Where Is God in Chronic Pain?
I am deeply honored to share my friend Tiffany’s story here on Lizzy Life. It’s a scary and vulnerable thing to share your life, your pain, and your faith journey with others…I’m so thankful that Tiffany was willing to share hers with all of us. Her words brought tears to my eyes. Whether you struggle with chronic pain, physical challenges, or any kind of suffering that is beyond your control, I know your faith will be strengthened by these words.
Hey there, Lizzy Life followers! My name is Tiffany Chacon and I’m honored to share about my journey with pain and waiting for healing.
At the beginning of 2013, I started to have debilitating pain in my joints. At the time, I was a riding instructor at a local horse farm. I would get home from teaching lessons at the end of the day and literally crawl up the stairs to our apartment because I was in so much pain. I started to see an orthopedic doctor and then a sports medicine doctor, and when neither helped, I went to a rheumatologist, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a physical therapist… the list goes on. I got a knee brace, shoe insoles, a plethora of medications and side effects, and a myriad of injections in my joints. Instead of getting better, the pain only got worse.
With every new doctor, I would hope that this would be THE ONE. This would be the doctor who would know what was wrong with me. This would be the therapy to finally “fix” me. This medication would make it all go away. But it didn’t. I found the truth in this verse: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12).
Three years into my journey with pain, I was consistently walking with a cane and taking several medications daily just to function. The pain kept me up at night—I spent a lot of nights crying on the bathroom floor, praying to God, feeling so alone and defeated. I was unable to work, barely able to go to church. There were days when I couldn’t even walk to the bathroom without help from my husband.
The pain brought up so many questions in my life. First, the practical: What is happening to me? How can we fix this? How long will this last? Then, the relational and spiritual: My husband didn’t sign up for this. What will my friends think of me when I can’t keep up with them? Why would God allow me to be in pain—I can’t DO anything for Him like this.
I was 25 years old at the time. All of my friends were advancing in their careers, going on fun vacations, moving on with their lives. All things that I was not able to do. I kept thinking, I have one life…and this is it?
My first instinct was to run from God, curl up in a little ball and watch America’s Next Top Model until the pain went away. When that didn’t work, I turned to the Scriptures and to prayer. I wrote this verse on my mirror and would pray over it on an almost daily basis:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16–18)
As I focused on God’s Word and his eternal promises—the hope of real healing, of true comfort in heaven, of eternal glory—I began to see how God was working through my pain.
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When my husband, Tyler, and I were first married, I would always ask him, “Do you love me?” Most of the time I would say it playfully, but the question came from an intense longing to feel secure in his love for me. Whenever he responded to my inquiry, I would pay attention to his tone of voice, his body language, his eyes, to gauge just how much he actually loved me.
Now, nine years later, I can’t think of the last time I asked Tyler that question, and I’ll tell you why: as I suffered these past few years, he suffered, too.
In Tyler’s wedding vows, he said, “If you don’t sleep, I won’t sleep.” And as we close in on our ten-year anniversary, he has proven true to his word. When I couldn’t sleep because of the pain, Tyler would stay awake with me and pray over me. He didn’t need to tell me he loved me anymore, because he showed he loved me.
And the same has been true of my relationship with God: throughout my life, it seems that my prayers to Him have always been similar to my questions to Tyler. Do you love me? Are you sure? And, as I became more “useless” to God during my flare-ups, the question became: Do you love me while I’m like this? And God’s resounding answer to me has been yes.
One moment stands out in particular. In December 2015, I had to have surgery, and I was terrified. For some reason the thing I was most scared of was going into surgery alone—I was petrified thinking about being alone in the brief time when they take you away from your friends and family and wheel you from the hospital room to the operating room. In the hours leading up to the surgery, I prayed a specific prayer: God, hold my hand. Be with me as I go into surgery. And when the moment came for me to say goodbye to my family and go to the operating room, as the nurses were wheeling me away, the surgeon ran up to my bed and took my hand. She held my hand all the way to the operating room, and kept holding it until I was asleep. Of course, she didn’t know about my prayer—she didn’t even know I was afraid. But God did — and I really believe that through her, God Himself was holding my hand all the way to the operating room and into surgery. In that moment I saw that God was a present help in my trouble (Psalm 46) and He would hold my hand as long as I needed.
Last year, I read Elizabeth’s book, When God Says, “Wait,“ and the questions that struck me the most were: How will I wait? and Who will I become along this journey?
As I read the book and wrestled with the ambiguity of my waiting game, I realized that I couldn’t actually control anything about my situation except for my attitude and actions during this period of indefinite waiting. In that moment, I decided:
I am going to be hopeful.
I am going to ask for help when I need it.
I am going to be willing to tell my story, to talk about my pain.
Instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I will be grateful for what I can do.
I won’t give in to the “what ifs,” but will find hope in the “yet” (WGSW, p. 141).
I will use my waiting journey to allow God to shape me, to make me into the person He created me to be (WGSW, p. 28).
Since making these decisions, I have to admit that I have not waited perfectly. I have let my mind go crazy with the what ifs, I have had pity parties, I have retreated back into my turtle shell of pain and pushed out the people who love me. But I have also had victories: I have had days when I’ve been in pain and I’ve been joyful anyway. I have shared my story with others and found that it gave them strength. I have relished the little victories and have praised God along the way.
Almost five years into my journey with pain, I still don’t have answers about what is causing the pain, if and when it will ever go away, or what my life will look like tomorrow. But I do have the answers to some of life’s most important questions:
Even in the pain, I know that God loves me.
Even in the pain, I know that Tyler will be beside me through it.
Even in the pain, I know who I want to be.
Tiffany, your example is an inspiration and your faith is a comfort and guide. Thank you for sharing your story—and your heart.
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Elizabeth works from home as a writer, editor, diaper changer, baby snuggler, laundry slayer, not-so-gourmet chef, kid chauffeur, floor mopper, dog groomer, and tantrum tamer. She is always tired, but it's mostly the good kind.