These Have Been Good Days, But Hard Times

Not so well, actually, though I’m truly grateful you asked. I’m not sure if it’s pride or privacy that usually compels me to say “Fine” or “Good” when asked that question, but today I’ll just level with you. “Not so good.” These have been hard days—or maybe better, hard times lived upon lots of good days.

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I don’t wish to make my life sound tragic. We are just wrapping up our summer, and we enjoyed some tremendous times as family. My son was back from school for the summer, so the family was complete. We got to enjoy a wonderful vacation together and build some precious memories. We enjoyed so many of God’s blessings as individuals and as a family. In many ways, it was a banner summer and I am so thankful for it.

In another way though, it was a difficult summer. You probably know by now that over the past few years I’ve been struggling with pain. More properly, I’ve been struggling with pain in my neck, my arms, my hands, and my fingers. It’s pain—usually low-grade—that manifests itself most of the time, but flares immediately when I write or tap on a keyboard or device. In other words, it’s pain that manifests itself especially when I do what I believe I’ve been called to do and what I most love to do. And over time, this pain has increased. It has been a long time since I’ve been able to sit comfortably to simply read a book. It has been a longer time still since I’ve been able to sit comfortably and write a book, or even an article for that. Pain has somehow become part of the background of my life. So even while life is so good and so beautiful, I can’t deny that the last few days, the last few weeks, and even the last few months have been especially hard. I see it in my work. I see it in my demeanor. I see it in Aileen’s eyes.

A couple of days ago I decided to tidy up my office and do some basic renovations. The walls are getting a little beat up, the paint is getting a little tired, and it could all use a little freshening. Not only that, but I need to clear some space so I can bring in furniture that will allow me to sit comfortably. One thing led to another, and I was soon emptying and reorganizing my bookcases and cupboards. And inside I found the detritus of so many attempts to ease or address the pain I’ve been dealing with. There were mice and keyboards, braces and splints, and evidence of various treatments and medications. It was strange and more than a little sad to see them all laid out like that. Each one represented a moment of hope—if I just wear this for a little while the pain will ease, if I just change this behavior I’ll get some relief, if I just follow this course of treatment I’ll be able to get back to doing what I love to do at the pace I want to do it. But laid out on the floor, each one actually represented a moment of failure. All were attempted, but none made any great difference.

I haven’t given up, of course. I remain under the guidance and treatment of a wonderful Christian doctor who is helping me essentially start over, to look holistically for cause and cure. Most times I’m optimistic. But the only way to go about the process is to try things. That sounds easy enough, but each attempt involves some kind of cost or pain or discomfort or disruption. It involves a new diet, or a new specialist, or a new treatment, or a new medication. It is always a process of trial and error, of attempts and elimination. These end up taking their toll, and I think this may be what I’m feeling most pointedly right now. I am feeling the weariness of so many different attempts and the disappointment of so many failures. This pain nestles on top of the physical pain, somehow making it even harder to bear.

Most recently, I’ve been on a new course of medications to see what information we can gain through them. But, as is so often the case, these treatments have both positive and negative consequences. They treat a symptom, but they leave me lying awake at night. They address a physical issue, but they mess with my mind. The process is necessary and each part fills in a small piece of a bigger puzzle, but there’s nothing simple or easy about it. It’s rare that I feel like I’m working at more than forty or fifty percent of my capacity. It’s rare that my mind is in much better shape than my body. I agonize about the quality of blog I’m writing these days and the quality of father, husband, elder, and churchman I’m being. I distrust what I’m thinking. I am suspicious of my emotions.

But I both feel and know this: God is good. Though I have had some moments of self-pity, I don’t think I’ve had as much as one moment of doubting God’s goodness or kindness or noble plan. Though I can’t say I have any idea why I am going through this, I have never doubted that it is God’s will and that somehow it is good, even if I cannot quite see it. I have never doubted that somehow it is better than the alternative, even if I never see it on this side of eternity.

Do know that I’m very thankful for those who pray for me. And maybe through this article you will have a better idea of the kind of prayer I need. I both want and need prayer for healing, but even more so, I want and need prayer for endurance. I believe in God. I believe in a sovereign God. I believe I’m in exactly the state he has deemed best for me. And I desperately want to live it well.