Getting ready for bed one evening, I felt something odd in my left ankle. The next day I had difficulty putting weight on the foot but an X-ray showed nothing broken or fractured. By the following evening, the pain became excruciating.
Little did I realize that an unexpected cloud of darkness was about to hover over my life.
The next weeks and months brought more pain and suffering than I have ever experienced. My physical, emotional, and spiritual feelings began to collide, bringing hopelessness and a crisis of faith.
Those who know me would describe me as a woman of strong faith. But the weight of this trial was so dark and painful that hopelessness, anger, and depression took over my body and mind. Yet, somehow in that place a vision began to form and I sensed Jesus’ presence.
The vision began with a black shroud enveloping me. The sensation of coolness and dampness made it seem like a cave dwelling. Although I could not see anyone with me in this complete darkness, I sensed someone near. A crack of light revealed it to be Jesus.
Knowing He was there brought great comfort. Neither of us spoke for some time. As the light increased I heard, “We need to leave this dark cave and move toward the light. I will carry you.”
The closer we got to the opening of the cave the more my eyes adjusted to the light and I began to see another image. My husband Greg held Jesus’ hand with his right hand. Once we cleared the opening of the cave, a mountain came into view. I thought that this journey was one a healthy person would find difficult, let alone someone in my condition. Jesus, knowing my every thought, let me know we would rest often. In fact, resting would become the focus of this trial. We settled into a pace that matched what was now happening in my physical world.
After weeks with no relief we decided to bring in another doctor. He ordered a bone scan, determined I might have septic arthritis, and recommended immediate surgery. His calm assurance and my knowledge that Jesus was near gave me confidence that this was the right step.
When I awoke following the surgery the pain was gone. I learned that the surgeon removed two liters of fluid and debrided dead bone tissue from the talus bone of my ankle.
My hospital stay turned out to be longer than we had thought as we waited for pathology reports on the bone samples. During these days of resting Jesus was again visible to me and I knew the Spirit was moving in my hospital room. I shared the love of Christ with the nurses that came and went attending to my care. These interactions restored purpose to my life.
An excerpt from the book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering The Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop puts into words one of the greatest treasures I found in this trial.
“Pain has a way of awakening us to our need for God’s help. It shines a spotlight on our powerlessness to control everything. We are never more aware of our frailty than when hardship comes our way. This is one of the blessings of suffering if we allow lament to lead us. The various trials of life can become a platform to reaffirm our dependence upon the Lord. The requests of lament can become the place where we celebrate our need for God’s help.”
How does one celebrate in in suffering? I started reflecting on the many treasures the Lord blessed me during the past five months. The vision proved to be a great stabilizer in my life and my most intimate moments experienced with Jesus; watching my husband serve me in sickness, three of my closest friends staying close by my side, seeing the body of Christ through the eyes of Jesus and the strength it brought, the restoring of purpose in my life while in the hospital. These were all gifts to celebrate.
Through my trial, I saw the truth that God is generous in all ways. He provided for my every need. The lesson of resting in Him took deeper root in my spirit. Although I would never want to repeat this ordeal, I will hold close to my heart all the treasures I learned in the darkness.
by Joanne Lanning
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