Chronic Pain and the Fullness of Joy

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Blessed. Outstanding. Wonderful. Very fine.

Before July 2013, this is how I would answer the question, “How are you?” I’m known for being an extremely upbeat, chipper, enthusiastic person.

Now, however, I usually answer the question by saying, “I’m OK.” That’s a standard answer for someone dealing with ongoing health struggles and chronic pain.

Over the last three years I’ve experienced pain every day. Pain that makes it difficult to sit, to stand, to walk. Pain that challenges my ability to concentrate, engage in the things I love, and limits my ability to serve others. Pain that has disrupted my marriage, my social life, and my work.

Throughout my health journey, I’ve seen:

  • A primary care physician
  • Six female health physicians
  • A gastrointestinal specialist
  • A natural path
  • A holistic healing counselor
  • A physical therapist
  • An acupuncturist
  • A chiropractor
  • A massage therapist
  • A nutritionist
  • A mental health counselor
  • And a specialist from the Mayo Clinic.

I wanted to see anyone, anywhere who could possibly help get me out of pain.

Pain isolates you. Pain depresses you. Pain plays tricks on you.

“But Leslie, you look fine. You’re always so smiley.” Well, yes, because you do what you have to do to make it through the day. But those closest to me know that my personality is a bit flat, especially when I’m having a challenging day with pain.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to qualify for an FMLA medical leave of absence from work. My hope was that I would reach healing or receive relief from pain by the end of my leave. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. There were many days during my leave that I would lay in bed and cry out to God, “Please, Lord, please heal me.” I’d done all the right things medically, all the right things spiritually, and all the right things emotionally. I was desperate for a healing touch from the Lord.

I vividly remember crying out to God one morning and hearing the Lord ask me, “Leslie, if I never heal you, am I still enough?”

Am I still enough? Lord, what are you talking about? You have to heal me. I refuse to live like this. I’d rather die than spend the rest of my life in pain like this.

The Lord replied, “Leslie, am I still enough?”

I took a deep breath, thought for a moment, and replied. “Yes, Lord. Even if you never heal me, you are still enough.”

Shortly after this encounter with God I asked God to give me a word for my journey of pain. God gave me the word JOY. Yes, JOY. Are you kidding me? The pain I was experiencing was anything but joyful, but JOY was the word God gave. I asked God for a verse to cling to in this season and he gave me Psalm 16:7, “For in your presence there is fullness of joy.” This has been my theme verse for more than a year.

So, will my pain decrease? I hope so. Will God bring me complete healing? I pray so. But counting on deliverance isn’t my source of joy. Resting in his presence is my source of joy.

What is a current struggle in your life—one in which you need the fullness of joy? How are you pursuing God’s presence to receive this joy? What steps do you need to take to walk in the joy that God provides?

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  • Disability Concerns > Attitudes > Physical Disabilities
  • Blog
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  Dear Sister in the Lord, you MAY experience healing without being cured, and I imagine that it's a cure you're looking for.  I pray that God will cure you, but even more that He will heal you.

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As someone diagnosed with MS and unable to continue working, I too have had to find joy and contentment in the midst of suffering. For me it was Eph 2:10, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.". I realized that God knew I would need hours of rest, that I would be unable to work and that he still had a plan for me to serve him. I learned and still am learning the joy of being rather than doing, the joy of being in God's presence and the joy of prayer. God has brought healing that has primarily been emotional and spiritual. I have found new purpose in life and a new way of living that I never would have found had I been healthy and working full time. As much as I wish I didn't have MS, I don't know that I would trade where I am now with God and with myself either. God is good and he is faithful.

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