Affirming Life or Embracing Death?

One impetus for writing here was driven by my desire to see some positive success stories of overcoming pain on the net. From the time my struggle began, I would constantly look to the internet for answers concerning my condition, treatments, doctors and particularly a community of people who are dealing with the same issues. I desired to see how others where coping with the day to day struggles of pain.

I found myself reading message boards and read extensively about people in pain wanting to know what medicines worked for others, what types of doctors they are seeing, what treatments have they tried, and how they dealt with others opinions about them. It became quickly apparent that the people who are drawn to these sites are hurting emotionally and physically and in many cases overwhelmed with fear concerning their current condition and what that may mean for the future. The community was abundant with solutions of doctors, medicines, treatments, but yet the solution providers were still on these boards in pain living a life that looked very much like their past with not much hope for the future.

I cannot remember reading one story of someone who overcame their condition, and I came to realize that those who had must be out there living their lives. Keep in mind that this realization only materialized after my own situation had been redeemed, and I too was beginning to live my life again. So, I began to search the net again for the success stories of those who had overcome pain because again I wanted to know what was working for them.  My search came up empty.

So where are the people like me? Well, good question. Most people who experience short term pain find a solution and are able to move on. Chronic pain is a funny animal. Someone once asked me how to describe my pain and I personified it as a thief. Pain steals our time, thoughts, hopes, dreams, ambition, and our ability to be outward focused. The latter is the most detrimental to the mind, and soul. It robs us of the ability to love others and see ourselves as part of the body.  It can steal the perception of our self worth and our necessity in others lives.  Pain causes all of us to turn inward and to sometimes be overwhelmed by the selfish focus it draws.

So what does this look like? I talked previously about the choice to wallow in my pain or get out and live life in spite of it.  For those who become overwhelmed by pain, physical or emotional, it often causes us/me to withdraw into myself and deeper into my thoughts.  Often this only increased the pain and sorrow as I dwelt on it and forgot that hope lay out before me.  It would keep me from being vulnerable enough to reach out to those who love me and would gladly help carry the burden if I let them.

For a long time I’ve been caught up in my own thoughts and life… only thinking of myself and how to manage the day to day, and to be honest longing for heaven for I know I am glorified there both body and soul.  Pain, sorrow, tragedy can all disable our ability to see the grand scheme of things, but because we have been redeemed, we are called to sanctify this life.

I imagine the people like me who have found a solution for their chronic pain are still in pain and sanctification is a process. It takes time. Hopefully they are working their solution. Writing here is part of my solution. It is cathartic and painful and hopeful.  So this is me trying to work my own process. My attempt at being vulnerable and honest enough that some who are looking for a positive example of how pain can be overcome through community and faith can find community here. This is my prayer.

I have been working on my family’s story of an almost 10 year struggle, but again it is painful and exhausting to remember and put into words.

Thanks for all of the encouraging comments.  They help draw me out of myself to think about how many others are out there living this struggle searching for answers, and remind me of the bigger picture. I still long for heaven but can choose to affirm this life instead of embracing death.

Until next time.

5 thoughts on “Affirming Life or Embracing Death?

  1. Hi Mike!!!! I have just started reading your blog this week. I had no idea that you have been going through this horrible ordeal for the last ten years. I am in awe of your faith and determination to live your life to the fullest. I just wanted you to know that I will keep you and your precious family in my thoughts and prayers, friend!!!!

  2. Not that I’ve ever been good about keeping in touch . . . BUT, years ago when I was a LITTLE better about it, I was always at a loss for how to try to encourage you. You’ve mentioned your searches on websites for persevering with chronic conditions. . . maybe some of these instances in Scripture will be an encouragement. Some are of a physical nature; others are not.

    Even with all his power, Elijah’s task was too great. In fact, an angel appeared to him (a second time) to tell him that his journey was too much to bear (I Kings 19:7). Paul, the great apostle, wrote to the people in Corinth about his trials that he was “burdened beyond measure . . . so that [I] despaired even of life” (II Corinthians 1:8). David, described as a man after God’s own heart, cries out that “troubles without number surround me” and “I cannot see.” When confronted by an overwhelming enemy, Jehoshaphat laments, “We do not know what to do” (Chronicles 20:12).

    The beauty of their story—as it is for yours—is that it doesn’t end there in hopelessness. In the II Corinthians passage referenced above, Paul goes on to say in the next verse that these things happen so that “we should not trust in ourselves, but in God.” Peter Leithart preached a sermon while in town last year reminding us of this. God cuts us to the very core so that He can use us to accomplish something great. In Jeremiah 29:11, we read, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” And, again, in the first chapter of James, “My Brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

    I’ve always admired you for your quiet, patient endurance of this trial that God has set before you. It’s been a blessing to me to see others already commenting how your life (and this young blog) has been an encouragement to them. I look forward to seeing How God will bless you and others through you.

    Love,
    Karl

    • Karl,
      I can always count on you to turn my eyes to the gospel and am thankful for your friendship.

      I have often wondered what Paul’s thorn in his side was and I think my problem is in minimizing his struggle. I would think he must have struggled with something relatively “small” like occasionally cursing when he stubbed his toe. Certainly, he could not deal with something that made him question his faith, deep sorrow, or some debilitating disease. I know it is foolish thinking and thank you for the reminder.

      I am also encouraged by your own faithfulness through Mara’s scare this summer. I cannot imagine the fear one feels when your love is on the brink of death, and your words along with those of Mara’s family were amazingly fixed on our God.

      Don’t know how you found this but thanks for writing.

      Love you guys.

      Mike

  3. Mike, It is a miracle to have found your blog at this exact time. I was going down for the third time and read your two blogs every day – several times a day. I understand every black hole you describe; every option you have chosen and considered. I can only imagine how grueling it is for you to write this. I pray for you on this journey and hope and pray I will be allowed to travel alongside you back to a state of affirming life by way of faith and community. Please continue writing when you can. God bless you.

    • Lee,
      Thank you for your kind comments and prayers. I am glad you have found some help here as I see it as an answer to my own prayers of what writing about my own experience might do.

      My plan is to write something at least once a week so hope you will come back and contribute with your own thoughts and struggles as we all need somewhere to work through such tough issues.

      Take care,

      Mike

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