For reasons only God knows my body and mind remain under attack. This coming week I will have my back operated on for the third time in just twenty one months. I may not have any tattoos, but I’m building up a pretty good scar collection. I used to joke all the time that I may not have given birth, but according to my scars I’ve already had an A, B, C, D and E-section.
Unfortunately, it was discovered recently that my spinal cord stimulator battery I had implanted just seven months ago is not fully MRI friendly. So, scar section E will have to be reopened years before I expected and replaced with a new battery. The present battery has a life span of 7 to 10 years before replacement. But, the MRI friendly battery taking it’s place only last 2 to 3 years before another surgery replacement. The new battery is significantly larger than the present battery. Therefore, not only will they have to open an incision that took months to heal. They will have to cut me even more to make room for this larger battery. All this by the way is not my fault. I was told the battery I first had implanted was completely MRI friendly.
However, I have to say that each surgery has prepared me to better handle the next. My first major surgery was by far the worst. Then, the second one was bad, but it seemed nothing like the first. And, now while I don’t look forward to more incisions I feel stronger than ever going into this next surgery. Just because I don’t like the trials doesn’t mean God is not using each trial. He is building my endurance. He is elevating my faith. And, He is preparing me for other trials to come that hopefully don’t involve surgeons. It’s just the way God works and in the process makes us stronger.
“ Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
This process didn’t start overnight in my life. Day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute God has been removing my ego. EGO stands for Edging God Out. I had no idea how much I was actually standing in God’s way. I especially didn’t realize how much I was relying on myself instead of Him. I’ve always preached that you’ve got to decrease and He must increase, but now I’m having to live out that sermon.
One by one the things that used to prop up my life are being removed. As my strength keeps fading the more I have to rely fully on God’s strength alone. What I used to be able to do for others I’m now having to totally put in the arms of Jesus. How I approached life in the past has been totally rearranged. God has torn down the self-reliant man I use to be and is teaching me to fully rely on Him. On one hand it’s completely liberating and on the other it’s somewhere I’ve never been before.
I wake up daily trying to reach back to how things used to be. However, God has removed those crutches and ego driven ways. I’m well aware that my every breath depends on God breathing into me. It’s no longer just lyrics to a song to say “I can’t even walk without Him holding my hand.” I don’t know what lies ahead, but I know fully it’s not about me feeling in control. From here on out God will receive all the glory for anything and everything good in my life.
“If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying.” (2 Corinthians 11:30-31)
Today, at the age of 99 one of the greatest ambassadors of Christ passed away. I’ve never met the man in my life. However, I know he impacted many lives including mine. People were drawn to his crusades all over the world. Even on replay television Billy Graham led countless souls to Jesus. I readily admit that I want to be like him for the rest of my life.
Please let me clarify just what I mean. I’m not saying he was a perfect man. He would quickly tell you himself that only one perfect man ever walked this earth and his name was Jesus. He would then boldly tell you just how much God showed his love for you when He sent His only son Jesus to die on a cross for your sins. Then he would extend a personal invitation to you from God to admit your sin. Believe in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins and the promise of eternal life. Then, to publicly declare that Jesus is now Lord of your life. You see, he knew he was just a vessel letting God speak through him.
Here are a few of my favorite Billy Graham quotes. “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” “God proved his love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’” Suppose you could gain everything in the whole world, and lost your soul. Was it worth it?”
Rev. Billy Graham knew this world was not his home. He said, ““My home is in Heaven I’m just traveling through this world.” Therefore, he spent his life doing all he could, while he could to help men, women, boys, and girls find their way to Heaven. He knew apart from Jesus we’re all destined for Hell.
So for the rest of my life I’ve asked God to help me never get used to men, women, boys, and girls dying and going to Hell. Help me God to do all I can, while I can to be a vessel You use to make an eternal difference in countless souls. Rest in peace Rev. Billy Graham.
I spend hours per day in a hot tub. Somehow the hot water soothes my crawling skin and eases my aching back. I would venture to say that 80 percent of anything I’ve ever written on this faith walking journey has been under the influence of hot water. Maybe it’s God’s venue for allowing me to share with you.
I still remember thinking when I first started this page, Craig why are you doing this? Don’t you know your journey of pain is almost over? The Lord blessed my efforts despite my ignorance. How often do we hope something is almost over only to realize later it’s only just begun.
