Last week my sister-in-law, Sallie, came home from rehab after her fifth back surgery. For most of her life she had no answers for her health difficulties. Finally, at age fifty they discovered Celiac Disease. Little was known about Celiac then and even the doctors were mostly uneducated about it.
When you have Celiac Disease and live for fifty years eating gluten, your body pays a price. Imagine fifty years of malnutrition without knowing it, causing the bones of a ninety-year-old — brittle and crumbling. The doctors linked my sister-in-law’s Celiac Disease with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis, which both her mother and grandmother suffered.
I remember my mother-in-law lying in bed, moaning. At times, it sounded like rhythmic chanting, and I wondered, if she was on pain meds and resting, why must she moan? Why didn’t she pray? That’s when Sallie gently shared with me that when you live in constant pain, it sometimes gets the best of you and you do other things to take your mind off of it.
I can’t recall how many years my husband’s mother suffered—ten to fifteen, I guess. The Rheumatoid Arthritis came on suddenly, with a vengeance, and spread throughout her body. As time passed, her hands gnarled, her body stooped, her knees swelled, and eventually it became too painful for her to walk.
I saw her independent spirit deal first with questions then anger and finally acceptance. Her spirit grew sweeter and she became even more thankful for the life God had given her.
I do not understand living with constant pain and suffering. What I do know is that God has recently brought more people into my life to help me understand it with greater compassion. It isn’t that I had no compassion, but to see women praise God in the midst of pain and suffering, and to be at peace in their most excruciating times, has made me wonder if they have some special grace from God I don’t.
Sallie shared information about her surgery with family then waited in quiet, her focus on what God was doing in her life, even in the midst of one more surgery. Telling others could have generated more sympathy, but at what cost? Then her focus might have shifted inward instead of staying quietly focused on God.
Whatever happens in Sallie’s life is in God’s hands. She believes He is sufficient always, and though her physical problems could often shift the focus back to herself, she chooses not to let it.
No matter what we go through in life, there are people around us who need to see the light of Christ shining through us, and some need the life-hope we have in us that they know nothing about.
Sallie’s recovery included a few complications, yet still she continued to reach out to others around her daily, showing them compassion and thankfulness, and in her they saw the hint of God. That was worth all her pain.
“When we trust God,” Sallie said, “it’s not about us. He invited this into my life.”
Diane Schrauger McElwain
Visit Diane at Keep A Sharp Eye.