For the last five years, I’ve experienced debilitating pain. Chronic diseases and disorders are chronic in that way. Never ceasing.
On July 18th, 2023, I was officially diagnosed with Stage 2 Endometriosis. I praise God that by His strength, everything went well. The entire medical staff was kind, patient, and Godly. Most certainly worth the three-hour drive from our home. But more than that, I praise Him for answers. For the last five years, I’ve experienced debilitating pain. Chronic diseases and disorders are chronic in that way. Never ceasing. Shortly after my first diagnosis, I began suffering from distressing anxiety, depression, and fatigue. I have always suffered from anxiety, but when it became paralyzing, I started seeing a counselor (the same one now I see five years later) for my mental health. While the anxiety and depression are still there, I’ve learned how to minimize their impact on my everyday life. Next, I was diagnosed with subclinical hypothyroidism. I was in denial that my body was shutting down. So as my pain increased, my nerves hit a high point. In a vicious cycle, some days are better than others. To say I’m worn and exhausted doesn’t even scratch the surface.
Before the pain began in 2019, I was a strong, happy, and active young adult. I’d like to think I’m still those things. Yet chronic pain has a way of seeping through the cracks. It makes us feel incapable, paralyzed, and defeated. It makes us feel weak. And that’s one of the biggest demons I’ve faced over the past few years. In Aundi Kolber’s book Try Softer, she explains sometimes the best thing we can do is try softer. This doesn’t mean we avoid productivity or ignore setting up boundaries and authority with others. But it does implicate not being too hard on ourselves. Psalm 127:2 supports this point well:
“It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones” (Psalms 127:2, NLT).
Beginning with Less
Today, I feel a slew of emotions. Getting married on July 3rd,2023, and embracing all the changes has been incredibly overwhelming, to say the least. My husband and I’s honeymoon was beautiful, and I’m so thankful. But this new life has already become challenging in many ways. I questioned the need for surgery to relieve the pain, believing if I just worked hard enough, the pain might go away. I couldn’t shake the thought that perhaps somehow and someway, all my disorders were my fault. But as the Doctor took me back to surgery for endometriosis to be confirmed, I felt validated. She saw my pain and cared. She didn’t compare it to anyone else’s pain but reminded me that my journey would most likely look really different than everyone else’s.
Getting Formally Diagnosed
The formal diagnosis I received after surgery, however, made the biggest difference. On one hand, I’m happy to know the cause of my chronic pain and come up with a plan for recovery and healing. Yet, I’m mourning the need for this first surgery and fearing the next. Up until my diagnostic surgery, I was determined to try harder. The more pain I experienced, the weaker I grew—physically and mentally. Instead of investigating the pain, I began to ignore it. The longer we suppress pain, the deeper it grows. Letting go of the white-knuckling control to be perfect, work harder, do more, and be more, has made all the difference. But it begins with less and not more.
The Reason for Pain
Most people don’t enjoy pain. Chronic conditions may eventually heal and dissipate, but that isn’t always the case. Often, those who suffer are exasperated and weak before they show any signs of improvement. As I walked out of the surgery center with my husband and mom, I felt incredibly weak: physically, emotionally, and mentally. Pain medication doesn’t numb the life you’ve lived, trying, working hard, never taking breaks. But it does remind us of our spiritual need for someone greater than ourselves.
My Healing Journey
Pain is inevitable. It brings weakness and fatigue. Frustration and tears. But it’s something we cannot ignore, and God cares about dearly. In an odd and crumbling world, sometimes, pain makes us strong. Not because we physically or mentally feel that strength but because it reminds us of our need for someone beyond ourselves. When we’re weak, He’s strong. When we can’t see the end, we can rest knowing He’s already there.
And perhaps without the pain, we wouldn’t realize two things:
- Our need for Him.
- Our fragile and temporary fallenness as we walk this road waiting for His arrival home.
Give Yourself Permission
As we give ourselves permission to just be, we become more of who Christ created us to be. Not only are we more aware of His presence, but over time, we learn to see strength. We may feel weak now, but He’s the one who calls us strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). The journey to healing is sometimes longsuffering and not fully completed in this heart, but in heaven. God is with me …and will be with you every step of the way. Pain and weakness allow divine opportunities for God’s power and presence to intervene. He doesn’t want to see us in pain but turn it for our good and His glory.
Allow Your Pain to Help Others
If I had a magic pill to swallow that made all my pain dissipate, would I take it? Would you? What would it be like to never feel pain, weakness, or sickness again? I am confident if I help just one person by going through what I have and will continue to, then that’s made all the difference.
You Don’t Have to Try So Hard
Jesus took pain upon Himself for you and me. Surely, He cares about what we are experiencing. But know this: He wants you to remember that in Him and with Him, you can do anything. Without Him, you can do nothing. He’s incredibly proud of your resilience, hard work, and growth. But He’s not asking you to do or be more, and pain is just one example of that. So here I am, heading back from my diagnostic surgery, not knowing what awaits me. And that’s okay. I feel weak and worn, tired of more pain I know will eventually penetrate my body and soul. But for now, I’m holding onto hope.
Be Strong through What You Face
Getting the surgery done wasn’t what I wanted. Especially as a newlywed of less than two weeks. But sometimes, we must be willing to do the things that cause temporary pain so that in the long run, we will be stronger and better, even if we’re still suffering.
Your Pain Is Valid
Your pain is valid. With or without diagnoses. And though I know you feel weak now, know you’re so incredibly strong. Strong to pursue answers amid the unknown, and strong to keep putting one foot in front of the other that you often can’t see.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Lazy_Bear
Amber Ginter is a teacher, author, blogger, and mental health activist who resides in the beautiful mountains and cornfields of Ohio. She loves Jesus, granola, singing, reading, dancing, running, her husband Ben, and participating in all things active. She’s currently enrolled in the Author Conservatory Program and plans to pitch her book: Mental Health and the Modern Day Church for Young Adults, soon. Visit her website at amberginter.com.
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