Few people in my life have known that I have dealt with chronic sciatic pain since I was 15 years old, but today I want to write about it because God has revealed so much to me in the past 24 hours I feel compelled to share. When I was in early high school I started dealing with lower back pain which in turn was sending shooting pain and numbness down my left leg. I would soon learn all about the sciatic nerve, sciatica, and spondylolisthesis (don’t worry I still don’t even know if I spell or say it right!). It’s been a figurative and literal “thorn in my side” ever since.

For someone who has never been in chronic pain it is really hard to explain how tiring it can be.  And to be honest my memory cannot recall how a pain free day feels. I cannot tell you how much I look to the day in heaven where pain and suffering cease! Don’t get me wrong, most of my days are actually good days, but there are those days where I’m done. Tired. Annoyed. Worn Out. Done. Crying because I know that it won’t be until heaven when my body feels whole again.

Staying active is a life saver, and without it I cannot imagine how much more pain I would feel. Strengthening my core and working on flexibility are two key factors that reduce and relieve my pain. Sometimes I feel I have to work twice as hard at it than other people just to be at the baseline ‘normal’ and it leaves me frustrated. There are days that I don’t do the things I know I should because I am too tired or to lazy, and later reap the consequences. But each day is a choice. I can choose to fight the pain or succumb to it.

Two nights ago I had a dream and when I woke up some things were made really clear to me. Without going into too much detail I was suddenly aware of the strength of my core. Physically, God pointed out the strength I posses in my abs due to years of having to continually work these muscles for stabilization of my back. I felt compelled to get up and look in the mirror.  I stood there studying my body. I could see the definitions of the muscles and I could envision the protection they were providing my spine. It was at that moment God said, “This is what pain does… it strengthens“. For years I have been strengthening my core to lessen the pain. For years I have found ways of positioning my body to help reduce the ache. For years I have stretched and worked on improving my flexibility, knowing flexibility means liberation. And God finally opened my eyes to the parallel this has taken in my spiritual life. Situations, experiences, and pains have caused me to run to God and strengthen myself in Him. I have found there are just certain positions in life that I cannot be in without it causing extreme pain. Flexibility has not only improved my ability to function but has brought freedom to my soul. He has shaped and strengthen the core of who I am in order to lessen the pain.

It has caused me to reflect a lot in the last 24 hours asking God to reveal exactly how He has designed my core.  What are the strengths He has and is continually developing in me? It actually amazes me that He has used physical pain to improve my quality of life! I would not be as strong, as active, as healthy as I am today if I didn’t HAVE to be in order to alleviate pain. It has caused me to rethink and reevaluate the pains of life, and truly be thankful that it was the very ache of hurtful situations that have caused great strength in the Lord. Reading the words of Paul make more sense today than they ever have before…

1 Corinthians 12: 7-10 “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I hope you are encouraged to look on the pain in your life as something that bring you closer to Christ. That you will not feel hurt or abandoned or angry with God, but that you would feel His indescribable comfort and strength. Today I truly rejoice in my pain, knowing deeper the love of Christ than I ever could have without it.