pain. But I don’t tend towards tears, or even mentioning it to Kevin every five seconds (which used to be the case). I don’t love these scenarios either, but at some point I need to accept that God’s grace is sufficient. Even when my face is in pain, or my period comes like a freight train, or when we have to buy baby shower gifts for another couple who accidentally got pregnant. These thorns in my side at least serve to help me turn towards my Creator and to appeal to Him as Paul did. Because, let’s be real, if all of this were to go away instantly, I think there’s a big part of me that would credit myself for all of my hard work. I’d thank God, but maybe only in that formal way that I know I’m supposed to.
So while I wait (and work for) my thorns to be removed, I pray that God fortifies me in Him. That the power of Christ may dwell more in me & my weakness. That He would use my small suffering in a fruitful way. For all of this, I truly praise Him!