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Chronic Illness - Chronic Pain Articles

[not available for reprint]

Broken But Don't Need Fixing: Living with Chronic Illness and Understanding
      Healing Ma Not Come This Side of Heaven

By Laurie Thompson

My heart was pounding. Beads of sweat were pouring down my forehead and the back of my neck. I was totally focused on my objective -- to walk a mile on the treadmill. My goal each week was to spend at least three days in the gym to improve my health. A middle-aged woman beside me suddenly interrupted my train of thought, "Boy, this sure does wear you out, doesn't it?" She was staring at me waiting patiently for a reaction or comment. "Yes, it really does. But you know what they say, no pain, no gain."

A few moments passed. "What happened to you? I mean, I noticed you walk with a cane." I was asked this question a lot. But telling my story always gave me an opportunity to share what the Lord had done in my life. "In 1982, my family and I were going to Florida for Thanksgiving when we were hit head-on by a drunk driver. My back was broken, and I was paralyzed from the waist down.

The doctors told me I would never walk again, but the Lord intervened and chose to heal me. Today, I am only paralyzed from the knees down, wear leg braces and walk with a cane." She had to think a moment before she responded. "If you pray more, you know, the Lord will completely heal you."

She clearly had a misunderstanding of God's Word and his promises. Comments like this used to offend me but I had to recognize the, theologically speaking, this woman simply did not have correct doctrine even though she meant well. She was so I had to be careful not to offend or hurt her feelings.

"Ma'am, I have prayed, and God has healed me. Even though I would love to be perfectly 'able-bodied' again, apparently that is not God's will for my life. I rejoice that I am even able to walk."

Jesus Christ is the Great Physician, and he has all authority and power to work miracles, but he does not always answer our prayers in the way we may think best! Jesus does say that all we need is the faith of a mustard seed to move moutains (Matt. 17:20 NASB) and that we can do all things through Him (Phil. 4:13), but what is the context of those passages? We simply cannot take passages of Scripture and trun them into what we want them to say. We must look at the Bible as a whole and understand God in His overall character. Here is an example, Paul was an apostle and constantly prayed for healing of his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians12:7).

Just because God did not heal him, does that mean Paul did not pray hard enough? Certainly not. God allowed the thorn in Paul's life so that he could be glorified somehow through it. I had lovingly presented the truth to this woman while at the same time challenging her thinking. That was all I could do. Out time on the treadmill was complete. The woman sympathetically smiled at me and wished me well before we went separate ways.

This encounter challenged my own thinking. I went through a range of emotions as I pondered her comment. Man's perception of wholeness is someone with two working legs, two working arms, two good eyes and two good ears. Yet, wholeness is not dependent on circumstances or physical or emotional being.

Wholeness only comes from within -- from a relationship with Jesus Christ! My body may seem "broken" to some people, but I am just as whole as any other person. Every single human that has ever been or ever will be, other than Jesus Christ, has been "broken". We are all contaminated by the sinful world in which we live. Even people without disabilities are not whole. They simply cannot be unless they have Christ.

The simple comment, which this woman made to me, was evidence of her belief system surrounding God and his goodness. She could not comprehend how God could have left me partially paralyzed if I had really prayed hard enough for healing. Of course I had prayed for healing! It is not by works or performance that we are saved, however. Whether we pray hard or lightly, God's will is going to take place. Why? Beccause He's in charge and we're not! My understanding of healing was to be completely normal again physically, but that was not God's plan for my life. Neither does my perception of wholeness match up to God's perfect perception of wholeness.

I have learned that I erally must keep this whole concept in perspective if I am to grow in my daily walk with my Lord. I must recognize my need for Him before He can use my disabled body in its fullness to bring glory upon Him. The basic line is that we are all "broken," we are not whole. No matter how good we look on the outside, it is just a shell. So, just like everyone else on the face of this planet, I am broken -- but I don't need fixin'. Jesus has already done that in my life!

Get a free download of 200 ways to reach out to someone who is hurting from Beyond Caseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend when you sign up for hopenotes, a monthly ezine. Author of this article, Lisa Copen is also the founder of Rest Ministries and National Invisible Illness Awareness Week.