Joy and Pain

I write about my life here, about my kids and my husband and the mess and the noise and the things that make me smile and some that make me cry. I write about God and family and the randomness that is my life day to day, and I try to be open and honest and truthful here, because this is not a stage or a work of fiction, but a place to put my heart out on display and hope it blesses someone else. So I post the pictures that show my freckles and crow’s feet and belly flab, and the ones that show the messy living room and the kids with their dirty faces, and I show as much real as I can without completely humiliating myself.

But there is one thing I struggle to write into this place, one reality I live with daily, one piece of me I don’t have enough words for. Not that I keep it secret. But it’s hard to write about. I sit here with my laptop open, screen blank before me, fingers poised at the keys, but nothing comes. Tonight I’m going to force it, because lately I have felt like I need to share it with you. I don’t know why, but the feeling won’t go away, so I’m going to press through and do my best and ask for your grace, because these words do not come easy.

I don’t know why I can write easily about how my toilets need scrubbing, or how right now there are smashed carrots on the floor in my dining room because I was not inspired to clean the up, or how today I wiped the baby’s runny nose on a dirty shirt that was laying on my living room floor, and yet I struggle to write about arthritis. I don’t even know how to write about it. I feel as though my words will come across as a plea for sympathy, or an attempt to seem so strong and amazing, but the truth is that I don’t want your sympathy or a chorus of “you’re-so-wonderful”s. I don’t know what I want. I guess I just want you to know, and maybe to understand a little.

Because the arthritis is part of me too, like the faith and the family and the weird sense of humor. It’s the part I would cut out if I could, the part I struggle most to understand. It’s the part of me I fear the most, more than my temper or my laziness or my deep love of ice cream.

It’s always there, the pain and stiffness and swollen joints, sometimes pushing itself to the front of my mind, but usually just hanging out somewhere in the background. It’s there when I walk down stairs slowly, one at a time, instead of coming down like normal people do. It’s there when I make my sons carry laundry and groceries for me, when I carry things awkwardly, when even my toddler knows how to adjust herself so I can hold her comfortably for both of us. It’s there when I can’t open a jar or a bottle and have to call my husband at work and ask him to come help me.

I don’t always know how to answer when people ask how I’m doing. Some days I say I’m doing well, and I mean it, because on those days I’m at peace with the fact that for me “doing well” means only mildly stiff and sore and swollen. Other days I say I’m hanging in there. Some days I just kind of change the subject, because I really want to throw a giant huge fit about being only thirty-one years old and having puffy fingers that couldn’t button the baby’s dress this morning and not being able to walk right because my toes are acting all evil and painful and honestly, truthfully, arthritis is just plain yucky and I hate it.

Some days I am terrified of what it will do to me.

Some days I struggle with self-pity.

Some days I feel guilty for not getting my housework done when I was having a good day.

Some days I feel guilty for having a bad day and not getting any housework done because of it.

Some days I am jealous of people who can open a jar of applesauce.

Some days I determine to live my life to the fullest and do everything I can while I can, so I don’t have regrets someday.

Some days I just want to throw all that stupid positive thinking out the window and spend the entire day in my armchair eating ice cream.

(Some days I do just that).

Some days I look and act just like a normal person, and no one would ever guess that I have RA.

Some days people ask me why I’m limping, assuming I hurt my knee or sprained my ankle.

Some days I wonder why God would allow all this pain in my life.

Some days I wonder what God wants to do through me that He can only do by allowing this pain. (Those are the extra-spiritual days, I’m afraid, few and far between).

Some days I remember how good I have it, how blessed I am, with a family that loves and supports me, with friends who do the same, with a home and a life that are good and abundant even with the pain.

It’s a roller coaster ride, this life with a chronic illness. Some days I just don’t feel good. It’s called malaise. It’s a symptom of RA. So is fatigue. And of course pain, and swelling, and stiffness. So is depression. And is it any wonder? There are many, many people who suffer from RA that is much more severe than mine, people who truly are disabled by their illness, people younger than me whose disease has progressed much further than mine. Daily pain, loss of mobility, joint deformity, feeling completely exhausted half the time, and just plain miserable the other half– is it any surprise that these would cause depression?

And this is where I truly am blessed, and where I must return when I find my thoughts going down fearful roads, indulging in what-ifs and poor-mes and how-could-Gods. Because I have hope.

Hope. Isn’t it a beautiful word? Hope of heaven– of a future with no pain. Hope that no matter what happens to me, eternity will last far longer than any earthly disease. And because I have hope, I can have joy. Joy in Him, in His love, in His promises, in His blessings. Joy in the day-to-day life, with these wonderful kids, this wonderful husband, this incredible mess. I can find joy even in pain.

Some days I pray for relief. But some days, the days when I am focusing on Him instead of on me, I pray that He will use this pain to make me like Him, and to bless others. I don’t know how He will do it. But I know this– He has promised to work all things together for my good, and for His glory.

All things. Even the pain. For my good, for His glory.

That’s something to be joyful about.

