“If any of you wants to be My follower, you must … shoulder your cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23 (NLT)
I met yesterday with a friend who lives with chronic pain. It’s a world I don’t live in, and one that I want to better understand. I get injured and sore and occasionally have odd aches and pains, but I don’t live with chronic pain.
Jesus encountered many people with chronic, debilitating conditions. He healed many of them. (Oh, to have the faith and the power to do that for my friend!). But whether He healed them or not, Jesus loved and understood and encouraged all of them. He saw them, heard them, empathized with them and encouraged them.
The truth is, we live in a fallen world. And the fallenness of that world and the sin that pervades it affects all of our lives. Some of us are affected mentally, others emotionally … and people like my friend are affected physically. And those “wounds” so-to-speak become part of the “cross” we each must carry. We all have different burdens to carry and consider as we run our race towards Jesus. (See Hebrews 12:1.) They are some of the defining characteristics that make each of our “races” unique and our own.
My friend tells me that living with chronic pain leaves her feeling “at war” with her body much of the time. And as she was describing this to me, I felt great compassion for her. Much of the time, she experiences her body as the enemy. Now, as I write this, I pray that the Spirit might turn my compassion for her into personal compassion for herself. (And, I am convicted that we all have areas of our lives for which we also need greater self-compassion.)
We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Even if we live with debilitating conditions, our bodies remain awesome creations of God. Our “races” just look different. Harder? Perhaps. Definitely different. And stewardship looks different too.
So I am praying for my friend today and for everyone who is living with chronic pain or other debilitating physical conditions. And while I pray for healing and relief, I also pray for encouragement and self-compassion … and for endurance to run the race set before them …
As we all run with our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.