I remember the moment the doctors told me they couldn’t find anything wrong with me after days of searching and praying for answers. The doctor gave me no direction for moving forward, simply told me that the test results were negative and to come back in a month for my scheduled, yearly appointment to talk to my regular doctor then. I attempted to keep the rising anxiety from spilling out of my eyes, but my voice, strangled by the lump in my throat, betrayed me. The doctor recited some well-worn platitudes before quickly exiting. Ryan, who had been sitting in the room with me flipping through some magazines, rushed to my side and held me tight as I dissolved into tears.
These words replayed over and over in my head as I leaned my head against the cool window of my car, staring blankly at the gray sky as Ryan drove me home and settled me back home on the couch. While the intense pain of the past two days had subsided to more of an annoying, dull twinge, my heart throbbed with the emotional toll that this whole experience as test after test could not find answers and the doctors seemed to be at a loss.
“Don’t you think you’ve given me enough?”
I found myself mired in self-pity as I contemplated all of the struggles God had given me. Bouts of anxiety and depression. Chronic pain and nausea. Food sensitivities. Hormone imbalances. Tendonitis. Infertility. I found myself angrily relating all of these things to God and wondering why He couldn’t just have spread out the trials a little more evenly among all His children. I felt bitterness burning like acid in my mouth as I popped an anti-nausea pill and cradled a heating pad in my arms, wishing that I could eat pizza without feeling like I’m being stabbed or that I could just decide I wanted to have a baby and a couple months later, announce it on Facebook in some cute, corny way that gets hundreds of likes.
My frustration sought an outlet, but it’s hard to express these thoughts and feelings to other people. After all, who really wants to be the person who awkwardly talks about their malfunctioning body when someone just wants to know if you are having kids or the person who says, “My insides are trying to claw out of my body,” when they expected a simple, “I’m doing fine” to their polite question? In fact, as I express these vulnerable feelings, I really just want to delete this whole post because I’m afraid I’m going to get more generic advice, uncomfortable pity, and prying questions that I’m not sure I’m quite ready for as of yet.
But these feelings refused to stay bottled up forever, and they often found release in the most unchristian ways, usually at the expense of my poor husband. I’d later confess these sins to him and to God, but the envy, the bitterness, the anger, and the pain still festered under the surface.
Recently, I started listening to a free audiobook on Hoopla written by one of my favorite Christian music artists Laura Story called “When God Doesn’t Fix It,” about her own story through her husband’s brain tumor diagnosis and subsequent injury with far-reaching effects that still plague him to this day, their struggles with infertility, and other trials that they’ve encountered along the way. There were so many times where she voiced exactly the angry words I had whispered in my prayers, the doubts that I had only thought during a sleepless night kept awake because of severe nausea, or the fears that I had cried about with Ryan as I tried to make sense of all the things God has been doing in my life. While some of her prayers were eventually answered, other trials still continue for Laura and her husband Martin, and they had the choice of either turning from God or trying to make sense of what God had been teaching them.
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Her words struck a chord with me. Like Laura, I believed that my sins had brought this pain upon me. I believed that because my faith wasn’t strong enough that I hadn’t been healed or had a baby. I believed that if I tried really hard to be good and do all the right Christian things that God would answer my prayers and fix everything. I believed that God was keeping me from happiness because He hadn’t given me good health or children. I would never have voiced these beliefs, but in my way of thinking, it made sense. It was how I would do things if I were God, right?
Laura’s reminders, grounded in Scripture, reminded me that God doesn’t promise an easy life full of the things that I think will make me happy. God does promise grace and love, and He also promises suffering for those who follow after Him. (1 Peter 4:12-19) He isn’t sadistic, but He knows that sometimes trials and pain drive us to depend on Him and know Him better, and His goal is to sanctify our hearts and make us holy like Jesus. (Romans 8:29) He has told me no – at least for now – on my dreams of having a child and my hope to be pain-free and have a normal body. But those negative answers don’t mean that He doesn’t love me or isn’t powerful enough to fix it, but what it does means is that He desires for me to trust Him and to use these trials to bring glory to His name. He wants me to find true contentment in Him, not in the family I desire or the body I think would be perfect because only He can bring true happiness.
I remember the first time I heard Laura Story’s song “Blessing.” It pierced my heart, because I never really considered the idea that God was allowing me to go through trials and suffering because He loved me way too much. I still struggle with this truth, but time and time again, Scripture reaffirms these verses and somehow, I find hope in my Savior and believe that whatever plans He does have for my life will shine brighter than the pale dreams that I so carefully mapped out.
“Blessings” by Laura Story
We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things.
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?
We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough.
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe.
When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home.
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?