Faith in the Midst of Pain

Websters Dictionary definition of “Faith” (noun) \ˈfāth\

: strong belief or trust in someone or something

: belief in the existence of God

: strong religious feelings or beliefs : a system of religious beliefs

For those of us with invisible illness, which pretty much always includes chronic/widespread pain, faith can be very difficult. Not only in a deity, but in others around us. This post is going to break down the definition of faith and how we can use it to our benefit, not allow it to break us down.

I grew up in the church… literally. Before I was born, my parents were not “church goers”. But just about a year before I arrived in this world, they found God and started attending church on a regular basis. So, when I was born we spent a LOT of time in church. We were the family that was there every Sunday (two services in the morning and one at night), Wednesday nights, church camp during the summer, and anything else we could possibly be a part of… we were there. But truth be told, I didn’t mind! I loved my church, all my friends were there and it was the one stable part of my life. We moved around a lot and eventually my father became an associate pastor, so it really became a second home. Throughout all of it though, my own spiritual journey was a roller coaster.

Even from a very young age, I dealt with crippling depression. I internalized it, of course. Everyone knew me as the perky kid, the pastor’s daughter that “could do no wrong”, but I was haunted all the time. Every time they called people up to receive prayer, I was the first in line. I knew something was wrong with me, I just didn’t know what. I thought I had to be saved, over and over again. Finally a camp counselor noticed what was I doing and pulled me aside. I explained my feelings and she told me about her own struggles with depression. It hit me that this wasn’t something I had to be “saved” from, I already was. God was going to take care of me, and things started looking up. Until my body started falling apart.

I had always been a little sick, “growing pains” or so I was told. But as I got older (late teens, early 20’s), my whole body fell into chaos. One real test of my faith came when I found out I had a rare form of cystic growth pattern on my ovaries (sorry if this is TMI, but it is very key to my story, and I’ll do a whole blog post just on this in the future). Now, I was from a fairly large family and had always wanted several children, so when my doctor told me that it would be extremely difficult to conceive when I was 17… it shattered my world! I was already dealing with chronic depression and every day pain. My cramps were so intense I couldn’t move when they started, which is what had sent me to the doctor in the first place. They were unable to do anything about the cysts, they would explode in time anyway (which just means more pain). So, to a 17 year old it was basically the end, or so I saw it. Then… something even worse happened that brought it all into perspective. A friend (that I knew, but unfortunately never really got the chance to know well), that went to my church and was in my class at school, committed suicide. It hit me like a ton of bricks. How many times had I considered doing the same thing!? His mother asked me to sing at his showing, and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I couldn’t make it through the whole song, I was crying too hard. I’m crying just thinking about it now! (Ok… pulling myself together, back to the story.) Some people seemed to think what he did was selfish, but I knew it wasn’t. I knew how he felt. I knew the pain, the loneliness, the longing for the other side. I yearned for it! (There are days I still do, but we’ll get to that later.) It was then that I knew my faith was totally real, because I knew it was God that quieted my soul. Not my own will, and not my own intentions, but that outside force saying “I’m here for you… however you need Me to be.” That day changed me, forever!

Since then, I’ve lived in several different cities/states, and I’ve even been on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. I’ve worked in different churches as a youth leader, camp counselor, and nursery assistant. I’ve done my “fair share” of “church stuff”, but does that make me a better person than anyone else? NO! I don’t consider myself religious. I consider myself faithful. Let me explain that better. Let’s look back to the description of faith at the top of the post.

Websters Dictionary definition of “Faith” (noun) \ˈfāth\

: strong belief or trust in someone or something

: belief in the existence of God

: strong religious feelings or beliefs : a system of religious beliefs

So, when I say I’m a “faithful” person, I’m not just saying I’m faithful to God, I’m faithful to everyone (including myself).

How about this one?

I have faith in the existence of God and I have strong “religious” feelings. But I am not defined by my religion. Is this making sense yet?

Ok, I’m a big fan of this one. My faith gets me through the tough times. Which for me is all the time… so my faith is what gets me through. I trust that God will see me through all the s**t I deal with every day (yes, we Christians can have dirty mouths too, but this is a family friendly blog so I censored myself). I know that He’s there for me, because of all those times I’ve wanted to drive straight into a wall, He steadies my heart and brings my life back into focus. When the panic attacks take hold, it’s that feeling of His peace that calms me. He even helped me out on the day I had planned out my suicide.

It seems like an awful thing to say but even as a mother of two and wife I was going to end my life. I had it all planned out even. I won’t go into specifics, but in the end I didn’t go through with it (obviously). I went to my husband and told him about my plans, he acted quickly and took me to the Stress Center (after making sure that’s what I wanted, which I did). After several weeks of counseling (with a much more competent counselor, things calmed down. Do I still have suicidal thoughts? Of course, but I don’t plan on acting on them!

I know a vast majority of people think I’m insane for even contemplating that God even exists, but that’s okay. We all have faith in something! By definition, faith is not just one thing. It isn’t JUST faith in God, or belief in religion. It is often belief in others, or trust in something. Do you trust that something/someone will take care of you? A doctor, or hospital? A friend or family member? Then you have faith! Even if it’s not in God, I challenge everyone to explore the possibility that faith is about more than religion. Let’s look inside ourselves and find the thing we believe in, that we trust the most. For me, it’s God and my family. They get me through those times in my life when all I feel is the pain. They make me realize that I am more than my illness. God didn’t give me the pain, He isn’t cruel! That’s a topic for another post for another time though.

Trust me when I say this… I will not get super religious on my blog. I know a lot of people that deal with their faith, and I wanted to let everyone know where I stood. I’m the opposite of judgmental! I’m not republican OR democrat, I don’t care who you vote for. I am a heterosexual woman that is an ally for the LGBTQ community, I fully support gay marriage and think its criminal how they are treated! I have tattoos and brightly colored hair. I love science-fiction movies and even cosplay at my local comic-con. So, why did I tell you all that? Because, it doesn’t matter who you are! God doesn’t care! God doesn’t love me any less because I have tattoos. My faith isn’t challenged because I liked a picture of my friend’s gay wedding. Why? Nothing you do can change the trust in that which gets you through your own personal pain.

 

 

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