September 24, 2018 by Katy Epling
Chronic. One word. Seven letters. But it seemed to take up the entire page of my daughter’s chart, hastily scribbled in pen above the scratched out “acute” that had previously described her pain. No longer would the doctors treat Grace’s symptoms as something just in the present, something they might solve today or next week. This is going to be a bit of a journey, her chart now declared—all with that one word.
We spent most of Grace’s 11th year battling a mystery illness that left her fatigued most of the time and in pain all of the time. Originally it seemed like a simple virus that just needed a few days… or a week… or maybe just a little longer. But the weeks turned into months. We went to our family doctor, then a specialist, then another, and another. We saw doctors who thought they knew the cause and doctors who admitted it was out of their realm of specialty. We saw doctors who hoped to take away her pain and doctors who simply helped her to cope with it. Waiting rooms became part of our regular routine.
And as the days dragged on, a question formed: Where are you, God? Why aren’t You showing up for this?
For many weeks I told myself, we just need to get through this. We focused on survival, doing what needed to be done until we could get to the end goal: pain relief for my sweet girl. That is when we can actually get back to LIVING, I thought. And again I asked, When are You going to show up, God?
But then I saw “chronic” scribbled onto her chart. Something about that one little word jarred me. I woke up. I realized it was time to stop surviving and start really living. We couldn’t just wait until this trial was over—life was happening right then, in the middle of it.
With my eyes newly opened, I could see something else: while God hadn’t provided quick healing, He was still there with us. I didn’t need to wait for Him to show up; He was there all along. In fact, the more we embraced our reality, the more we saw the lessons He was teaching our daughter—and our whole family—in the waiting.
Over the course of that year, we watched our tween daughter learn endurance as she went to school, played with her brothers, hung out with her friends, and even played on the basketball team, all while exhausted and hurting. We all gained compassion for others who are battling chronic pain, as we experienced it firsthand. We got a new perspective on priorities as we saw her weigh what was really important to her, choosing to spend time with a friend even though she was hurting or to skip a chance to get ice cream because rest was more important. She gained independence as she learned how to cope with the pain without always asking for help. And ironically, she learned dependence, too, as she figured out she couldn’t do it all on her own. She did need help sometimes. And she—we—learned daily to depend on God to carry our burdens for us.
Are you waiting on God today? Are you in the middle of a struggle, wondering when He will show up? I promise you this: He is not absent. He is not ignoring your pain or your prayers. He is right there with you in the middle of it, offering you life in the waiting.
We know that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), but we often equate that only with heaven. We think it means simply that he will give us an eternity with God when we believe in Him. Of course He offers us that, but He also gives us more. He is the life right here, right now. We who believe in Him have already been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). And Paul declares to the Corinthians, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That’s our resurrection! And the life is here for us to embrace, not someday when all of our prayers are answered, not just in eternity when the trials of earth are done, but right here and now! God wants us to live and learn and grow and serve in the waiting.
We are not called merely to survive, but to truly live. Even when life is hard. Even when it hurts. Even when God isn’t immediately answering our prayers for relief. Our life with God doesn’t begin when the pain ends—He is here with us now, teaching us and guiding us. In the waiting.
Though we never got a satisfactory diagnosis, Grace did finally get relief from her pain. Little by little it lessened, until one day we realized that it had been a while since she’d been in pain. Was it the most recent medication? The dietary changes we made? The passage of time? Maybe a combination? We will probably never know for certain.
I can tell you this, though: the healing was anticlimactic. Yes, we praised God for it. Yes, we are so thankful to have gotten to the other side of it. But although we see Him in the healing, when we look back on those days, we see Him even more as He walked with us through it. Giving us life in the waiting.