God is with us, through every aspect of our lives, using everything to draw us to Himself, to inspire growth, and to make Himself known. Not only in the joyous occasions, but in the terrifying, He is near. All my life, He has been teaching me this.
Emmanuel, God with us, is a life-changing truth requiring a lifelong journey of tutelage. We are not orphaned. We are never alone.
The latest lesson is that Jesus is with me in my chronic illness, even when my health requires constant and careful maintenance every day, particularly now in Fallen’s final steps toward publication and book launch as we prepare for Christmas.
Each day I have to weigh the stressors against my energy levels. I’m a spoonie. I follow a regimen of rest, balanced exercise, and physical therapy, along with supplements and careful eating. I limit my daily activities to preserve strength for my top priorities.
Deep-tissue massage therapy has been another key to my recovery. This illness is teaching me that there is much western medicine doesn’t know about the body and autoimmune disorders.
But God is intimately acquainted with the human body, as its designer, and with me, both inside and out (Psalm 139:13-18). Therefore, I must listen carefully to His Spirit leading me and teaching me. I am a follower of Christ, a Christian. I’m not a practitioner of an Eastern religion, yet massage has always been a spiritual experience for me.
I often have some of my best times of prayer and repentance during my massage. My therapist leaves a box of tissue nearby, so I can blow my nose and wipe my tears. We often have spiritual conversations during my massages, or I pray outloud.
Why does massage do this? My body releases a flood of endorphins when I’m touched. A friend merely holding my hand when I’m overwhelmed with pain helps me overcome as the endorphins kick in. My massages involve a solid hour or more of touch. As my therapist kneads out the knots of tension at the connecting points of my ligaments — the source of most of my pain — the endorphin release not only helps me cope with the pain, but it also gives me a sense of wellbeing that increases my awareness of Christ’s nearness.
I’m also on a medication that ensures I have plenty of norepinephrine to cope with my fatigue and brain fog. The heightened awareness boost from a now healthy amount of norepinephrine makes me aware of important truths the Lord has been trying to impress upon me.
During massage, the Lord heightens my understanding of what He’s teaching me. Recently, I realized I needed to forgive someone. I was harboring bitterness, and I hadn’t even been aware of it! Yet, there it was, clear as day. I realized I had no right to judge, because I had a similar sin. This led to repentance, and the need for the tissue. I then had a spiritual conversation with my therapist about forgiveness and its importance as she continued the massage. This is typical.
The Lord is everywhere within my illness. He’s not waving at me from the end, waiting there to work it together for my good. Rather, He’s wrapped up with me in the middle of it, already working, meeting me on massage tables, in hot Epsom-salt tubs, and in lonely corners.
This physical pain has been one of God’s greatest tools. Vividly, it illustrates how much Jesus loves me and how close He is in pain and difficulty, human experiences with which He is intimately acquainted. He calls in unusual ways, from places I’d never ventured before.
Where are you in your trial? Do you know the Lord is near?
Look for Him. See Him there.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:7-12 (NIV)