I did not used to be grateful for having a normal and healthy right arm. In fact, I went through over forty years of my life without giving my right arm a second thought. It is true that we sometimes do not truly embrace and savor something until we either lose it completely, or get a bitter taste of what life would be like without it. No, I was not in danger of losing my right arm, but I was experiencing a drastic decline in how my arm and hand functioned. It is only now that I have a heart full of joy and gratitude for something that I had always had before! Sometimes the only way to gain lasting joy and peace, is to suffer and endure through trials and pain. It is in such a place where total reliance and trust in God is developed. Yes, in loss we can come to find that Christ alone is more than sufficient to fill our every need.
It was a typical shift in the ER back in mid April of this year when an elderly man was brought in by his family for weakness. I was the triage RN that night and quickly brought this gentleman through as he appeared to be having a stroke. His family had managed to get him in a wheelchair initially, and I was wheeling him back to a treatment room. Two other RN’s and myself were assisting him to the ER cart when his legs gave out and much of his weight came down on me. I strained myself to keep him from falling, and in the same instant felt a crushing surge of pain shoot down my back. I knew that some damage had been done.
For the days to follow I had expected back pain, but felt certain that it would resolve in time. I have been an RN for twenty years now, and find that each year some new aches and pains develop (I am so NOT young anymore), but I too believe I have many good years left!
It was approximately eight to ten days later that I developed some nagging right upper arm and shoulder pain. I did not connect this to the injury initially. I figured I had just strained something in the shoulder and again waited for resolution, but such resolution did not come. What started as a nuisance-type pain evolved into relentless pain that was sharp, shooting, burning, and intense. By July I had taken enough Motrin to medicate an elephant, and my symptoms were only increasing.
Now, I try to keep my grumbling and complaining over things to a minimum, as nothing good ever comes out of all that negativity, but by this time I was sufficiently sleep deprived and all around grumpy. My poor husband took the brunt of my frustration, as I became both mentally and physically exhausted. He would listen to my moanings by day, and put up with my constant tossing and turning at night in my relentless pursuit to find a comfortable position for my dreadful right arm. The pain always hit a crescendo at night. There were times when it felt like someone was burning the inside of my shoulder and arm with hot coals. It was then that I would simply sob and curl up in a ball. Would this pain ever end?? Fear started to creep in. By the end of July, my right arm started to lose sensation and my right thumb and index finger went painfully numb.
Through all of this, I was pleading with God for healing. I knew I had faith for healing, as I believe with all of my heart that God indeed is all powerful and able to perform such a miracle. But as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into my months, my flesh indeed grew weary. I started each day in physical pain, and I ended each day in physical pain… but the pain drove me to my knees continually. I was asking God for guidance, wisdom, direction, peace…I found I was talking to him more than I had in months. I became totally reliant on Him. The paradox there is that we all are totally reliant on Him: we just don’t realize it until we physically cannot cope like we are used to coping. I found that I could not write or type as I once did …I could not perform my job duties to the same ability as I once did,..I could not DO. Boy, I sure feel like I always have to be DOING. Suddenly, I had to be still, and in that stillness, I turned to God’s precious word.
In the book of 2 Corinthians chapter 12, the apostle Paul speaks of a thorn in his flesh. We are not told specifically what type of trial or hardship Paul had to endure, as the focus should never be on the trial, but Paul repeatedly asked God three times to remove this burden from his life. God’s answer to Paul is one that has resonated to countless hurting and broken hearts over the generations…. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. Those words were like healing salve to my aching flesh. God’s word has a way of picking us up out of our pit, and opening our eyes to the hope and purposes of God. Paul chose to live for Christ, and in so doing, persevered through many sorrows and gave us all a picture of true faith. True faith never gives up and shines ever brighter right in the midst of battle. Paul’s greatest miracle was not a healing or deliverance, but a resolve to trust his Lord no matter what. As I read God’s word through his suffering servant, I heard a gentle whisper in my spirit that He was sufficient in my pain as well. My healing might come, and it might not…but His sufficiency was already well established. In my weakness, the door was opened for His perfect power. What a truly awesome God.
I want to interject a quick thought. Sometimes our brothers and sisters in Christ may question our walk with the Lord or our faith if we are experiencing a fierce struggle in life. Indeed there are times when we have allowed sin to darken our choices and we reap the consequences thereof, but God’s word demands that we not judge one another. But many times we will simply face a storm of life. We know from scripture that God’s glory and strength are best revealed in our weaknesses…so let us only see the great sufficiency of Christ, and not the insufficiency of one another.
