We’d planned for a year. We’d scrimped and saved. We’d made a game out of it by not eating out, figuring out how much we would have spent had we gone out, and then transferring that amount to our vacation fund.
I’d forced myself to go to work when I wasn’t feeling well, just to save up my vacation time. To save money, we’d chosen not to rent a van, and squeezed ourselves into my mom’s SUV, all seven of us, for the 10-hour drive from Southern Missouri to New Orleans: my wife, two kids, two grandkids and my mom.
And finally it was here; our family’s cruise to Yucatan and Cozemel. We were all so excited.
My wife had gotten up at 2:20 am on Sunday to make sure we were on the road by 4:00, putting us in New Orleans mid-afternoon. When we visited “The Big Easy” in 2012 we had eaten at an amazing seafood restaurant called Drago’s, and couldn’t wait to introduce our daughter–who hadn’t been able to accompany us on the first trip–to this establishment’s alligator bites.
About halfway through the meal, though, my back started hurting way worse than usual. I mean, my back ALWAYS hurt, but with chronic pain, you have “normal” days, with your “normal” level of pain, and you have BAD days, when the pain level increases exponentially.
There’s rarely any in between; days are either NORMAL or BAD.
And this was quickly turning into a bad day. I couldn’t believe it; after all the effort we had exuded to make this happen, and now my pain was quickly escalating to a nearly unbearable level.
It wasn’t just discomfort; it felt as if someone was stabbing me in the lower right side of my back. Over and over and over, I felt an invisible knife ripping into my muscles.
This was the worst pain I’d had since my last back surgery, and I couldn’t even find a comfortable position on the hotel bed. I rolled, tossed and turned all night, but found no relief as the stabbing agony grew worse by the hour.
I made up the meme below and posted it as a prayer request on Facebook:
I was so angry. All the time, effort, money and preparation we’d poured into this expedition and I suddenly didn’t even know if I could go. Overcome with emotion, my wife began looking up prices for a one-way flight back home.
“I can’t believe this is happening,” she said, fighting back tears.
But somewhere in the night, God increased my faith. “I can do ALL THINGS through Christ who gives me the strength,” I kept repeating to myself all night. I slept maybe four hours; the rest was spent listening to uplifting praise music and talking to God.
By the time morning dawned, I had chosen to see this through, pain be damned.
“What are we gonna do?” my wife asked, worried about me.
“If you and the kids have to borrow a wheelchair and ROLL me to the pool so I can watch my kids and grandkids swim, I’m GOING on this vacation. The devil will NOT win! I’m doing this. Are you with me?”
She kissed my cheek and replied, “Always.”
I walked as much as possible that morning, finally having to break down and ask for assistance. A young man pushed me in a wheelchair until I got onto the ship, collapsing into bed once I FINALLY made it to our room.
I walked with a cane, winced in pain, stopped and rested constantly and took at least one nap a day, but I made it.
The prayers of my friends and family could be felt as I went about the ship’s various activities, slowly, VERY slowly, getting better each day.
It was slowing me down but it wasn’t stopping me. There was much joy to be discovered, even in the midst of agony, and I wasn’t about to crawl into a hole and miss it.
By Thursday morning I was feeling so much better I walked out of the cabin to breakfast and forgot my cane, which had been my constant companion for five days.
I say none of this to my credit. I give all the glory to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“Three different times I begged the Lord to take (my pain) away. Each time He said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2nd Corinthians 12:8-10)
It took a stubborn perseverance to make it through this week. It took faith I didn’t know I had. It took persistence and courage which only God could have supplied.
Ya see, I got my miracle, but it didn’t happen all at once. I had to not only pray and believe, I had to WORK for it. Sometimes God just hands us our miracle, but other times we have to sweat for it. Like Jesus in the garden and on the cross, sometimes we have to go through hell to reach heaven.
But it’s worth it my friends. Believe, yes, and pray, but don’t be afraid to WORK. Don’t shy away from the pain. Do not fear the blood, sweat and tears.
As it was so eloquently spoken in The Ghost and the Darkness, “The struggle is the glory.”
For in the struggle you will discover a gritty determination that will not only get you through the hard times, but just may inspire others as well.
Never give up, never give in, never surrender!!!
Blessings, my friend.