Thorns That Sculpt Beauty

July 17, 2021 THE MMA TEAM

I ran back into the Evergreen Lake House to grab my dress and a few last things. I can’t believe I almost left my dress and Jenny’s veil! The wedding went off without a hitch. It was magical.

I loved looking over Evergreen Lake watching my oldest daughter get married. Jen and Stephen were meant for each other.

The colorful glow stick exit tunnel in the dark was a brilliant idea, whoever thought of that. Jen and Stephen ran through on their way to begin the adventures of married life together.

The Chairs

The lake house should have had a rack to place the chairs on. Instead, they were stacked against the wall.

As I ran past the row of heavy wooden chairs, one of them slipped and hit my ankle. Upon impact, having had Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) fifteen years prior, I knew my life had just changed for a long time to come.

CRPS is complex and excruciatingly painful. It’s rare that it goes into remission, but if it does, it is expected to reoccur.

CRPS is a nerve pain disorder that heightens pain in the brain to think the injury is more significant than it is. We, the CRPS community, feel pain about ten times greater than the average person.

Three years since the wedding, I still can hardly walk. On good days I walk to the bathroom and get my lunch. Occasionally I can walk into an appointment, but most of the time use my wheelchair. Doctors cannot figure out how to fix my foot. I walk in a therapy pool twice a week, about twenty minutes each time. I used to walk on land daily for forty-five minutes after healing from my first disability before this calamity struck. As bad luck would have it, I get to do disability again. Twice.

“Why twice, God? What didn’t I learn from my first disability? Why would you take away my daily prayer walks? What if this is forever? What if I never walk again?”

I don’t know if I will ever walk again, but I will always be able to walk with Him, but I didn’t feel that way initially.

I was so distraught I lost my faith and stopped praying. I felt like God didn’t care about me or hear my prayers, so what was the point? He was going to do what he wanted anyway.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31).

Satan singled out Simon Peter and asked Jesus
if he could sift him like wheat. Jesus said yes. Why? Because he knew the sifting would ultimately strengthen Peter AND his brothers. The sifting would remove the chaff (impurities) and bolster Peter’s faith.

Jesus prayed for him with confidence. Look closely at the verse. "…And when you have turned back…" Jesus prayed to his Father in faith, being sure of what he hoped for and with certainty that Simon Peter would turn back to God.

After Peter denied knowing Jesus three times and the rooster crowed, Peter wept bitterly (Luke 22:62). He was broken. He denied his Lord. I had done the same.

Tears flowed from my eyes for years as I tried to wrap my mind around my dilemma. My foot injury led to a domino effect of physical ailments affecting various body parts. My hands became painfully inflamed with damaged nerves as I transferred my body from wheelchair to toilet and from bed to wheelchair, and so on. They just couldn’t take the pressure anymore. Without the ability to use my hands or my feet, all I could do was sit and cry and, well, pray.

I cried out to God, but I couldn’t dry my tears. For two months, my husband, Mark, scarcely left my side. He lifted me on and off the commode, tried to shower me as best he could, he fed me, read to me, and affirmed his love and commitment to me.

The hand specialist told me he didn’t know if I'd regain the functionality of my hands, but as time goes on, God is restoring my hands, at least to the point of being able to type.

Twenty years ago, as I was recovering from my first disability, I earned my Master of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition. This time, instead of earning a degree while I sat, I wrote a book.

Like God used Peter's sifting to strengthen Peter and his brothers, I want God to use my sifting to strengthen others.

My upcoming book, Beauty Beyond the Thorns: Finding Gifts in Suffering is for anyone who has experienced a season of suffering and wants to understand how God uses suffering in our lives to strengthen us and others ultimately.

The greatest gift the world has been given was wrapped in painJesus dying on a cross.

The Christian life is paradoxical. We cannot understand what God is doing in our lives, but His plans for us are always good, even if they seem upside down.

We can be assured, no matter our suffering, gifts can be found in the midst. God is always with us. If we are willing, we can discover gifts beyond the thorns, such as hope, courage, endurance, perseverance, joy, peace, direction, and deliverance.

Ironically, it’s the thorns that God uses to sculpt the beauty.  

Love includes pain because love is the chisel that forms us into our identity in Christ. The benefits of having suffered deliver a superior understanding of the benefits of the cross. Give me a nail or a blanket, and I’ll choose the nail any day. The cross provides lasting comfort—the blanket, a temporary fix.  Suffering has taught me to turn around and face God so he can lead in the direction of his choosing.

Joy and suffering can coexist in the same space. I have experienced the paradox of holding joy and suffering together. You, too, can find the gifts of God, or God himself, through your pain. Yes, pain is a gift God allows Satan to inflict sometimes. Satan must get permission, though; he is not the Almighty. We don’t know how many times the Almighty has spared us from the sifting of Satan. We only feel the yes times. But the yes times have a reason to ultimately bring good in our lives and those around us who are watching.

If you are suffering, remember God loves you and is allowing suffering for your ultimate good. He is good. He is seeing what you don’t see. Just hold on to him and he will help you through.

Remember the story of Job in the Bible? Who hasn’t been strengthened by Job’s story of suffering? God only allowed Job a certain amount of suffering that would ultimately prove Satan wrong. Satan’s plan backfired. He did not turn Job away from God. The pain ultimately helped God and Job to be closer than ever. God says yes to pain when the yes strengthens his people and defeats Satan.

If you, or someone you know, is in a season of suffering, I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter with sneak peeks and devotionals on the chapters of Beauty Beyond the Thorns until its release date this summer.

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