The months of August and September were especially challenging and hard to endure physically. My right thumb remained painfully numb, as if a constricting tourniquet was wrapping itself tighter and tighter around it. I would find myself negotiating which symptom I would like gone more..the shoulder and arm pain, or the numb thumb… Eenie, meenie, miney, mo… I sought medical treatment finally (we RN’s like to wait things out) and went through repeated visits, opinions, and diagnostic tests. I utilized prescription medication, a steroid injection, chiropractic care, and physical therapy. It was determined through MRI testing that I suffered from two herniated cervical discs in my neck, and that this was the cause of all of my symptoms. Upon the realization that I had a neck issue going on, I quickly had flashbacks to that fateful work injury in April. Yes, the lightning bolt of pain that shot through my back impacted my neck as well. I was told by an orthopaedic MD and a neurosurgeon that such symptoms will usually resolve in one to two months from onset, but since mine had far surpassed that time, that surgery on my neck might be my only option. I was also told that the nature of my herniations was such that a laparoscopic procedure would not suffice, and that I would need an open fusion of my cervical vertebrae to include placement of rods and screws. Yep…that did not sit well in my heart. Let the praying persist….
The month of November brought new hope and strength. The treatments during physical therapy showed the first signs of improvement. It is hard to explain the elation I experienced at the moments when I first felt some long awaited relief. The PT would place me on a cervical traction device, where twenty-two pounds of weight would literally be pulling my neck bones up and apart. It was during those precious minutes when I could feel the outer edges of my thumb again, and my arm would come back to life. Sometimes the sheer relief would bring tears to my eyes. It was recommended that I obtain a home cervical traction device, but the expense was too great for us. Our medical bills were mounting as well. The traction was wonderful, but as soon as it was done, my symptoms would return. Then God poured a blessing into my life. I was at work and a coworker overheard a discussion about my neck and asked if I ever used traction. She then went on to share that she had a traction device from years earlier that she never used anymore. She actually offered it to me! I knew then that God was about to open a floodgate. It was during this time as well that the pain in my shoulder and arm began to relent. The full night’s sleep that had eluded me for months as well was in my grasp again. Yes, colossal things were on the horizon.
My family and I visited a church in Matthews called Joy Christian Fellowship in mid-November. Immediately upon entering the service, I felt a strong and powerful presence of the Lord. The worship was so beautiful and honoring to God. I found myself totally enthralled and lost in worship to the Lord. I can still close my eyes and feel the love I experienced in that moment. I reached my arms up to the Lord as far as I could extend them, and I can vividly recall a sense of being lifted up even higher. He was lifting me up ever closer to Him. There is nothing like being in the presence of the living God. It wasn’t until we were about half way home in the car after the service that it hit me like a mach truck that I could actually feel my thumb!! I just started laughing out loud with the realization. In the midst of being in God’s presence, I had finally let go of thinking about my injury and pain. It had been on the forefront of my mind for months, but today my mind was solely set on the Lord. To think that I had been pleading for almost seven months for this miracle, and to not even notice it when it happened! I still laugh. God’s presence is so enormous that it literally vanquishes our every need in the flesh. For the next few days I would tip-toe around my miracle..constantly checking to see if my pain would come back, or if the numbness was returning. At times I would feel moments of tingling down the arm and wonder. But my heart was soaring at the dream that this trial could possibly be over. No pain and numbness, no surgery, no loss of my ER skills, no long and painful recovery….could it truly be real??!! The tears of pain and fear were over…but was it truly real??!!
Nothing could keep me from returning to Joy Church, and so this time my husband Grant joined us as he had the day off. It was Sunday, November 17th. As I sat in between my husband and my thirteen year old daughter Grace, I found myself in the throes of that wonderful worship again. As songs were being lifted in awe and praise to the Lord, the pastor McLean Faw interjected with some words that literally pierced my heart. He simply stated that someone had been dealing with issues in the discs of their neck, and that the Lord God was healing it in the name of Jesus. With that the power of God brought me to my knees right where I had been standing. A river of tears flowed from my eyes at that moment. It was like the tears were washing away all of the piercing pain…all of the sleepless and restless nights…all of the fear and worry over the treatment and outcome…all of the anxiety over medical bills and finances…and my body felt completely whole. There would be no looking back, no waking up and wondering. It was all washed away. Pastor McLean Faw did not even know me, but he certainly knew and heard from God and spoke His anointed word of healing and hope to my and my family’s heart. And with that, the worship continued with all focus on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords…Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul summed it up best yet again...For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all...2 Corinthians 4:17
Whatever you face, whatever you must endure…HE is sufficient.
I am doing extremely well, and am full of gratitude to be healed. I thank God multiple times a day for the use of my right arm and hand, and include a praise for the use of the left as well!!
Always remember to be grateful to the Lord God for what you DO have, and trust Him for what you don’t. Give Him the glory He so rightly deserves every single day, no matter the circumstances you are in. This is how lives are changed for all eternity.