Good, True & Beautiful


17 thoughts on “Joy and Pain

  1. So often we think the best way to honor God is with our gifts and with our strengths, but over and over I witness God’s glory through our brokenness. I don’t understand why God allows suffering in this world. I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand it other than the “we live in a fallen world” argument. But I know he loves us, and he can use anything for his glory. Thank you for sharing a bit of your burden. You just never know who this story might encourage. But he knows.

  2. Erin, I think you are amazing. 🙂 even if you (inexplicably) do not like The Emperor’s New Groove. I cannot imagine what life with RA is like, but I always marvel at the honesty, humor, and grace that I find here. Big (non-painful) hugs from me to you. 🙂

  3. I would read when you wrote through it.
    I told you dear , Erin, how much I’ve been thinking of you.

    I have arthritis in my back,hands, wrist and while it is nothing compared to your situation , even this is frustrating and can make a cloud of heavy come down on my day and stay over everything . It is the reason I had to retire after only 2 seasons of my garden maintenance business. But how blessed am I that I am able to stay home while my husband works. It is easier said than done to look at the good , the positive, the what you have compared to others who have not.
    Chronic pain and the fear of what may be , or not, can mess with the head and heart of even the most gorgeous smiling loveable encouragers such as yourself , no?

    You are an inspiration. I hope you find enough of the grace you share to give to yourself.

    love to you


  4. Erin, maybe you needed to write it for me. Admittedly, I’ve never understood arthritis. I think we’ve been taught that arthritis is just something that happens naturally to some people as we get older. I have always thought of it as an almost common affliction but tolerable. It has been simplified I think.

    I wish I were close enough to come help you clean house and then we could sit together on the couch and eat ice cream.

  5. Do you know, I have never asked Him to heal me? He’s been on my case about it. I don’t have the faith for it, but that’s beside the point. I’ve got plenty of faith to blame Him for it, and I’ve been doing that a lot lately.

    Thank you for this. I didn’t know. Sometimes, it helps to know that I’m not the only one – the only one who is sick, the only one who needs answers that I’m not getting, the only one who wants to glorify God through this and doesn’t know how. It’s a part of my journey that I could so live without. At least in my own opinion.

    Thank you for your transparency. I’d give you a [very gentle] hug, if I could. This makes me want to meet you more.

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  7. thank you erin,. you described so well my own “somedays” tug-of-war of emotions, caught between hope and defeat,as a result of living with something chronic.

    no including “sharon stone,” i currently have sciatica in my back,legs, and arm which is defeating (been a year). i’ve also had endometriosis (had a partial hysterectomy at 33), and have had intersticial cystitus for years. it all wears me down emotionally at times, but it grows in me compassion and tenderness for others.

    i know it isn’t easy to write about. you wrote beautifully, honestly, and with grace.

    may God continue to speak his truth to you, and continue to be glorified in and through you in Christ Jesus,

  8. thank you for sharing your heart… you are doing good things. Really, really good things.

    (and having a clearn house is entirely over-rated. What would be the fun of that?!)

  9. Erin,

    God’s Word tells us it is through our trials that we gain patience, faith, hope….Romans 12:12, James 1:2-4 and more. Thank you for sharing today.

  10. If I were closer I’d come and help you clean everyday and my little cute ones would serve you ice cream with lots of kisses! :o) I do wish we lived closer so we could be of help! You know I really would LOVE to scrub your toilet and wash your dishes! Praying for GGod’s strength to shinethrough the pain in your everyday

  11. It’s easier to write about the toilets needing cleaning or the carrots on the floor for the same reason that it’s easier to do small tasks while you put off the big ones. So you have to force yourself to do it. Even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts. My wife has a milder version of it — it runs in her family. It’s not fun. It hurts. It can stop her from doing simple normal stuff.

    You need to keep writing about it.

  12. Thanks for being so honest about yourself. It’s refreshing. You just summed up a good portion of my life! As I read what you wrote about going down stairs one at a time, people asking if you hurt something because you’re limping, the house falling apart at times, the guilt you feel, carrying your child awkwardly (I’ve even had people stare at me like they thought I was going to drop my child), and most everything else you wrote. You’re right though, there is hope. I literally dreamed of running down a flight of stairs..and then I woke up and cried because I truly believed that would never happen again. However, I pushed myself often to go down like others can. I fought the feeling of giving up, many times. Even now, I have moments where I just feel tired. Pushing yourself to go down those stairs like most people do, is really a picture of a life with RA. It’s amazing what most people take for granted, but then again when we look into our own lives, I bet there are things other people think we take for granted. Like being blessed with children, having a home, or even having applesauce to open. In short, in the times you feel defeated, remember how many ways you’ve won! Also, keep pushing yourself and one day you will see a difference you may have thought you’d never see in the remainder of your life. Take those stairs girly, you can do it!

  13. Thank you for sharing this, Erin. I think of you and of Kelly (of A Restless Heart) and my heart just aches for you – I struggle with two kids and no physical ailments to speak of, and I know you have it much more difficult than I do! I’m glad you shared about this!

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