- When Pain Hits Your Faith
- When Pain Hits Your Faith, part 2
When we go through traumatic or crisis situations in life, we always wonder if there is a purpose in all that, or why it happens to us. Pain is the greatest vulnerability in human beings. For me, pain is the state that most blurs the image of God and prevents us from knowing him as He truly is and the love he wants to give us.
Some people have walked with Christ for many years, and then come to a moment when their faith is fractured by pain. I am one of those people.
May my story remind you what God’s purpose is for your life and how He uses pain to fulfill it.
An early experience of pain
Twenty-eight years ago I was very much in love. My boyfriend and I had everything we thought we needed to get married: apartment, furniture, car, stable work and we were planning to set the date of our marriage.
Then my boyfriend died. In the overwhelming pain of that loss I began to believe a lie about God. I became afraid of God’s sovereignty. Although I loved him and served him, I decided I needed to prepare myself for the next deep wound He would bring through the loss of someone I loved.
In 2012, God took me out of my family environment to a retreat, to remind me of his love. During that time He gave me a beautiful name that I wrote on a white pebble. I had never expected anything like this, never imagined that He would give me a name from a book of the Bible I had not read. This moved me deeply, and even enabled me to verbalize the fear I felt about His will. He wanted me to discard that lie and choose to believe the truth about who He is.
A scripture that captures this is Romans 8:28-30:
And we know that God makes all things cooperate for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his own beforehand and chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the eldest son of many brothers. After having chosen them, God called them to approach him; and once he called them, he put them in the right relationship with him; and after putting them in the right relationship with him, he gave them his glory.
God wants you to know and love him
In January 2013, my oldest daughter was diagnosed with a high-risk leukemia. My fears about God’s sovereignty re-emerged, this time in panic.
The day they diagnosed Paulita, on my knees I begged God to free me from this panic that I felt at His will. He reminded me of the many times He had shown me His goodness. From that moment, His word and prayer became the most important thing in my life.
God chose to show us His glory in many supernatural ways during the four years in which Pauli struggled with her illness:
• We learned to live one day at a time, the uncertainty of death was always close.
• When a reaction to a chemtherapy drug left her unable to even to put a spoon to her mouth, we witnessed God restoring her ability to move.
• At the beginning of her treatment the cancer was causing very bad headaches, unusual in children with this type of cancer. After just a month of additional chemotherapy and radiotherapy this was already under control.
• God healed a deep venous thrombosis in both legs and a thrombus attached to the right wall of the heart.
• He saved her from four dangerous infections.
• After four periods of intensive care and 23 cycles of chemotherapy ove two years she relapsed again.
• When a bone-marrow transplant became necessary we were faced with the challenge of finding a donor. It is difficult to find a 100% compatible donor; God provided five! All the very high costs were covered and she left the transplant unit surprisingly quickly.
Like Job, I lost everything in one day
Throughout this process many scripture texts sustained me. We never wanted to twist God’s arm declaring healing on our daughter, because we were certain that God would act according to his purpose. We expressed our desire for healing, but always ended by saying, “Lord, may your Holy will be done, and not ours.”
While all this was happening, our youngest daughter began to react, isolating herself, farther and farther from us, and expressing anger and confusion as she heard us thanking God.
God wanted to root out everything we were trusting and teach us to depend solely on Him. This required leaving the church community we loved and starting over again. I felt like Job, lost everything in one day.
God uses pain to draw you closer and trust Him. When you are in pain you have two options: get closer to Him, or go away angry or hurt.
I well remember the moment I said to God, “I have nowhere to go, I prefer to spend this with you rather than without you,” as Peter said, “Who would I go to? Only you have words of eternal life.”
God wants you to grow spiritually
Suffering is an opportunity to work on my attitude, my virtue and my character. Pain can be a stumbling block or an opportunity to mature. This is a choice you must make.
Before the diagnosis of my daughter, in my times of adoration and praise I told the Lord, “I want you to be the first thing in my life.” One day He seemed to reply, “Do you really want me to be the first thing in your life?” I was faced with the biggest challenge of my life: choosing to love Him above what I love most in this world.
We chose to worship him even when the circumstances were so adverse there were no words to express our feeling. We could only sing. Many times we met without knowing what was going to happen the next day, and with Paulita, we looked up at the sky and just sang to the Lord.
We learned to wait, not to despair, to trust in Him, to rest and hope that He would do something, and so it was.
Beloved brothers, we think you have to be aware of the difficulties we have experienced in the province of Asia. We were oppressed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure and we even thought we would not get out alive. 9 In fact, we expected to die; but, as a result, we stopped trusting ourselves and learned to trust only God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
Although he was the Son of God, Jesus learned obedience from the things he suffered. Hebrews 5:8
Pain changes us
Some things we only learn through pain. Pain transforms us for better or worse. We all fall, we fail, but those who pick up the pieces and move on succeed.
God also led me to understand that He is good, immensely good and that he has all the complete perspective while I only know a part. He has taught me to trust Him even in the midst of my questions.
The doctors had told us that if Paulita did not relapse within six months of the transplant it was considered successful. So the months went by and everything went very well. We decided to plan a family trip to celebrate the success of the transplant.
Then, two days before our departure, six months and fifteen days after the transplant, the doctor informed us that: 1) Paulita had relapsed, 2) there was no further medical resource available in Colombia, 3) her disease was progressing very fast, and 4) she was worse than when it was diagnosed.
Paulita asked him what she would feel. He gently replied that she would feel a lot of pain in the bones, that there would be bleeding and bruising, that if she had to come back for pain treatment earlier than planned, he would make the necessary arrangements so she could receive care at the clinic.
He told us to enjoy her very much. There was nothing else to do. His entire manner, his touch and sensitivity,as he gave us the worst news that a human being could receive, was precious to us.
Pauli asked us if she was terminal. The only thing I managed to say with certainty was, “We are completely in the hands of the Lord.”
A temporary reprieve
Outside our national health system the cost of a second opinion would be prohibitive. We left Colombia only with the expectation of enjoying our time together, feeling a deep dependence on God’s will.
Other than some pain that gave way to Acetaminophen, nothing the doctor warned Pauli about happened. Furthermore, as God began to send us financial resources and brought people into our lives we believe it was His will to pursue further treatment outside Colombia.
– Catalina Moscoso
… to be continued