Over the past year, I've experienced intermittent pain in my arms and hands. Sometimes it has been so bad that I can't write or type. Sometimes it's been almost non-existant. During the time we were in Canada, I was unable to get a proper diagnosis, though physiotherapy seemed to help.
I decided to try Japanese physiotherapy, which Peter extols as much more effective than the Canadian version. Off I went to the orthopaedic surgeon for a physio prescription—you can see one in Japan with minimal waiting, and no appointment! After an assessment and a few x-rays he was able to tell me exactly what was wrong. It turns out that I have "thoracic outlet syndrome”. Essentially, because of some peculiarities in the bone structure of my neck, the nerves going to my hands and arms get stretched, irritated and inflamed. Strong muscles in my upper back can help reduce symptoms; and the prescribed physiotherapy is working well.
As the reality of yet another ongoing struggle with physical limitations sinks in, God has once more opened my heart and mind to see a little more of what He is doing. Today I would like to share this with you.
Journal entry: June 29, 2017
I would be quite content to live a small life—a life that intersected with a few people, that went deep with a few people. But every time I start to get comfortable in the smallness, in a level of mediocrity, God sends in some pain. At times it's intense and unrelenting. At others, it is mostly dormant, though constant pain exists as a strong possibility in the event that I am not careful.
Whatever the type, pain makes me discontent with the way life is. It makes me more dependent on God. It expands my view of God, and reminds me of His largeness. It reminds me that He is the Worker of Miracles. And once again I shed my smallness and embrace the largeness of God.
And I'm just starting to realize—the awareness has been prickling around the edges of my consciousness for a while now—that God does not desire the same small life for me that I have been content with for myself. Pain is His way of showing me this. Of waking me up from my stupor. Of fanning my faith into flame again.
And I realize that I prayed for this. I felt myself slipping into mediocrity again, and asked God to stoke the flame of my faith. This is His answer. *
A year ago, in my devotional time, God told me that pain would always be a part of my life. There may be the odd period of respite, but it would always come back. Peter and I talked about this afterwards. It was hard not to be greatly discouraged. “Why can't I just be free of it?” I moaned.
But now I know why. Now it makes sense. I see the wisdom of it, and now I look to that pain-filled future with hope. **
I know it will not be easy. I know there will be days when I'm so tired of being in pain that I may wish for death.
But I also know that my Father has heard my request, and is granting it. This may not be in the way I wanted, but it is in the way that’s best. And I trust Him. He knows my weaknesses and limitations. He will always have His eye on me, to draw me out of the fire when needed. As I close my eyes to thank Him for His grace to me, I'm overwhelmed with a sense of His love, and the tender promise of spiritual intimacy. I open my eyes and smile.
* Pain is not to be idolized. Pain does not mean I am more godly. Quite the opposite. I am so ungodly that I need pain to spur me on in seeking God.
** This does not mean that I don't pray for healing for relief from pain. But it does mean that I am content with what God gives me.