There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sharing our hearts, fears and pain with someone who “gets” us. A kindred spirit. A soul sister. Those kind of bonds energize and empower us.
I believe that’s why the enemy works so relentlessly to keep us quiet. To convince us that no one could possibly understand our pain, our mistakes, our fears. And beyond that, that no one would even particularlycare. After all, everyone has their own problems. Maybe we look fine. Who would reallybelieve us? For those and other reasons, I stayed quiet about my chronic pain for so many years.
My autoimmune disease causes a lot of different types and sources of pain.But the most intense by far is a condition I have called interstitial cystitis. The best way that I can describe it is hell. But if you’re looking for a morescientific definition, it is a chronic inflammation of the bladder lining. It is basically like living with some degree of a urinary tract infection at all times, but there’s no infection. Only the pain. Doctors, for the most part, have no idea what to do for it.
Quite frankly, it’s not an easy topic to bring up. And the few times I did (with those outside my close circle), I was usually met with a puzzled look or sympathy — but no real understanding of what I was going through. That made me feel even more alone. Easier just to paste on a smile and mask my pain.
As my pain intensified over the last couple of years, my coping mechanisms began to fail me.
One night, I got angry. Angry that this pain didn’t seem to have a purpose, other than making me miserable.
Sure, it had made me stronger, more compassionate, but I was questioning if those qualities were really worth the price. Then, I clearly heard this in my spirit: “Share it.”
I put up a fight. No one is going to “get” this. It will be embarrassing. How do I share it? Who do I share it with?
Then the thought came to me about a new website I had just heard about called The Mighty, dedicated to stories of people who struggle with chronic illness — either personally or as a parent of a child with a disease. Within the space of about an hour, I dug deep to share my experience and how God had used it in my life for good. It felt simultaneously frightening and freeing.
The next morning, my heart pounding, I emailed it to the editor. She emailed me back with lightning speed: Hi Melinda, I’m so thrilled to have you on The Mighty. I’ve been working to get more post about invisible illnesses. Thank you for this piece. It’s great.
The article, “What My Invisible Disease Gave Me Eyes to See,” was up on the website before the end of the day. I posted it to my Facebook page and the messages and comments started pouring in from others who were also in the shadows, living with silent pain — physical, spiritual or emotional. They “got” it. Suddenly we all felt less lonely and discouraged.
Perhaps for the first time, I understood the power of my testimony. Revelation 12:11 tells us that it’s one of two things that defeats the enemy: “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.”
Telling our story makes it safe for others to do the same.
The loneliness and defeat of isolation is broken. And we begin to feel hopeful and empowered. That is what Satan fears. No, not everyone will understand our pain. But there are far more people suffering in silence than we realize. God designed us to encourage one another: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4
I always thought that the most powerful testimony was delivered after the painful, difficult circumstance had past. When we’re on the other side of the darkness. But what I’m realizing is that our testimony is perhaps themost powerful when we can’t see much daylight, but still reach out to others and choose — moment-by-moment — to cling to the truth of God’s Word and believe in His goodness.
Recently, I had this text exchange with a friend of mine who is also fighting very difficult circumstances:
Me: We’re in the same dark place, my friend. My prayers are short these days. Like you, right now I feel like God doesn’t hear me. I wish I could be more of an encouragement, but that is where I am right now. In my short prayers you will be at the very top of the list.
Grace: Strangely enough, you have been an encouragement. That someone who feels called to women’s ministry, a wife, a mom can feel so spiritually tired and worn. Thank you. That makes me feel less alone.