In January this year I was sitting in the caravan at Waihi Beach and I felt that familiar tingle in my elbow. I recognised the feeling as I had had a major issue a few years early with my ‘funny bone’. Your funny bone is not a bone but the ulna nerve that runs through the elbow and there is nothing funny about it when it goes wrong. Please God NO!
A few years early I had lost about a year of my life from pain and weakness in my arms because of the compression of the ulna nerves in both my elbows. I had spent that time in agony with nerve pain which could not be control with medication, visiting doctors, specialists, physio and therapists, trying splints and braces and then finally had surgery on my right elbow and then six weeks later surgery on my left elbow, followed another 6 months of recovery gaining the strength and function back. During this ordeal, I prayed, I cried, and begged for God to intercede for me. “Please God heal me or at least give me comfort or relief, even just a little bit”.
I asked everyone I knew to pray for me, also people I did not know were praying for me on behalf of my friends who I had asked for help, but there was no answer to our prayers. It was a physically challenging year, but the impact on my faith and my trust in God was significant also. Why had God left me to suffer, had He forgotten about me? I believed that God had a plan for me, plans for good, for a hope, and a future (Jeremiah 29:11), that verse had been my theme song. God had rescued me from addiction and total brokenness and now it seemed He had forgotten me. What had I done to deserve this?
It is almost impossible to see the blessings in the trials at the time and looking back in hindsight, I learnt so much and realised how much I do trust God. Despite everything I went through and what seemed like a lack of response or lack of answer to prayer, I still believed God loved me and was on my side, I just did not understand the path He had taken me on. I did gain a sort of peace with what I had gone through that year looking back and after coming out the other side. I thought I knew what it was all about, I thought I understood the lessons God wanted me to learn, that he was preparing me for the next part of my purpose in stepping up and writing my books. What I was not prepared for was doing it all over again.
So, January this year when I felt the tingle, I was scared. I had had an incredible previous 18 months with writing my books and speaking, so many opportunities and response to my story. I was excited about where God was taking me next, I was on a mission for God to share my testimony of His love and faithfulness, serving Him and devoting my career in His service but then the pain started. A little at first and then more and more until again it was unbearable. Once again I found myself on the couch unable to work, on pain killers which made me exhausted all the time, with a right arm that felt like it was getting electric shocks every time I moved. To say I was angry at God was an understatement. I had been serving Him, following my purpose, working hard and faithfully. I was helping people and encouraging them, but I was pretending as I was devastated and disillusioned in my heart by this turn of events. This time I knew what lay ahead of me and I could not believe I had to face it all again. Why God? Was I not doing enough for you? Was I being punished for some sin? Was this the end of my purpose? My confidence and self-esteem dived, and a deep depression set in. I wanted to give up, why fight this time? I had picked myself up before and it had been a tough road, and I did not know if I could do it again.
Initially I did not pray again. I had been disappointed last time as I hung all my hopes on God answering my prayers for healing, so my heart resisted opening again to that disappointment. As my health worsened my desperation grew and I did start to pray. Maybe God did not answer my prayers last time because I did not believe enough or maybe this time would be different. But no, I did not get the healing I thought I deserved because of my prayers and faithful service.
I did have to walk the same path again, through specialists, physios and ultimately surgery again. A much more significant surgery with a more difficult recovery. Also, I had Covid to content with too, my surgery had been scheduled for 2 days before we went into lock down as a country. When the surgeon called suggesting my operation might be cancelled, that is when I fell to my knees in absolute humility before the creator of the universe. “God please grant my prayer, I cannot face anymore, let my surgery go ahead despite the world crisis”. That prayer God answered, I was the last elective surgery slot before the country went into lock down and recovered on the couch with my family there to support and care for me.
The journey was awful, no glossing over how bad it was. I would never do it by choice and I do not want to repeat it. I can try to guess all the reasons God let me go on that journey and why He did not answer my prayers or at least in the ways I expected, but I will never really know. I can ask why over and over and never get the answer that I want. I will never understand the eternal impact or see the larger picture for my life or the significance that period of ill health will have on my life and on others who went through it with me. What I do know is, I survived. I am stronger and braver than ever, and I trust that God is faithful, and that God does love me. Jeremiah 29:11 is just as true in the good times as it is true in the middle of heartache and the trials of life. God will make good come out of our suffering, there are always gems amongst the dirt.