Recently, I just listened again to a book on my audible app called, “But God, Wouldn’t I Be More Useful to You If I Were Healthy?” by Esther Smith. This book is about how she lives with chronic pain. This book will open your eyes to see there are others around you who are hurting in a way you can never imagine.
This is how Esther describes chronic pain and the questions she wrestled with after she has been living in pain for many years.
“I feel incapable of describing the physical and emotional intensity of severe chronic pain in a way that does not feel like exaggerating. I feel unable to describe the seconds that felt like hours, the flares that left me unable to leave the house for days, and the weeks when I could do nothing but lie there and pray that God would get me through. How do I describe the way pain ripped through my body and my soul? How do I describe looking normal, pretending to be normal, but feeling like I might collapse? How do I describe the way it never, not for a moment, not for a second, ended or relented?
“It was a place that was ordinary, mundane, and certainly not glamorous in any way. But he didn’t just call me to the mundane. He called me to the painful mundane, the suffering mundane, the limited mundane. This was not the mundane of motherhood—the endless diapers, meals, and midnight comforts. This was the mundane of nothingness—the inability to do much of anything. This was not the mundane of the 9-5—the endless meetings, number-crunching, and dealing with difficult people. This was the mundane of isolation—the endless naps, distractions, and days with little contact with the outside world.
“Life felt exceedingly purposeless, and no amount of spinning it around in my head could convince me that lying on the couch in pain was part of building up the Kingdom of God. Nothing could convince me that chronic pain had anything to do with service or my desire to do God’s work. For many years, life was filled with uncertainty, and I struggled to determine why God would force me to while my time away in pain, unused, unneeded, and perhaps even unwanted. Truthfully, chronic pain is exhausting. Life-sucking, hit-by-a-truck, unable-to-get-out-of-bed exhausting. The exhaustion of chronic pain is unlike the normal tiredness faced by healthy people with busy lives. The tiredness we face never goes away no matter how much we sleep or how much we rest.”
Even though I can’t relate to any of what Esther has gone through physically, I can relate to the question she asks, “But God, wouldn’t I be more useful to you if I were healthy?” Yes, our lives may look different, but we both have limitations. I have asked that question countless times. I have had many crying sessions with the Lord saying, ”Just think how I could serve You better if I were healthy!” I love the way Esther wrote about asking this question. I know I’ve read other people’s views on this question but I don’t think I understood those views as much as I do her view.
“More times than I can count, prayers of pride and doubt have reverberated through my mind. But God, wouldn’t I be more useful to you if I were healthy? And I realize now that underneath my words I have bargained with God. I have told God that I would work for him if he healed me. I would do great things for his Kingdom if he would realize His mistake and make things right. Many times I have become blinded and failed to recognize the pride that underlies what I once saw as a humble desire to serve the Lord.”
I also like how Esther is honest when she writes about missing her ability to work.
“One of the reasons I miss my ability to work is because work gives me something to boast in, something to point to that shows how ‘great’ I am and how ‘needed’ I am for progress to happen. Work gives me status and worth in society, and when I have to stop, I am forced to look at who I am without the work that once made me feel needed.
“Because chronic pain takes away so much of our ability to work and to do, we have been freed from our ability to boast. Chronic pain forces us to wrestle with the underlying thought, deep down inside of us all, that maybe we are worth more when we do more. We are forced to face the lie we hate to admit we believe—this blatant, dangerous lie so antithetical to the gospel God gives, that the greater our works the greater our worth. God’s truth opposes this lie. The truth is that because of what Christ has done, we are free to simply be. Work makes us no more valuable, loved, precious, treasured, important, or saved in the eyes of God. Doing more does not make us worth more. When chronic pain takes away our ability to do and to work, we do not become worth less. Because of what Christ has done, we are free to exist in his presence, held up by his grace, and that is enough.”
I also can relate to wanting an actual job, where I’m around coworkers and see other people every day. But I know I couldn’t handle getting up and being ready for work. I’d be exhausted before I even got to work, especially when I would get tight. It would be too stressful, and when I’m stressed I get even tighter. But I love the idea having a purpose to do something every day. That’s why I’m thankful for my parents’ loving support in helping me start my business, Silent Inspirations. Although it’s still a small business right now, I hope it will grow to be something that people want to support, not because of my story but because of their love for art.