I must say that I’m truly thankful even while greatly disturbed. Before, I thought I understood difficulty and pain. Before, I thought I had extreme compassion for those around me struggling. Now, thanks to this journey I now have extreme compassion towards others who face hardships of many kinds. And, I sincerely understand what it means for your entire life to be disrupted by one major life event. Therefore, I thank God for the fall that helps me see brokenness at the ground level.
“He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
2 Corinthians 1:4
I readily admit that when severe pain grips you it’s very hard to see beyond it. However, over time I’ve learned the difference between wallowing in your pain versus working through it. First, let me apologize for allowing Satan to take me down the wallowing lane recently. The past few days have been very tough. But, the way I’ve processed that toughness has not been healthy. Let me explain the difference between wallowing and working through things.
Wallowing by definition means to roll oneself about in a lazy, relaxed, or ungainly manner. What I’ve chosen to do the last few days is to just soak in my pain. I’ve allowed it to control my every thought, mood, and action. My wallowing has fixed nothing, but it has been producing a defeated mindset. It wouldn’t have taken a lot more wallowing to have totally stolen my joy and recovery momentum. Without me even realizing it my wallowing was slowly drowning me in my own self pity.
Now, to work through your pain is completely different. Yes, you’ve got to process and confess at times what’s really happening inside. But, you also need to be careful that you don’t let your pain paralyze you. You have to take intentional steps towards dealing with things in a positive fashion. You can’t just lay there and let your praying knees get lazy. You’ve got to keep doing things that allow you to work through your pain towards positive progress.
Today, by far was one of my worst days in quite awhile. I felt like I was drowning in my pain and that I couldn’t do anything about it. Then, God opened my eyes and led to me to get out of my wallowing cycle. I knew I needed to get out of the house and do some kind of exercise. Almost six days had passed since I last went for some pool therapy. So, even while I still felt terrible I packed my bathing suit and headed for the pool. Just as I expected, it moved me once again from wallowing in my pain back to working through my pain. Mentally, I feel completely different and physically I know I just took another step in the right direction. Thank you Jesus for continuing your work despite my recent wallowing.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
It’s as if my body has an internal alarm clock set to ignite the flames within. Then, I know what’s about to start shooting through my veins like poisonous venom. As each minute and hour passes it’s like having a constantly flowing IV slowly sucking the very life out of me. Underneath my skin is crawling with nerve pain that makes every part of my body miserable. It typically starts in my hands and feet then flow through my legs and ultimately into my face. Unfortunately, this is where it already stands right now.
I do everything I can to stop it and not focus on it. But, it’s like asking someone to ignore the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. You can’t ignore how it makes you feel. All you can do is try to momentarily numb the pain or let the misery escalate until you’re desperate for relief. I pretty much choose the latter option daily because apart from something that totally knocks me out all the time nothing is going to change. As each day passes I think to myself, How much more can I really take before I have to turn to something really extreme?
Therefore, here I sit like someone whose been lying in the driest desert for ages desperate for a drop of water. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow. I don’t know how I will handle the next hour, but I’m trusting God to once again handle things for me. Someone reading this right now knows exactly what I’m talking about. Whether it be from absolute physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion. You don’t know how everything is going to work out. However, you’ve seen time and time again that God always works things out. And, that’s all you need to remember to walk that next step by faith.
“Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.” (Psalm 143)
One more night my body has physically and emotionally let me down. The flood gates of tears has once again been released. Sometimes it’s just pure grief, but it’s almost always a direct result of my nerve pain breaking down every part of me. I wish I could control my emotions. I wish I could cry once and get it all out. However, tears are usually not something we can directly control.
I did have a great visit with my counselor earlier today. We talked about God’s goodness throughout my journey of suffering. How obvious it’s been that God has never left my side or family. How much glory God keeps getting as my trials continue. Honestly, I celebrate daily what God is doing in me, through me and for me. Even with great heartache I’ve always found many reasons to smile.
Nights are usually the worse because I just can’t hold it in any longer. Everyday reveals one more limitation my health has created. Combine my new griefs with my exhausting journey and it creates a river of tears. While it does make me feel like a baby I know each tear brings a level of healing. In fact, I believe God created every tear to cleanse our heart and soul. To keep things from building up and holding us back. Fortunately, tears are temporary as there will be no more tears in Heaven.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”