This morning, I woke up to pain in my hip, leg, shoulder, and neck. This is a regular occurrence for me now. This pain has been happening for years, but I wrote it off for a long time as a result of either stress, bad posture, or side effects of my back surgeries (I’ve had three spinal fusions). Recently, the pain has become almost intolerable at times, and I began to notice that it was affecting too many of my joints to just write it off anymore. I decided to visit a rheumatologist after my family physician recommended it.
After my first visit, I had eight tubes of blood drawn from my arm. Yes – eight! To my shock, some of the results came back abnormal, one of them being the ANA test. This tests looks for autoantibodies in the body, and if it is positive, it means that there may be an autoimmune disorder present.
I went back for a second visit, and eight more tubes of blood were taken from my arm. So, I’ve had sixteen tubes of blood drawn in the course of about a month. These new tests are more specific tests for an array of autoimmune diseases, one of which is lupus. I don’t have the results yet but should get them by the end of this week.
So…back to this morning. I woke up in pain. It is really hard to get up out of bed with a smile on my face when I feel pain all over my body from the moment I open my eyes. Today was a struggle, so I picked up my the Bible on my dresser – the Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible. Before opening it, I sat down in a chair, closed my eyes and prayed.
I first praised God for allowing Jesus to die on the cross for me, and then I asked for forgiveness of my sins. I then became a little emotional asking him for help to get through the day. Suddenly, I felt the strong sensation that Jesus was by my side trying to comfort me. I sat in silence for a few moments and then just poured my struggles out to Him. I told Him that I just wanted some peace. I felt Him say to me, “Hold out your hand.” I know that may sound strange to some people, but I felt like he wanted me to hold out my hand so that He could just hold my hand. I didn’t understand this, but I did what I felt like He wanted me to do. Right at that moment, my cat, who is quite stand-offish, came up to me, rubbed repeatedly against my foot and purred really loud. This was unusual behavior for her, and I just wondered if she could sense something. Anyway, I petted her, and then closed my eyes again. I told Jesus that I always feel like He speaks to me through His Word, so I asked Him to help me to open my Bible to what He wanted me to read today.
Well, I opened it to Lamentations 3. As I read it, I was so comforted. Here are a few verses that really struck me today:
“He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation….he has put heavy chains on me…” Lamentations 3: 4-5, 7 (NRSV)
“The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him…It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord…to sit alone in silence when the Lord has imposed it.” Lamentations 3:25, 28 (NRSV)
“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help, but give me relief!’ You came near when I called on you; you said ‘Do not fear’!” Lamentations 3:55-57 (NRSV). This verse in particular comforted me because I went through probably the roughest time in my life back in 2012. I literally cried out to Him many, many times, and He brought me through that terrible time to a much better place. I was reminded of this as I read this passage, and I knew that even though I am hurting, He will bring me through it just as He has done in the past.
But the most amazing thing that I saw after I read these passages in Lamentations was the title of the devotional on that same page – “God, Hold My Hand”! Right as I saw it, I felt like Jesus was smiling at me, and I was stunned! This devotional was written by Barbara Vogel and talks about a very tough time in her life. However, she found comfort in Lamentations 3. She states at the end of her devotional:
“Lamentations 3 has indeed been the very hand of God holding ours.”
No matter how bad things are in our lives – physical, mental or emotional pain – God is ALWAYS by our side. Even when things seem disastrous, just hold onto God’s hand – He will get you through it. Trust in Him!
“When all the prisoners of the land are crushed under foot, when human rights are perverted in the presence of the Most High, when one’s case is subverted – does the Lord not see it?” Lamentations 3:34-36 (NRSV)
*Devotional by Barbara Vogel taken from The Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible (NRSV), (1989), Zondervan, pg. 1084.