Healing In The Shadows of Chronic Pain
Healing is a complicated subject for Christians suffering from chronic conditions. Of course, we want to experience healing, so that we can arrive at an end to our suffering. We have prayed for it. We asked others to pray for us. We may have even asked our elders to come pray over us and anoint us with oil (Jas. 5:13-15).
When we didn’t get better, others may have questioned our faith, or we even doubted our own faith. When we accepted we weren’t getting better, people lined up to give us unsolicited advice: what stretch to try, food to cut out, or supplement to take that would obviously restore us to full health. And if you don’t listen to them, well, don’t expect any sympathy then!
So, understandably, people with chronic conditions become a little cynical whenever the subject of healing comes up. This very day a lady from Tennesee, who heard my interview on K-Love, called me to tell me how she had the answer to solve my chronic pain. The point of the interview was to share how Broken and Mended was helping people spiritually in their struggles with chronic illness. I wasn’t looking for advice from total strangers with no medical background on how to get over my chronic pain!
I confess; I buried the lede: I want to share a personal story about healing that I’ve only recently come to see as God’s miraculous intervention. Part of the reason it took me so long to see it that way is because of the confusion about healing I mentioned above and because I wasn’t healed completely from ankylosing spondylitis or Crohn’s. However, I now understand I was healed from something much worse.
In 2013, I began having GI symptoms that could not be ignored. I had to start seeing a GI, and unsurprisingly, he suggested we do both scopes (colonoscopy and endoscopy). When I came back for the follow-up, I was informed that the biopsies revealed I had eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) in my colon and esophagus. To have eosinophils in your esophagus is not that unusual, but to have them in your colon tissue is bad news. It is a rare condition called eosinophilic colitis.
This isn’t necessarily worse than Crohn’s, but with me having eosinophils in my esophagus, an elevated eosinophil blood count, and a mysterious liver ailment that had caused stage two fibrosis of the liver (diagnosed through biopsy), along with the colon involvement, my GI suspected I had eosinophilia. The concern was that if it was affecting my colon, esophagus, and liver (he even suspected the joint disease traced back to this), then the danger was that the heart and other organs could be threatened as well.
So, I was shipped off to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and a lot of people were praying for me. Yes, I had started some new medicines, but what happened at Mayo was completely unexpected. They did confirm the original biopsies, but when they repeated the scopes, there were no eosinophils to be found! In fact, my blood work and all my tests were better than they had been in months.
At the time, I found this confusing. Did we go to Mayo for no reason? Instead, I was sent back with a tentative diagnosis of Crohn’s, a diagnosis that my local GI rejected. No one could explain why the biopsies in Texas came back with eosinophils and why the ones in Minnesota did not.
I’m finally putting all this together because I recently had an MRI done on my liver that came back as “fatty liver,” but the significant liver damage from 2013 is long gone. Again, I don’t know why that is from a medical standpoint. My esophagus healed up too. Nothing really makes sense, but what makes the MOST sense to me is that God intervened.
My journey is tough enough without the potentially dangerous eosinophilia hounding me, especially with major organ involvement. The first GI was not wrong. The biopsies were confirmed. I simply did not have the same condition at Mayo that I had before I went there, but I never considered it a “healing” until recently. It was more like we had “dodged a bullet.”
Now, I believe God healed me in the shadow of these other chronic conditions with which I still live. Maybe the lady from Tennessee won’t understand that. In many people’s view, no person of faith should ever have to live with a difficult disease, but they are so wrong.
God did not spare me from the long hard road of chronic illness, but he did spare me from a more dangerous outcome. I haven’t ever had to go back to Mayo. I have no plans to return. Of course, things could change again for me, as they could for you. If and when they do, let’s try to remember that God’s healing can come in many unexpected ways, even amongst the shadows.
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