Living with a disability can get mundane and depressing at times. But it’s the life He gave me and how I conduct myself through circumstances and trials will make me even more dependent on the Lord.
I love how Esther writes about resting at Jesus’ feet. She writes,
“It can be difficult to accept this invitation. Many days, I look at all that is being accomplished around me and feel guilty for needing and wanting to rest. The thought of one more day spent lying on the couch feels like torture. But I believe Jesus sees it in a different way. Rest in the physical sense is not a thing of guilt; rest is a thing of faith. It requires faith to walk away from our work and ministry when progress is being made. It requires faith to put a halt to all the things we were accomplishing in our healthier state. It requires faith to walk with Jesus away from our burdens and work, resting our bodies and souls in him.
“I am learning to have faith that my work is before God and not before men, and at times I say ‘no’ to adding things to my schedule even when others do not understand. God sees and knows the heart of man. He sees when my ‘no’ is an act of faith and not an act of defiance or complacency. He sees when my heart is saying ‘I don’t have to prove myself to the detriment of my health. I don’t have to say ‘yes’ to be valuable, worthy, or saved. Only God can give me value, worth, and salvation.’ In faith, I allow others to see me rest, and I am learning to feel no guilt. I am learning to invite others into my home where they can see my un-mopped floors and empty calendar. I am learning that I have nothing to hide. I am learning to invite people over when I am sprawled on the floor or couch, covered in heating pads and ice packs and sipping my tea. In faith, I am learning to rest in the presence of others, free from guilt, pretense, and shame. A true understanding of Scripture finds that serving is not optional, but neither is rest. Rest is an expression of faith, trust, and obedience. Rest puts us in our rightful place, reminding us that it is God, and not us, who is at work, managing the tide and course of all that befalls this world.”
I love the part when she writes, “I don’t have to prove myself to the detriment of my health. I don’t have to say ‘yes’ to be valuable, worthy, or saved. Only God can give me value, worth, and salvation.”
There are times when I feel like I’m not valuable, worthy, or acceptable to others because of the limitations I live with day after day. The fact that I’ll never own a car and be independent in that way is still a constant nagging struggle that the devil loves to bring up. What it all boils down to is PRIDE. Pride in not wanting to ask for help and always being dependent on others to drive me places. I know my family and friends don’t mind taking me places. People in my life may not always be there when I need them to be. But mark it down, God will always be there waiting on me to ask for help that only He can provide. I understand that owning a car will never bring me true joy and happiness. Only God can bring and give me value, worth, joy, and acceptance in my life.
I also like how Esther balances rest and serving the Lord and others in her life.
“This is what I believe. Our time on earth is short, Scripture calls all Christians to some form of work and service, and we do not get a free pass because we are physically disabled and chronically pained. At times, I can spend so much time feeling sorry for myself that I forget there is work to do. And nothing in the Bible says that chronic pain exempts me from God’s work. God calls us to use what we have been given, no more and no less.”
I agree with Esther. Everyone should serve by using the talents God has given us. I’m thankful nothing in the Bible exempts me from serving God, whether it be greeting others at church, listening to a friend, or helping in a Sunday school class—or it could be something as simple as faithfully praying for your friends and family.
In the last paragraph of this book, Esther sums it up nicely.
“We live life as God intended when we look to Christ for our worth, accept his invitation to rest, and focus on our primary purpose—to glorify God and enjoy him forever. As we worship and glorify our Creator and Sustainer, he points us away from self and towards the weary world that surrounds us, giving us a heart to serve our fellow brothers and sisters. We begin to give of ourselves, not to find our worth, but that God might be glorified through the work that we do. In doing this, we begin to find pieces of healing on this earth, even when the pain doesn’t go away.”
Esther’s book has motivated me to do more things I know I’m capable of doing. I hope you were encouraged by Esther’s outlook on life just as I was. I hope you’ll go read her book sometime.