April McGowan

Living Well with Suffering

Suffering and prayer

Can you live well with suffering?

Suffering can mean many things to people. Instead of trying to come up with a universal definition we’ll all agree on, I’ll tell you what suffering is to me, within my own illness, CVID.

Suffering for me is near constant body aches like the flu, dizziness, headaches, nausea, fevers and severe, life-altering fatigue. It’s the inability to comfort my kids when they are sick with hugs or kisses because I could get their illness (this one bothers me a lot). Medications which keep me alive, but make me feel lousy for two days every week. It’s having to plan my life around my illness.

No. It’s not______ (insert whatever horrible disease/injury you can think of). But it’s life-altering and (in some cases) life-threatening. If I let it, it can be joy-stealing.

So how do I go about living well with suffering? It’s tricky. I often fail. I will be rolling along with my illness only to get slammed by a new symptom, or event, and tailspin into depression and oftentimes self-pity. Although, these tailspins get shorter every time. In fact I had one last week that only lasted six hours. A new record!

Saturday, I went out to prove that I was still the woman I thought I was and tried to change the headlight on my husband’s car as a surprise. My parents raised me independent and with a working knowledge of tools. I enjoy working with my hands. But you know what? I couldn’t do it. I spent over an hour trying. My back went into spasms. I broke out in cold chills. My hands ended up bruised. I pulled just about every muscle I had trying to prove something to myself, my husband, and maybe even God. I failed. Miserably. I tail spun. I slammed into the house, disgusted with myself and everyone else, but especially the evil car company who made it so ridiculously hard.

I was angry at them, at my husband who said, “You shouldn’t be doing that,” (but…he was right) at myself and at God—couldn’t He have given me super strength to get the job done? I couldn’t change this stupid ten dollar bulb. Then that became the only thing I wanted to do. I obsessed of ways to do it. But I’d ruined the bulb, and I didn’t have the energy to drive and get a new one, let alone try again. Plus, my husband said, “Stop it.” You can imagine how well that went over. Defeated, I tumbled into a mess. I wasn’t who I wanted to be. Not even a shadow of who I once was.

I’ll tell you a secret. I’d known five minutes in that it wasn’t going to work. I knew I had no business being out there leaning over the engine. But my inner voice screamed that if I just wanted it bad enough, I could. Uh…No.

I had to repent of lots of things on Saturday.

I was in over my head because I’d skipped a step I learned years ago: Pray first for guidance. That one hour of independent stubbornness ruined my day. It stole Sunday from me, too.

Light bulb.

So, how do I live well with suffering? I pray. I ask for wisdom, strength, grace, comfort and mercy. I pray for help to persevere. I stay mindful of the Holy Spirit and His hand in my life. Where I might lead myself astray, He never does.

Does that mean I get to do whatever I want? Hardly. But the Lord grants me the peace to get through. And if not to be totally okay with it, to at least learn to live with it. He’s not done with me yet.

James 1: 2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

10 Comments

  1. Janet
    Sep 29, 2015

    April thanks for sharing that incredibly frustrating moment and reminding us that we need to always pray for guidance or life will be incredibly frustrating! God is gracious & merciful. We need to fill up with that truth and let him guide us according to our abilities & giftings. Abide, persevere & count it all joy!

    • April
      Sep 29, 2015

      Amen to that. Words to live by!

  2. Bonnie Leon
    Sep 30, 2015

    Dear April, I know this scenario well. And I hate it. But I love your wise words and your transparency. Thank you.

    I will keep you in prayer.

    Take each day as though it’s the only day and relish the blessings, no matter how small.

    A BIG hug from me.

    • April
      Sep 30, 2015

      Thanks so much, Bonnie! I know you get this, too. Keeping my eyes on one day at a time is such a challenge. ..I’m a planner! Living in a posture of submission is not in my nature, but I’m learning! Praying for you, too.

      • Bonnie Leon
        Oct 5, 2015

        I reread your post today and it is exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve been mad for two days … I so want to be the person I once was.

        I am also a planner and I push myself beyond what I know is reasonable … I’m recovering now from a trip I took and knew I’d pay consequences for because I did too much in too short a time span. I could have been wiser in my planning. I pray that in the learning I will gain wisdom.

        Love you, sweet lady. Praying for good days.

        • April
          Oct 5, 2015

          I’m so sorry, Bonnie. Our limitations feel so much like a prison some days. I’ve noticed that the only thing I get from beating against the bars are bloody knuckles and more exhaustion. I am praying for peace and rest for you. Much Love,
          April

  3. wow! You have a strong spirit and a hard head of determination! I can relate to those things! And God has given me a different challenge to try my patience………..an autistic daughter who frustrates and tries my patience daily! It’s interesting to see what He challenges us with and how we decide to react to these daily ………..keeping a positive outlook is sometimes my biggest challenge! I, too, sometimes resort to the pity party and feel sorry for myself……especially when I see other parents with 22 yr olds that are now either in or just finished college and off to their own lives……and mine is still at home, she will be for many more years, and she can’t even have a real job. I love her dearly, but a challenge she is! My husband, bless his heart, is daily trying to learn how to parent her with me, and how to deal with Tayler’s issues, without losing HIS patience too! So, just know there are MANY others around you who understand, and who support you in their prayers. And with my strong spirit I can totally relate to your frustration over NOT being able to complete something you wanted to……….and still trying beyond what you should have………and then feeling defeated! Hang in there! Another day brings another reason to be thankful for life……….not that it ever goes as we would plan! Sometimes I think that the more hard-headed I am, the more God sends challenges my way to see if I can handle it! And with HIS help, I do!

    • AMcGowan
      Oct 1, 2015

      Thanks for sharing your story, Wanda…and your encouragement!! Us stubborn…errr…determined ladies need to stick together!! 😀😆😜

  4. Oh, do I relate to this! Thank you for sharing, April.

    • April
      Oct 5, 2015

      Such a daily struggle sometimes! HUGS!

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