As many of you probably know, I have dealt with chronic lower back pain for four years. I have had a lower back fusion, gone through years of physical therapy, acupuncture, dry needling, injections, different rounds of medications, counseling and yet, back pain is still my reality every. single. day.
I have been prayed over countless times for healing and when people have suggested that maybe it was tied to emotional and spiritual baggage I may have been carrying; I dove head first into counseling to deal with those issues. I have gone through intense prayer and healing sessions and whenever my pastor asks for those who need healing to come to the front to be prayed over, you better believe I am always the first out of my chair.
I do not write this to complain or say, “woe is me…look at all I have done.” No. I write this because I need you to know that I am typically a glass-half full kind of person. I am always open to what others have to say and am quick to jump at trying something new if I think it is going to help. So when I walked into church on Sunday with major resistance in my heart, I knew something was off. What I didn’t realize was that I have been carrying around a weight for far too long that wasn’t intended for me to carry.
It started with my pastor talking about all the miracles and physical healings they have seen happen lately and instantly, I felt myself shut down. Questions started to flood my mind:
“Really God? Why them and not me? What am I doing wrong? Do I just not have enough faith? Have you seen how hard I have been working to do my part in this healing process? Do you even want me healed?!”
I felt cynical, sad, and frustrated as I squirmed around in the uncomfortable folding chair, trying not to be distracted by the intense pain that was creeping into my lower back.
Later that evening when I was Facetiming one of my best friends, she asked how my back was and I just lost it. I bawled uncontrollably. I couldn’t hold the frustration in any longer. I cried until I had no more tears left. She spoke truth, love and sang over me. She just kept gently telling me, “I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I know this is so hard and if I could take it from you, I would do it in a heartbeat.” She didn’t try to fix it but instead just sat with me in it. She gave me something that I didn't realize I needed until that moment:
Permission to not be ok. Permission to let it fully suck and be frustrating. Permission to cry until I had no more tears left. Permission to just "be" without anyone trying to tell me what I should or shouldn’t be doing to make it better.
The next morning, as I was sitting in my bed, I closed my eyes and the tears started to fall all over again. As I entered into my heart-space with the Lord, I realized I wasn’t actually frustrated or angry with people. I know that most of the time, people are truly just trying their best to help. And I wasn’t even mad at Jesus for not healing me.
I realized that throughout this entire journey with pain, my knee-jerk reaction to everyone’s inquisition or prayers for me has been shame. Hot, sweaty, red-faced shame.
I feel shame every time someone prays over me and nothing changes. I feel shame when people tell me to try “A, B, and C” and it doesn’t work. I feel shame sitting in the doctor’s office and they remind me that, “lower back surgery has a 20% chance that some people just won’t get better.”
And that inner shame screams, “It’s your fault. It’s your fault the pain hasn’t gone away. It’s your fault that you don’t have enough faith to make it go away. It’s your fault that a miraculous healing hasn't happened.” And this shame has weighed me down like a heavy, wet blanket for far too long.
I am crying right now as I write this because all of that is such a lie. Back pain isn’t my fault. I did nothing to make this happen. And just because physical healing hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean God loves me any less than the next person.
My sweet friend, I do not know what you are dealing with right now. Maybe it’s crippling anxiety or depression that you have had your entire life. Maybe it is a chronic illness that has never been healed. Maybe it is a heart that feels like it has been shattered into a million little pieces and it seems impossible for it to ever be whole again.
But if there is one thing I can encourage you in, it would be this:
Please do not believe the lie that because full healing hasn’t happened yet, it is your fault. Please do not believe that Jesus loves you any less because heaven hasn’t touched down on your circumstance in the way you thought it would. Please be kind and gentle with yourself through the process. It will be messy and hard and trying but it will also be growing and grace-filled and beautiful if you let it be.
My mentor always tells me: “Grace. You must learn to keep your heart soft and your skin tough.” I am realizing the importance of that more and more every day. The moment our hearts become numb and hard, is the moment the enemy wins. My ultimate battle is not with physical pain but instead fighting to keep my heart soft and connected to Jesus no matter the outcome. It is fighting off the shame gremlins that try to come in and tell me I am not worthy of healing, love, relationships...etc. (Shout out to Brene Brown for coining that term.)
I will continue to believe Jesus can and will fully heal me. I will continue to let people prayer over me and give me advice. But my reality, today, is that my back is not healed and there is nothing I can do to "earn" my healing.
My reality, today, is that my heart can and will stay tender to His love, His grace and His truth but I must be willing to fight for that.
And when the hot shame rises and the lies start to enter my head, I will continue to hold my people close and let them speak healing, truth and love over me when I cannot see it for myself.