I've been thinking about your email, asking about the back pain and how that has been progressing in my day to day life, and I wanted to respond thoughtfully so I've been thinking about it all.
For me living a life of relative comfort with little occasional pain and no chronic issues has really been a blessed life. At least that's the way I have chosen to see it after seeing others struggle with so many different things. Pain has not been a part of my story so far, at least not until last summer. Then the pain came quick and sharp and I was mostly able to handle it. Throughout winter it did increase and it became more of a constant a companion, to the point where I was beginning to plan any long journeys with room to rest regularly, which seemed to be the only help. It was diagnosed as a herniated disk where the disk was pushing against a nerve going down into my left leg. This would cause my leg to quickly go numb and nerve pain to shoot throughout my lower back and legs. It was deteriorating to the point of causing spasms throughout my upper and lower body and this was a new kind of pain to deal with.
By late winter it was obvious that the trouble was intensifying and I was going to have to do something about it. The local doctor could offer only surgery, and the chiropractor could only offer limited help and the disk would have to respond appropriately, which is seemed not to be doing. I wasn't willing to concede failure yet and my options still seemed twofold. I was willing to explore some alternative methods to treatment, possibly a naturopath or acupuncture and I began to gather information on people who might offer these options in the area here, who also had good reputations and successful practices.
The other option I wanted to explore more deliberately was God's ability to heal it.
I had certainly been praying about the pain for the year, trying to discern if it was something that I should live into God's grace for, not unlike Paul who asked for healing but received grace and strength to live through it. I had gone through seasons of discernment with God to see if the pain might be due to choices of sin in my life, which can cause physical sickness and even death. I also sought to discern if it was simply a demonically caused thing which has occasionally caused me different pain before, but mostly easily dealt with. So I had been in conversation with God about the pain and some possible solutions to it.
The next step for me was to act in a more deliberate way. I really do hang on to James 5 where it asks; "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
I see it kind of like, it's our act of obedience to ask God for help in this most specific way, and it's up to Him to do what he will do. We try to be obedient to this scripture and faithful to God and sometimes we are healed by him and sometimes we are not. I don't always get why, but that's not my place. My place is to ask, in faith. So I started asking deliberately for prayer for my back and the pain it produced.
I had had a couple of opportunities to model this kind of prayer during the previous year here in the church so I felt like hey let's jump in and see where this goes. During a regular Spiritual Leadership or Deacon meeting I asked if they wouldn't mind anointing me with oil and praying for me about this ongoing trouble. Though I sensed a little awkwardness at first, they really rose to the occasion as God began to move in that time of prayer. It was good and freeing and my spirit was deeply effected both by God's work there in my body and by the love and gift these people gave me in their prayers.
I noticed that the pain and numbness was still there but I wasn't about to declare it a failure just yet. I left it alone and over the weeks began to notice that I was noticing it less and less. I would head to the mall with the family and walk and walk all day with less of the symptoms and much less of the pain. Walking upright and without ongoing debilitating pain was a treat and a constant reminder of love really. A few weeks back I woke to a good bit of pain and wondered if it was back, but it felt different and I remembered that the previous day I had spent in the garage lifting heavy boxes and moving things and cleaning the place out. It behaved like pain should behave after a day of that kind of effort, and by the next day the muscle pain was gone again.
So I am in a place of rejoicing that once again pain isn't setting the direction for my life and my choices. Part of me doesn't believe it and a part of me feels unworthy, but the biggest part of me feels loved and cared for and that God is in control of things. He could have given me grace to live with it every day, or some other ways to cope with life and pain, but for reasons that are his and his alone, this is where I am today.
Some people we pray for are healed of terminal cancer and of the flu and genetic liver diseases, while others we pray for are not. I can trust God with that, and I can trust him with my future and I can trust him to be a big enough God to make the right decisions and not just the ones I want. I like that my God is that big. But I also like that he invites me to ask and seek and knock in faith. That's an amazing thing I think, that he invites us to ask. So I always encourage people to ask, and to submit to others who will ask on their behalf. That is in itself an amazing thing how he makes the church need each other and rely on one another so that we can't even just ask on our own, but we need to submit to others who will carry us to the throne and ask on our behalf. It's very humbling. Thankfully He says he gives grace to the humble.
And so that's my updated story. Plans that Lauralea and I had put on hold we are talking about once again and exploring the possibilities of. I don't have to preplan my excursions any longer and we just live in a constant sense that God is providing for us daily.
And thank you for asking, and for loving enough to care. I know your struggle with pain is ongoing and I know that there are different ways God provides. So may your provision each day be enough for that day, and for the plans you still want to make for the coming days.
You take care too.