For The Times When Getting Well Is A Slow Slog Fest

In my doctor’s office, there is a small plaque with the simple inscription: “It is easier to stay well than to get well.” I didn’t know how true that was until I was truly unwell.

I returned to my home and found diagnoses and healing at that office after months of illness that no medical professional had been able to explain or cure.

We finally discovered a rare, deadly flatworm parasite that was a steady, lethal threat to my internal organs. It was aided in its bloodthirsty quest by other recent strikes: a bicycle accident that had rattled me to the core and a burnt-out weariness that was weighing down on me with crushing force. I was being eaten alive from within and suffocated by the pressures of life and ministry from without.

What a way to live…if you could call it living.

Healing, in my case—and, I’d wager, in many cases—is not a clean, clear-cut moment in time. It is a process, often one that is antagonizingly slow by our standards. And we wonder to ourselves: is this it?!? Is this as normal, healthy, good, better as it’s going to get? Or is there some progress yet to be made?

One night, I lay awake in bed, staring into the darkness and whimpering in pain. It was as if a great hand was squeezing my insides tightly, refusing to show mercy. I gazed up toward the black corner of the room and I heard Jesus whisper soothingly to me, “What’s the matter, my love? Please tell me about it.” The physical malady was only one part of the equation. There were spiritual, mental, and emotional elements all wrapped up in the problems—and in the solutions. Solutions often come through or with realizations: reminders or new conclusions to be reached. From that moment, I started to recognize several of these. He has not left me. He is receiving glory. He’s not finished yet. He’s still using me!

Seen in this light, the pain can be born in a different way and there is a hidden joy that somehow allows me to press on. More than that, my prayers and my expectations have changed.

I’ve never been an ambitious, out-front kind of leader, but many would describe me as a quietly driven person. Drive is great when it’s focused on the right things and reigned in at appropriate times. My aunt calls my current physical state my “new normal.” The new normal does have its positive elements.  In this long process of getting well, I have learned more acutely about the importance of balance and rest, of release and refining. As I concluded in a poem while reflecting on His rod and staff from Psalm 23:

I am a stubborn, lost little lamb.//

Please carry me.//

Then I will find Your truth, my rest.

I’m learning to see my new normal as a renewed, more accurate reflection of Him. For my drive is being driven away; in its place, dependence remains. May He also use what you have gone through, are going through, or will go through to draw you closer to His side, that others may see His reflection when they gaze into your eyes.

Can you think of a time when “healing” came in a different way than you expected it to or at a different time than you hoped that it would?

Photo Credit : Unsplash

25 Comments

  1. Danielle November 5, 2014

    My new normal has been so hard since getting my thyroid removed last May. Your piece here was beautifully written. I love what you said about needing dependence on Him. Thank you.

    1. Elizabeth November 6, 2014

      Oh Danielle, I’m so sorry about how long it takes to recover from the thyroid surgery. I know it’s been a long, hard road of physical challenges for you. I so hope your body starts feelings the effects of the thyroid medicine soon. Love you <3

  2. Julia November 5, 2014

    Your words here could apply to so many areas in which healing is needed.  Our spiritual, emotional, mental, or physical health can all become unwell, and the road to healing is seldom easy.  Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

    1. Julia November 5, 2014

      So sorry about the giant photo.  I thought I was adding a thumbnail.  Maybe just delete my comment thread?

  3. Elizabeth November 6, 2014

    I’m so glad the docs found the parasite that was causing you trouble. That sounded awful! And I think what you point out here is so important — that there are often physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual difficulties tied together, and we need to tend to all of them if we are going to heal completely. (Although that sometimes feels like a lot of work to do in the present moment!)

    “Solutions often come through or with realizations: reminders or new conclusions to be reached.” So true! It’s like there’s this breakthrough, and what that really is, is a bend in the road, the beginning of the healing. So glad you shared this story here.

  4. laura November 6, 2014

    Your words are beautiful and life giving.   thank you.

    I, too, am walking a long journey of healing and can relate so very much to what you say about healing physically yet also healing emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  This week has been a good reminder to me that healing takes time, that there is no formula and that I am not alone.

    May we all know HIS grace to be sufficient as we journey to come nearer to who he created us to be!

  5. Kaylene November 6, 2014

    For some reason my computer is not allowing me to reply to your comments individually; sorry about that! Thank you for sharing openly in response!

    Yes, Danielle, I also ask that your body will be able to fully adjust to thyroid-less life. A dear friend of mine had to have hers removed and the adjustment process was challenging but by His grace, she has adjusted well!

