Physical ailments manifest themselves differently. People who outwardly appear fit as a fiddle can return from the doctor’s office with paperwork for heart surgery or a scheduled regiment of chemo treatments. Many diseases have earned the term “silent killer” because no visible signs accompany the inward destruction taking place.
We recognize, and sometimes even stare, when pain and suffering carry obvious signs, like my wheelchair. Some folks, not quite knowing how to handle handicaps, will talk louder when they speak to someone in a wheelchair!
As a post-polio survivor, I worked for years to look normal. I will now admit that I fought even getting a handicapped car tag for years. I argued with Dave that I really didn’t need it like others did. I could, after all, get around. But while I have acquiesced to the car tag, I still don’t like my cane, battery-operated scooter, wheelchair, medications, and pain. I can still wear a mask and recite the mantra, “I’m fine,” even when I struggle. Prior to back surgery in 2007, I told one orthopedic surgeon that my pain level was a 6 out of 10. Dave cast an earnest look at the doctor and told him I must really be hurting since he’d never heard me say any number higher than 4. Why minimize the degree of pain? Why the facade? I think it gets monotonous to talk about personal ailments, especially when they continue over years. Usually only my husband has an accurate grasp of my pain levels, and sometimes, when I want him as my husband and not just my care giver, I hide my pain levels from even him.
So I often take my pains and questions back to the Bible for deeper understanding about what God’s goals are for my suffering. I begin by affirming Him as good, loving, kind — and sovereign over the process of my sanctification. He alone knows what will conform me to the image of His Son. Are there days when I pray that His plan means more strength instead of diminishing muscle tone or less stabbing pain? Absolutely! Didn’t Jesus, as He knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane, ask the Father if there were a plan B. if there might not be a way around the cross? He asked if this cup might not pass from Him, but He agreed to follow the Father’s will. He got up, noticed his still-sleeping disciples, received a kiss of betrayal from the three-year treasurer of the disciples, faced ridicule, witnessed abandonment from His other followers, endured bogus trials, survived flogging and died via crucifixion. I do not merely recite Jesus’ last days as a litany; I camp out mentally on all my Savior did for me. I face His sacrifice, His life lived for me. He knows my every thought, so with Him, I uncover the bone-weary discouragement that threatens to swamp me on some days. On those days, when I pull off my mask and simply ask Him to sustain me through the current wave of pain or lack of ability to perform some basic task, I know Him best.