"To the Pain"
So, if I wasn't exactly motivated before to increase my water intake, periodically spiked with lemon juice (an blood-alkalizing and stone-dissolving agent), I certainly am now. In addition, I'm feeling the need to eat a lot more vegetables, if for no other reason than that I'm craving them. My craving has been going on for the last several days. Even though I ate some vegetables (mostly leafy greens and cabbage), apparently they weren't *enough* or the right *kind*. So tonight, out of desperation, I dug through the kitchen cabinet, found a can of peas, heated them on the stove, and ate some. They really hit the spot. I'm saving the rest for breakfast tomorrow.
The nice thing was, half of last week. my school hosted conferences instead of classes, so I only missed a few class days. Nonetheless, it was enough that I'll be catching up into next week. Although I used up most of an entire week doubled over in bed, binge-watching Gilmore Girls to take my mind off the pain, this experience wasn't wasted. All pain is for a purpose - even when it's something they say hurts worse than childbirth. The spiritual epiphany that came with my pain made it all worth while.
I'm copying over the text from what I posted on Facebook on Saturday, the day after my kidney stone finally passed. It's more informal and unedited than I usually like to post publicly, but it came from my heart.
[Posted on Facebook 02/17/18]
This week was a hard one for me. Instead of enjoying [conference] sessions with family and friends, I had to stay at home, much of the time doubled up with the pain of a kidney stone. But even though I only got to hear one service this week, and that over Livestream, God still used my experience to fundamentally challenge the way I view him and how I approach my relationship with him.
Earlier in the week, I remembered that I hadn't read my Bible that day, so I opened it up and started reading in Hebrews. As I read, I came across Hebrews 11:6 - "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." Even though every day I find myself exhibiting selfishness and pride in some ways, God knows that pleasing him is ultimately what I want most for my life. But according to this verse, faith is essential to pleasing God, and I was convicted by the definition of faith that followed.
Two simple questions: Do I believe that God exists? Do I believe that he rewards those who seek him? The simple answer to the first one is yes - I believe there is a God. But am I believing he is who he says he is? Is the God I believe in the same as the God of the Bible? That's where the second question came in. The Bible says that God rewards those who seek him. There are countless examples of him doing so. I believed that he had saved me from my sin and made me his child. So why was I so resistant to seeking him? Why didn't I believe the reward would be enough?
As I experienced severe pain on Thursday and Friday, I came up against the same frustration I've had many times while going through difficult or painful circumstances: God allowed this in my life. I know he wouldn't do it unless it was for my good. He has a reason for all of the pain that's good enough for him. But I don't know, and may never know, his reason. Is it still good enough for me?
On Friday, as I lay in bed, on pain medications that didn't seem to be doing anything, I contemplated what would happen if I still had the kidney stone next week. I couldn't afford to miss much more school. Another week or so of absences, and I would probably be disqualified for the semester. My last semester before graduation. Was that God's will for me? As I thought about this, I realized I had been viewing God as someone different than the God of the Bible. I thought of God as controlling, pouncing on my failures, making me suffer without hope of relief. Not as the God who is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love," who "knows our frame" and "remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103). I wasn't trusting in the God of the Bible, and I didn't believe he would reward me if I would seek him.
That afternoon, I had read Matthew 7: "Ask, and it shall be given... for everyone who asks receives." Now, as I experienced excruciating pain that would not stop, and couldn't imagine going through it for another day, could I trust God to reward me if I sought him? I prayed. I asked for forgiveness for not trusting God before now, and I asked, if it was his will, that he would let the kidney stone pass or otherwise allow the pain to stop. I told him I wanted to finish my last semester of school, if I could. I prayed all of this from my heart, and when I was done, I had peace knowing that God heard me. Within the hour, after a promising series of events, the kidney stone passed, and the pain went almost instantly from unbearable to nonexistent. God had answered my prayer. Not only that, but he had showed me that he didn't put me through pain on a whim. He would stop the pain immediately when it was no longer necessary to accomplish his will, because he loved me.
God is a good God, and he rewards those who seek him. I'm still learning this, and I know my faith will be tested again and again throughout this life, sometimes in ways that involve much more suffering than this time. But if God is allowing pain in my life, whether it's physical or emotional, whether it lasts for days or for years - I know that he is only giving me what is absolutely necessary to make me more like him and accomplish his will with my life. And I know that he will gladly give relief, either through ending the pain or strengthening my soul to bear it, when I ask.