    Julia, your photo makes me feel cozy…and thirsty! 🙂

    Laura, I learned through this experience both how inter-related all areas of our being are in the health and wellness arena, but I also learned that parasites are more common than we think (whether we live abroad or not) and there are actually hundreds (or thousands) of different types, and common testing only looks for about 5% of the most general ones. If you (or someone you love) have weird physical symptoms, especially ones that can’t be explained or diagnosed otherwise, consider finding a doctor who will do extensive testing in areas such as parasites, allergies, and food sensitivities. I’m not the only person who’s encountered special but very serious issues such as these while on the field.

    Laura, I do pray you will be encouraged to take this day and each one after it for the gift that it is. You are pressing on and that is exactly what He wants you to do, no matter how much or how little healing you may “feel” at this time. Additionally, one of the hardest things I had to face was trying to explain everything I was going through and why I wasn’t healing “faster” to a number of friends/supporters. Though they didn’t intend to be malicious, that was REALLY hard and stressful for me. It compounded the feeling that something was “wrong” with me and my faith wasn’t strong enough somehow to make me 100% better in a flash. I hope you won’t face that, but if you do, remember that He is the one who knows all things and you can trust Him. There is a time to give others a defense and there is a time to say, “I don’t know but I still trust.” That is OK.

    1. Kaylene November 6, 2014

      Ugh.  Of course, now the reply feature is working.  Well, I’m thankful anyway.

      (Elizabeth, I intended to write your name above instead of putting Laura’s name twice.  Sorry about that!)

      1. Elizabeth November 7, 2014

        Thank you for that piece of information, Kaylene. I will keep that in mind for the future, as I’ve had friends who’ve had long, ongoing struggles with digestive health even after being tested and being declared “free” of parasites.

        1. Kaylene November 8, 2014

          Yes, it’s really easy to forget that when your body has faced an illness it also does a number on the probiotic tract in your intestines.  During the time following a sickness or parasite attack, it’s really important to increase our intake of good probiotics for a time.  Otherwise, the critters can easliy return!

  6. T November 6, 2014

    Recently, a verse given to me while reading Scripture has been “in repentance and rest will be your strength”.  Feeling weak has been my status for quite a while now.  I think I should do a word study on all the passages that say something, something something will be your strength.  Cause there are pretty diverse and sometimes counter-intuitive things listed.  Like in my verse, how actually, instead of pushing myself and becoming fried (or being over-busy to forget my grief) I am supposed to rest now.  Your prompt of if our healing has come differently than expected or in a different time made me think of this.  I also feel similar to someone who asked something like “if this is as good as I’m going to be from now on?”…will I always be more emotional than I used to be?  Will I always feel this hole left by my mom’s death to be as deep as it is now?   I’m clueless.

    1. Kaylene November 6, 2014

      My heart aches with and for you, in your questioning whether or not you’re completely clueless and wresting with those thoughts of high emotion and emptiness associated with grief.  May He comfort you as He is very able to do…I think you are certainly on the right track by meditating on the beautiful promises of Isaiah 30 and learning to embrace your weakness instead of trying to work harder and thrashing against it.  I will pray for you.  Take care, you are not alone in your struggle!

      1. T November 10, 2014

        Thanks!!!

         

    2. Amy Young November 6, 2014

      T I heard a pastor being interviewed this week (it was at “On Being” — I really enjoy the diversity of the interviews done) and she said when she preaches, she does it out of her scars, not out of her wounds. Before she publicly shares she allows time to pass. Grief comes with no clear clock and you might be in this pit longer than you’d like. Will you always feel a hole? Maybe. Probably. But will it always be as deep as it is now? Maybe not. I love the paradox in the scripture you shared — to rest. You have been deeply wounded. I hate the times I’m more emotional than I normally am — namely because it’s so exhausting and (at times) embarrassing. So, I get why you’d rather this play out differently :)!! This is a time of wounding, not of scars. This was a huge AHA moment for me this week. I do think those wounds will heal for you, but there will be scars. I have no idea if this is of any help :). But these are the thoughts your comment stirred in me.

        1. Shelly November 8, 2014

          I agree that this post is worth reading.  I am in the midst of thinking through this idea of my wounds wounding others, and the article gives me different categories for thinking about this.  It seems that other people’s responses to her presentation made her aware that she had been speaking out of hurt rather than healing. It’s rarely intentional…but hurt happens, and sometimes I don’t see it unless it gets pointed out.

