A person approaches. He has a cane and walks with a limp. Or maybe, it’s a lady in a wheelchair. Or possibly, there’s a grown child throwing a fit in the store aisle. One look at his distorted face tells you that he has a mental handicap. Your expectations in these situations is determined by what you see. You don’t know the people’s stories, but you do know that they need extra provisions and some extra grace. I’m not saying that these individuals have it easy. I’m just saying they have it “obvious.”
I’m slowly learning that everyone has a handicap, a weakness, something that makes living just a bit harder. However, not everyone has the “obvious” story. I’ve had thyroid issues from early teen years. It wasn’t too big of a deal back then. It wouldn’t rear its ugly head until many years later, in the form of thyroid cancer. So, it wasn’t until a couple of years after I was married that my “hidden” story began. Back pain – Everyone has it. Degenerative discs – It’s common after 40. Nerve pain – It just takes twisting the wrong way. So, when I tell you that is part of my story, you may shrug it off. What you don’t know is that at 23 years old, I had the back of a 65 year old. I don’t have the usual one or two degenerative discs, I have seven or eight in my back and neck. I have had one fusion in my neck, with more on the way. Nerve pain – Just the vibration of the steering wheel, while driving, can send my whole body into aching, shooting, stabbing pain. I have a four-inch three-ring binder that tells this story – filled with 20+ doctors, 16 years of treatments and medications (with resulting addictions), and unanswered questions – much better than I can.
Then, in my 30s, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Everyone has that too. However, if you understand the last part of my story, you might understand how this new diagnosis affects me on a different level. I bought my first cane about four years ago. I hate using it. I’m too young for that kind of “obvious.” I’ve spent months in bed. Get up in the morning, get the kids out the door to school, go back to bed…for the entire day. The 30+ symptoms that came along with this disease are not simple or easy: constant nausea, blurry vision, falling due to muscle/nerve weakness (7 times in just the past 5 months), constant pain, dizziness, weight gain and the list goes on. There are days when it just doesn’t seem worth it.
I’ve struggled with the pain of being told that I couldn’t have my own children – 7 years of aching and longing – of struggling with God. The heartbreak of surrender. Then, the miracle of 7 pregnancies. I have three amazing children on earth, and four that are with Jesus. Nothing is more painful than losing a child…Nothing. Nothing prepares you beforehand or truly restores you afterwards. The pain is real, but it’s not “obvious.” Sometimes, it only takes a single sentence from someone to send you reeling into self-pity, depression, or anger. Why must the hurt be so big, so very hard?
My oldest son is brilliant. He can tell you any fact about WWII in vivid detail. He knows every tank from every country on earth. He knows how fast they can go and what ammunition they carry. He can tell you about missiles, bombs, and bullets – things you didn’t even want to know. He is organized and obedient. He loves us so much that he has promised to live with us forever. I don’t doubt, for one second, that he probably will. He struggles to read, to spell, and to do simple math. He has to really concentrate to read a clock that isn’t digital. He doesn’t need scarcely any sleep. He cannot do change, noise, or germs. He can act out in violent anger or ridiculous absurdity at the drop of a hat. He has no filter. He says exactly what he thinks, the very moment he thinks it, to everyone in earshot. My son has Autism. It’s “hidden.” I’ve watched him try to hurt himself. I’ve watched him struggle through church services and other social events. I see him almost cringe with pain at chaotic noise or motion. His favorite place is home, sitting between his Dad and me, watching tv. I’ve learned not to condemn “that” lady in the store with the unruly 10 year old. “That” lady is me.
But then, in the midst of my story, God gives me an opportunity. He gives me a gift…the gift of a moment. A chance to reach into another person’s life and make it just a little more bearable. He gives me an occasion to touch the heart of another. To feel their hurt, their pain, their story – the “hidden” story. Why? Because I feel it. I experience it. I can empathize to a degree that another person cannot. He gives me a glimpse of what He must see. He has borne our sorrows. He has carried out burdens. Sometimes, He steps into the shoes of another person, and He touches our need.
This is where the joy comes in. The thankfulness. The peace. God doesn’t always choose to take away our pain. We live in a fallen world with fallen people and bodies that are wasting away. However, God does promise to give us joy – HE gives us joy. It is nothing that we can find or make for ourselves. It is simply the result of opening our heart and allowing God to fill it. We must just be willing. It seems impossible. It seems unreal. It seems supernatural. It is. God specializes in all of those things.
- YOU ARE HERE
Life is hard. Imagine that your life is represented by the above line. Imagine that it goes on for infinity. How many times do we get so wrapped up and swallowed by the events that occur within that one single dot, that we miss the whole picture? Our life on earth is a vapor. A moment. A single blink of an eye, in comparison with what is to come. Why don’t we live our dot for the rest of the line? Why don’t we use that dot to propel us into the reality of the future? We aren’t here for us. We are here to serve. We are here to minister. We are here to be Jesus to those around us. In this process, we find joy, gratefulness, and peace beyond anything we can imagine.
Look for the “hidden” story in others. Find joy in your own.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:8
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4