I first noticed the pain in my right wrist. Probably just sore from the luggage I dragged through the airport the day before, I thought. The next day though, I felt the catch-my-breath kind of pain begin in a joint on my right ring finger. Fear crept around the edges of my heart. "Dear Jesus" I prayed "please, not again!" My mind flashed back ten years earlier when the same debilitating pain started in the same joint but on the opposite hand. And, I remembered something else that happened at the exact same time the pain began. For some mysterious reason, I felt convicted to memorize God's Word. Not just a verse here and there or now and then, which had been my practice from the time I was a young believer. But I was compelled to memorize passages, chapters and even books of the Bible. I felt the need to do it on a daily basis, just like I took vitamins every day.
In the weeks that followed, the pain in one joint quickly spread to many others. I went to the doctor, had blood drawn, and also looked for Bible verses to memorize. I copied these passages onto 3x5 cards. And each day I spent time committing them to memory. Six weeks later, I left my doctor's office. I did not see the beautiful, blue ocean to the west or the mansion dotted hills that surrounded me as I drove home that day. Instead, I kept my eyes focused on the road and I wept! Over and over, I rehearsed the words of my doctor---rheumatoid arthritis, high ANA's, pain, swelling, stiffness, malaise, fatigue, joint damage, medications, new studies...I tried to remember everything he told me. Then suddenly, my thoughts were interrupted. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright...It was a Bible verse from one of the passages I memorized just days earlier. Nothing changed, really. I cried more tears, rehearsed more details and continued to consider the treatments my doctor suggested. But God's promise in Psalm 112:4 actually changed everything. It brought a ray of light into my darkness. It gave me hope. And I knew that in my dark valley God was with me.
The following Sunday, my husband and I asked the elders of our church to pray for us. In a small room off the main sanctuary, men and women who loved God and cared about me prayed together for God's healing touch upon my pain riddled body. One man began to pray a scripture from Hebrews 4:12. "Father," he prayed, "Your Word says the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." I don't remember what else anyone prayed, because I recognized the verse as one I had just memorized. And I heard God's still small voice, "It's not an accident that you began to memorize My word when this disease began. And just as you take the doctor's medicine, My Word will also be medicine to your joints." I was humbled, excited and I cried (again)!
I continued to memorize God's word. And the pain, inflammation and swelling continued to increase and spread. Many nights I would lay awake unable to sleep because of the pain. On those nights, I cried out with the Psalmist, Oh God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You, My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water... During this season, so many verses in the Bible came alive with new meaning. I read in my Bible, again and again, that the suffering of man and the glory of God go hand in hand. Two of my favorite passages were 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. And, Romans 8:16-18 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs---heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His suffering in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Finally, after two years, my doctor said, "Cathy, we have to put out this fire in your joints. I want you to try a new, stronger medication." He sent me home with a video and brochure about the new treatment. The following Sunday, I stayed home from church after a long, painful night. Sitting on my sofa, I wept and asked the Lord for wisdom, for help and for His healing touch. Finally I prayed, "Lord, I can't stand the pain anymore. If You don't touch and heal me today, then tomorrow I am going to call the doctor and start the new medicine. I don't know what else to do." With wads of tissue surrounding me, I reached for my Bible. I felt like I should read about King Hezekiah. I grumbled, "Lord, I know that story."(I had not memorized it, but I had read it many times before) But obediently, I turned to 2 Kings chapter 20. I read once more about a king who was very sick and was told he was going to die. The king, like me, wept and prayed to the Lord to be healed. And the prophet Isaiah returns with this message: "This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says, 'I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.'" When I read those words, I knew God was speaking to me! He heard my prayer! He saw my tears! And He was going to heal me! I believed it to the depths of my soul.
The next day, the pain was more bearable and I never did call the doctor to start the new medication. Very slowly, over the next several months, the pain calmed down, the swelling subsided and the stiffness softened. The rest of the story of God's miraculous healing work must wait for another day. But for now, I wait and pray as the catch-my-breath kind of pain flares up in my joints once again. I recall that when King Hezekiah was healed, he was told, "I will add fifteen years to your life." And I wonder was my healing for a season or is it for a life time? Either way, I thank God for the days without pain. I praise Him for preparing and equipping me to handle the suffering by convincing me to memorize His Word. And I rejoice in the promises I cling to that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.