          I am in the midst of discerning where I have not yet experienced the healing of the Healer, and it’s frustrating to think that I’m still plagued by X, Y & Z. It’s frustrating to think that I haven’t made any progress and still hurt the people I love.  But I appreciated someone else’s article that encouraged us to look less at where we still fall short and more at where we have grown.  I don’t think it is the Father’s way to nag us about shortcomings, but rather to celebrate with us the ways in which we have grown (even though we have more growing to do!).

          1. Elizabeth November 9, 2014

            Hi Shelly. Glad you appreciated Lindsey’s words, too. 🙂 You also said this above: “It’s frustrating to think that I haven’t made any progress and still hurt the people I love.” I just want to gently encourage you to reexamine the phrase “haven’t made any progress.” I don’t know you personally, but I would venture to say you probably have made some progress! Especially if this is an issue you have been working on. Just being aware and yearning for healing is progress.

            I, too, sometimes look at my behavior and the way it hurts people I love dearly, and I grieve over it. However, whereas before I may not have even seen how hurtful I was, or recognized as soon, or been willing to go to those people as soon to reconcile, there is definite improvement in those things over the years. I would guess it is the same for you — there IS progress, you just get frustrated that there are still setbacks (as do I, in my own life). But, you are not the same person you were in the past! And this is good news 🙂 Sending you a hug and a prayer.

          2. Shelly November 11, 2014

            Elizabeth, thanks for the prayers and hug. (I couldn’t reply directly to your comment, so here it is to myself.)  Just this week I was affirmed about some things that I had just been thinking were not going to well in my life. Our God is so good to not leave us in a place of self-pity.  Thanks again.

      1. T November 10, 2014

        Thanks, Amy!  Thinking of you as well, with your family life changing since your dad is gone…

  7. Ruth November 7, 2014

    Kaylene, I was so happy to see a post from you!  I am glad to know that healing is happening, even if it is slow coming.  We still miss you here – and think of you when we sit on your couch 🙂 – but are glad for the ways the Father is using you in Omaha!

    1. Kaylene November 8, 2014

      Ruth, I miss you too–very much!  This is a reminder to me today, to pray for you and your family.  Keep enjoying the sofa, and take care!  <Sending love.>

  8. Kaylene November 8, 2014

    Thank you for all your great comments, thoughts, replies!  I appreciate you, dear sisters, and love you in His name.  Praying for you today.

  9. JulieB November 11, 2014

    Appreciated the comments here.  Healing does take a long time.  Even when we see that the wound itself is closed on the outside, sometimes the healing is still not complete.  I too long for physical healing – have now had 2 major surgeries – One in July and one in October.  And I am tired of being tired!  My energetic self just isn’t coming back as quickly as I had hoped.  Sigh!  I am a much better nurse than I am a patient!

    I am learning so much…..and continue to learn.  We cannot rush healing.  Our society says we can have it all now….but it takes patience and rest and time to heal properly.  Also as a nurse (who worked in pediatric reconstructive plastic surgery) I would say that there is a difference between “new” scars and “old” scars.   New Scars are usually red and thick and ugly to start with – and in due time – over many months, those scars flatten out and become softer and blend in.  We usually say that you cannot really say what a scar will look like until about a year after the injury.  So once again, healing takes time.  This has been good for me to remember, as I am only 4 weeks out from my last surgery…..and I want to be back to my life NOW.  I “preach” to myself – rest and be patient and allow the wounds and the  scar to heal.  Then we will be able to share what God has done through this time of healing.

  10. Kaylene November 12, 2014

    Julie,

    thanks for these thoughts and that reminder about scars.  I still have scars (and you may as well) from accidents and illnesses or medical treatments in childhood.  Sometimes I ask myself why God never took the scars away completely.  Then, I realize that they are kind of like my altars of remembrance: when I see them, I remember what God did for me, how He healed me or saved me from death.  May He use our scars (fresh and aged) to remind us of how great He is on a regular basis!   And I hope that your surgery recovery will go faster than you anticipated, but that you will also have patience with your body as it heals.  Peace to you.

  11. Catherine February 21, 2015

    I’ve only just discovered this site, but I wanted to say thank you anyway for your post. I’m over a year and a half into chronic illness with no clear diagnosis and doctors who just shrug their shoulders…I’m still on the field, but my life has changed so drastically. My new normal requires a very different schedule and job and a lot of time “doing nothing” (which in my old mindset…meant “being useless”). The Lord has been teaching me a lot about abiding and worth found in Him and that if the only thing I can do that day is lie on my bed and praise Him, it was a good day.

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