Pain usually has a message for me. Whether it’s a sudden migraine indicating there’s something I’m not seeing clearly, or the physical awareness of a patient’s symptoms that help with a diagnosis, I have learned to listen.
Discernment doesn’t always feel like a spiritual gift, but God has used it to work through me. It’s not something I can turn on or off; it’s not subject to my will. But if I pray and ask God, “Please let me know how to help this person,” this is often how He helps me understand.
I have a strong back that rarely gives me any trouble. But as I showered Sunday morning while getting ready for church, I felt what can only be described as a swift kick to my low back. The intense pain brought me to my knees, literally. And this pain was my own, seemingly for no reason.
Somehow I crawled out of the shower and made it to the floor. As I prayed for relief, I remembered a time once before when this had happened: It was just after I had finished graduate school and my clinical training. It was also right after my sister, her health rapidly deteriorating, had moved in with my elderly parents so they could care for her.
Thinking back, I realized that my pain was in exactly the same place as my sister’s wound – an infected, Stage 4 pressure ulcer exposing bone and flesh. My sister felt no pain. But I did.
At that time I hadn’t yet learned to listen to my body and I didn’t make the connection between her wound and my pain.
And what happened before my back went out this time – almost six years later?
The night before, I had finally received the raw data for my genetic testing, confirming that I carried the same gene, the same DNA coding for the disorder my sister had, right down to its name, variant and location. And in bright red letters next to the long string of numbers was the footnote, “PATHOGENIC.”
In theory, I already knew I was a carrier, but I hadn’t seen it in black and white on a lab report. Perhaps I hoped for different results, even though our father had passed it to his daughters, and we in turn, had passed it to our sons.
Although I wasn’t conscious of it, I was afraid. And the spirit of Fear started whispering that God wasn’t big enough for this.
Some would say it wasn’t just fear, but in fact my very cells remembering. Remembering guilt and anger and regret and helplessness and failure….
Alone, I lay there on the floor unable to move. The voice of Fear said,
“See? You could be like this forever…you’ll end up just like your sister – bedridden, paralyzed, decaying…a long, slow death. God can’t promise that you won’t suffer.”
And then Fear offered me relief: I would have no more pain, but only if I agreed to stop working on the project God had recently given me. It was a tempting.
I couldn’t move, but I could still sing. And remembering a song with the words, “When I cannot stand, I’ll fall on You,” I sang out loud –
“Lord, I need You, oh I need You, Every hour I need You, my one defense, my righteousness, Oh God, how I need You… So teach my song to rise to You, When temptation comes my way… When I cannot stand I’ll fall on You, Jesus You’re my hope and stay….” *
Soon, I had drowned out the voice of Fear.
And there on that cold bathroom floor, I heard the voice of Hope.
“Child, you are carrying a past that no longer exists, a burden that doesn’t belong to you anymore. When you became mine, you were released from that debt. All of it – the regrets of your ancestors, the sins of your father, even the genes you carry. None of these are your inheritance. I am your inheritance. Your future is not written in your DNA. Your future, the greatest story your life will ever tell, is the one you allow Me to write for you from now on.”
Pain had brought me to my knees, to a narrow place with no room to turn away. And it was there, where a heart surrendered and on its knees before God, finally found rest.
Surrender is a safe place. A surrendered heart is a heart God can heal and a heart He can use. For it is only the tender, yielded heart that will clearly hear the Shepherd’s voice.
God knows what we need to heal – whether it’s physical or emotional or spiritual – and with His touch, His words, He will defeat our fear or worry or pain. We don’t have to rely on our own strength.
God never intended for us to carry the burdens of the past in our bodies. Sometimes He has to lovingly remind us that He’s got it covered. He already paid the debt. So we can walk in freedom knowing this truth, His truth: That God is taking care of every need in every moment and we can rest in that fact.
I am reminded that life is not defined by our past, nor does the past dictate our future. God is not only the Author, but the Editor of both our experiences and our genetics. So we are not fated to live the story spelled out in our DNA.
Life is not made up of chance and coincidence, it is made up of choices. Who and what we choose to believe and accept, will pave the road we walk on.
Because it is not about what we have inherited, but ultimately, who we will rely on for our inheritance.
There is hope in surrender. For the greatest life we will ever live, will be the life we have surrendered to Christ; the life He now lives through us.
1) *Song: “Lord I Need You,” by Matt Maher
Text and photos – Copyright 2013 Sheila Zia