Minor Misery, Major Joy

 A Lovely Cast. Art by Tanya Yorks. Spring, 2008.

True Confessions

If we meet on the street and you ask say, “How are you?” I’m likely to say, “Just fine, thanks. How are you?” And I’ll smile as I listen as you answer. 

And odds are good that I’m lying. Sort of.

For seven months I’ve had a strange form of hives. They’re caused by pressure against my skin, so they pop up when I remove my shoes. Or comb my hair. Or sit on a hard surface. After 20 minutes of burning, the pain disappears, but the welt on my skin remains for an hour or so. You can see an example here.

They’re ephemeral and persistent all at once. And they bring a bit of misery. Benign, itchy, misery.

As I march through midlife, the arthritis that developed in my 30s has progressed. I’ve had surgery on both thumbs to remove bones rusted beyond use. Blouses that button are an indulgence reserved for “good days.” Over the past few years, the base of my spine has been collecting corrosion between its vertebra, too.

The “good days” don’t visit me as often as they once did.

I was reared in a family that didn’t favor whining and wallowing. Years of training contribute to my response of “fine” when you ask how I am. And I remind myself that the conditions I live with don’t threaten my longevity. I have a friend who’s just learned that her cancer has returned.  Another friend stages garage sales and sells t-shirts to help fund cancer treatment for her five-year-old granddaughter. Stacked beside serious illnesses like those, who am I to gripe about the gnawing in my back, or fingers that stiffen and refuse to slip buttons through holes?

So in terms of my physical state, I’m bending the truth–or snapping it in two–if I tell you I’m fine.

But there’s more to the story.

Two thousand years ago, God came to earth as a Man. He walked among us, taught us about love, then showed us love as He marched up a hill, was nailed to a cross, and died. Because He paid that price, sacrificing Himself for my sins, my future glows.

One day, in 35 years or the day after tomorrow, He’ll call me home to take my place in His kingdom. There’s no cancer in heaven, no hives, no arthritis. Instead, I will spend eternity worshiping Him in a place of perfection.

When I consider heaven I realize that my entire life on earth is ephemeral, like these pesky hives. It will pass away, and something better awaits me.

The hope of eternity fills me with great joy. So while my body hurts, it is well with my soul.

And because of that promise, when I tell you I’m fine, it’s God’s truth. 

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:3-4 (NASB)


  1. Diana Trautwein

    YOu are so right, Sheila – in an ultimate sense, we are ALL just fine. BUT…in the meantime, you are living with some difficult, painful stuff. And your pain is…your pain – no comparisons to others whose pain is theirs and may seem worse to you as you contemplate it. I am sorry for the bones and the hives – not fun, not fun at all. May you find strength for each day, joy in the moment and an increasing sense of God's gracious presence with you.

  2. Diana,
    Thank you for your wisdom and your kind words.

    Sometimes I think it's an odd kind of pridefulness that gets me to "This isn't all THAT bad.." It leads me to holding back from handing everything over to Him.

  3. Thank you for the beautiful reminder that we are in a temporary home. This body does often need repair and assistance to keep moving, but With God, – – yes I am FINE!

  4. Yes, Hazel! His Truth is amazing.

  5. At this moment, I've been struggling with a bulging disc that keeps trying to beat up a nerve it's next to. Things have been slowly improving, witht he occasional muscle spasms that can be agony. And yet, I sit here, makign myself consider how this is a gift, a strange goft, to be sure, but one that I'm supposed to learn from. Dependence upon others is one thing I'm learning, and it is a difficult lesson to lean. But I'm learning.

    My prayers for you (and for Chrity).

  6. Glynn,
    Thanks for your prayers…and I'm praying for you.

    Thanks, to, for reminding me to reflect on this situation as a gift. I needed that reminder.

    I hope your disc and your nerves sign a treaty very soon.

  7. Ahh…the struggle of the chronically ill. I know it well. Despite a mere 21 years of age (I know! I know!), I'm disabled.

    But when people ask me how I'm doing, I try to respond with a simple, "There are hard days but God is good." I want to always be honest in my response and by saying I have bad days I'm able to point back to God and tell people how good He is.

    Anyway, that's just my take and how I try to handle.

    I hope you feel better soon. Part of my condition causes severe allergic reactions (including hives) so I can at least partly understand what you're facing.

    Hugs to you my dear sister in Christ. I'll be praying for your health. <3

  8. Debra,
    Thank you. I'm still working on accepting the "chronic" thing…even though it's been creeping up for over a decade.

    I like your take on honest responses. Thanks for sharing it.

    And hugs and prayers for you too, dear Friend.

  9. Bless you for sharing so honestly- your post reminded me of the agony of soul behind the song It is well with my soul- when the writer had just lost all his family in a ship-wreck.A verse I struggle with is : these light afflictions are just for a moment, but are working for us an exceeding weight of glory.I understand that in the light of eternity it will seem like : just for a moment- but it doesn't seem that way as we travel the road of suffering.
    Your courage shines through, Sheila, and I pray the Lord will shower you with very real blessings so that you will know yourself to be greatly loved by HIM, even if your healing has not yet come.

  10. I'm sorry, but aging stinks. I continue to find these nagging physical intrusions in more and more abundance since turning 40, then 45, then 50… My wife and I already sound like an elderly couple when we chat: "How did you rest? How are your heart palpatations? How is your knee? Are you fingers swollen today?" Oh well. What choice do we have? Thanks for the reminder of what's in store for us. Let's keep our chins up, and keep pressing on in joy!

  11. Mary,
    Thanks for your encouraging comments..and for the tidbit. "It is well with my soul" is a favorite of mine and I didn't know the history.

    Yeah, I know what you mean. One evening my husband looked at me and said, "when did we reach the point that our bedtime meds actually make a midnight snack?"