It Is Well
It’s like a seesaw. That’s always my answer when they ask me, “What’s it like?” There are ups and downs, and no shortage of highs and lows. My health and so much of my life mirrors a giant, unpredictable pendulum that’s wildly out of my control. But through the ups and downs, and amidst the swinging extremes, I’ve learned the simplest peace of this: “it is well.”
Twelve years. That’s how long I’ve been sick and in pain every minute of every day. That’s how long I’ve struggled through doctor appointments, specialists, tests, trying different medicines and treatments, left with no answers or medical hope for my situation to ever change. After twelve years I’m no stranger to ups and downs in my body, my emotions, and even my faith.
My physical seesaw began right as I was starting high school. I started having pain in my hips that limited me physically. My doctor assured me that, with rest and Ibuprofen, I’d be back to my normal self soon. But I wasn’t. Within the span of the school year, the pain spread throughout all my major joints and muscles. For several years I tried different doctors and tests hoping to figure out the cause of this immense pain. The answer was always the same, “There’s nothing we can find, just rest.” After three and a half years I received a phone call that I had been praying for yet simultaneously dreading at the same time. My latest test results came back showing the presence of an autoimmune disease in my body. The pain I was experiencing wasn’t just in my head. It was being caused by my own body attacking itself. It was a mix of emotions as this discovery finally meant validation and hopefully would give some direction as how to treat my pain. Yet at the same time, the finding also robbed me of the hope that one day whatever was causing me to hurt would be gone and I would be pain-free again. Seesaw up, seesaw down.
Emotionally, the years of living in constant pain had left me tired, drained, and hopeless. My outlook on life was negative. I was mad and frustrated. Mad that it happened to me, someone who had always followed the rules. Frustrated that no one could understand the battle and suffering I was enduring or even seem to care. I began to view the world and those around me through lenses of jealousy and bitterness. Each day I was throwing the pity party of the year for myself, and I was shocked when no one else wanted to attend. One day a friend pointed out to me how much I was complaining about my pain. In that moment I swung my emotional pendulum from one extreme to the other and decided I was going to just keep it all to myself. I bottled up all my feelings inside which in turn only made things worse. I felt like such a fake because on the outside I was projecting that everything was okay, but deep inside I was miserable. Pendulum left, pendulum right.
Even my soul hasn’t been immune to the ups and downs. My life changed forever five years ago when I decided to commit my life to my faith in Jesus. Surrendering my life over to God filled me with a sustaining peace unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I wish I could say that in that moment my pain disappeared forever, but life is messy and that’s not my story. For several years I struggled with how my faith and my sickness could coexist. How was I supposed to maintain this hope I had found when all of my external surroundings were telling me otherwise? I thought things would be different now that I was a Christian. I trusted and believed God could do what doctors said was impossible and heal me. But nothing changed. I gave up and just accepted that I was going to be in pain for the rest of my life.
It was through that rollercoaster ride of trying to process acceptance of my disease that I started to take a deep look inward. I realized that while I had placed some of my hope in God, I also had a lot of hope invested in the state of my health. So much of my hope was invested in something that was completely unstable and constantly changing. I was basing hope on a seesaw that changed within minutes without warning. For me, I needed something solid to base my hope in. Something I could always count on that would never change. Instead of turning my hope towards things that were constantly shifting, I began to fully turn my hope towards heaven. As a Christian, I believe in the promise of heaven. I believe that, because of Jesus, I can look forward to the promise of eternal life, free of tears and pain and sickness. I can confidently say that today, this is in whom I’ve wholly placed my hope.
The seesaw hasn’t changed; my chronic pain is a constant battle of ups and downs. I have good pain days and bad pain days. Sometimes it seems like the bad pain days will never end. When I’m in the middle of a long, painful flare it can get really overwhelming, and it’s hard to think that this is something I have to live with for the rest of my life. It seems impossible. That’s when I turn my focus to Jesus and to the promise of the healing that will come one day in heaven. This focus has helped me to make peace with my disease. The ups and downs remain, but so does that ever-sustaining peace.
I still wonder “Why?” Why me? Why doesn’t God heal me? I don’t know the answers right now. What I do know is that God has a plan for my life. I may spend the rest of my time here on Earth in pain, but I believe I will spend eternity in heaven free of disease and pain. Because I have shifted my hope to heaven, I’m at peace with whatever may happen here.
I still struggle everyday with wanting my pain to be gone. I struggle with wanting to be “normal” and be able to live and enjoy my life like every other average late twenty-something. Each day I miss the way my life used to be and I grieve the plans I had made for my future before chronic pain entered into the equation. But I look to the future with hope. My life is still full, meaningful, and valuable with chronic pain. Adopting this new viewpoint has empowered me to live a life I’ve always dreamed of.
There’s an old hymn that says, “it is well with my soul.” Should I wake up tomorrow with my pain increased, it is well. Should I wake up and my pain be gone, it is well. Should my health continually get worse and worse until I lose it all, it is well.There’s no way for me to predict how my pain is going to affect me in the future, or to know where this seesaw, pendulum life will take me, so I choose to focus on what I do know and walk forward. What I know for certain is an eternity free of pain and disease awaits me in heaven. What I know will not shift in this seesaw life is this — God is for me and He is with me. He has promised healing and victory. God is my constant, and the peace that comes from having a personal relationship with him is sustaining. When I live my life in the mindset of “it is well,” the ever-shifting reality of life with chronic illness is far less unstable; my heart is anchored. I have no idea what the future holds for me and my health but whatever it is, it is well. There is peace, there is an unwavering hope throughout the ups and downs, and there is a constant for my soul. It is well.
Written by: Laina Matocha
You might already know that Laina is one of the courageous FIbro-Warriors in our Tribe, but would you have guessed that this girl considers “any form of potato” to be one of her fave foods? Us either. You also might be interested to learn that Laina’s a bit of a thrill-seeker (read also: bucket list includes cage diving with sharks), her guilty pleasure TV show is 90 Day Fiancé, her happy place is Paris, and yes, we’re spilling the beans that her secret talent is that she can lick her elbow. But let’s get serious, this girl has a major heart for anti-human trafficking. And somehow her heart for justice and advocacy that cares so deeply for the oppressed outshines all of her sweet, relatable quirks. She can kick it with us any day.
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