The site of the brick Pain Clinic building causes my stomach to turn. I’ve been a patient in this place for years and while the people inside are kind and lovely, my reasons for coming to this venue do not bring joy. I suppose folks who receive chemo, radiation, addiction treatments or any other type of regular health supporting care may also feel the same way about their place of treatment. I think my mom felt the same way about her visits to Dana Farber but she never really spoke about it. Instead, she put on a brave face, reminded herself that God had her in the palm of his hand and stepped out with confidence. I wish I could be more like her.
I didn’t intend to write about today’s treatment but something happened on the drive home as I gazed out at the beauty of the late summer landscape going by. I think I heard God say, “it’s okay not to have a positive/joyful spin on everything, all the time.” So here I am – writing to you on an overcast, rainy New England day with the message that sometimes, it’s okay to struggle. We all struggle. In fact, even Jesus – divine in nature – struggled. He wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. And, he was deeply troubled in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before he died, even asking God to allow the cup of suffering to pass by him – if that was God’s will.
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”Matthew 26:37 – 39
As I think about the past many years of my back journey, surgeries, and injections, I realize that the struggle has given me an opportunity to reflect on the life I am living right now. In the midst of the pain and uncertainty of daily life, I am often reminded of the greatness of God and the reality that his plans are much better than my own. Sometimes it does not happen when I think I need it, but it does happen when it makes a lasting impact. The struggle has helped me to surrender my “so called plans” allowing God a chance to purify my soul. God then shows me the things in life that are not good for me, that are not from him, and encourages me to turn away from them. If everything in life were perfect and struggle-free, perhaps I would not find time to listen for his voice in this regard. The struggle has allowed me to develop ears of faith to listen to the ways God is calling me to live each day.
Of course I reflect on my mom and the way she handled her pain so gracefully. Always a lady, she dressed up for her chemo and radiation treatments and didn’t let the “evil” of cancer steal her peace. I am sure she struggled, like me, but I suppose she found a way to give thanks for something small amidst the pain which ultimately illuminated her weary soul thus drawing others closer to the love of God.
Perhaps God is inviting me to encourage all those who are in pain today. I think he wants me to deliver the message that we should not give up. He is there in the midst of our struggles, walking with us – drawing us into a closer relationship with him. God knows your pain and he already knows what he will do for you. Pray, trust and have peace. But remember, it’s okay to struggle.