Being a guy who is born without arms means that people are naturally curious about what life is like when you do everything with your feet. I get questions all the time like:
How do you brush your teeth?
How do you drive?
How do you put on your clothes?
Once people begin to get comfortable being around me, one of the most common questions people will ask is, “If you could choose to have arms, would you?” While it is not just a cut and dry answer, I end up telling people no.
Being born without arms might be the single greatest thing that has happened to me, apart from my salvation. God has taken a disability that many would see as a disaster and used it to mold and shape me as a man and a believer. My disability and the pain that came with it has allowed me to see more distinctly the character of God. He comforted me, assured me and strengthened me when there seemed to be no source of hope.
My hurt also taught me a lot about myself. My trials and tribulations are tools that God has used to mold and shape me – for my good and his glory. My pain is a gift and if I can see it as such I will begin to be molded in the right ways.
Ultimately, my pain shows us the true substance of my faith. Peter says in his letter to the persecuted church to rejoice because of our trials knowing that “the tested genuineness of our faith” is refined in the crucible of my hurt.
No list or advice is completely infallible when it comes to deal with hurt, but here are four ways I’ve been able to navigate the suffering in my life and to have God to shape me in the midst of it:
1. Mourn over your pain
I grew up in an age where boys didn’t cry – over anything. The same can be said in our current culture. We are rarely vulnerable with others and the spirit of the age pushes us to march on in spite of the inner turmoil that rages inside of us.
I was not able to fully come to grips with the emotional pain that comes with feeling different until I began to grieve over that hurt. There came a freedom and release as I cried over the years of hurt and isolation I had felt. All of the doubts, questions and frustrations poured out of me.
As I cried and mourned, God grieved with me. He heard my anger, my frustration and my pain. He was there with me, even when I did not realize it. My grief and brokenness were the first steps toward the healing of my hurt.
2. Pray in the midst of your pain
It was in the midst of my brokenness that I realized I needed help. I was never going to be able to crawl out of my despair and self-shame apart from the grace of God. I needed an Almighty God to stitch the brokenness of my life back together.
As I prayed, I was not telling God anything he did not already know, but what I was doing was acknowledging a complete dependence on him. He was my source and my strength – and I needed to seek out that source every day in my road to healing.
3. Write down what you see
Pain has a powerful ability to blind me to what is both ahead of me and behind me. Often all I notice is how bad my pain is and that is it.
As I started to journal through my pain, I began to notice all the ways I was growing over a long period of time. I was starting to see the ways that God was answering my prayers – even in ways I did not expect.
God was working in my pain and I just needed to lay out a foot-written, concrete timeline for me to see it. Suffering and trials were refining me, it was not going to define me. By journaling everything that happened in the midst of my hurt, it gave me the bird’s eye view of how God is molding me in my life.
4. Reach outward, not inward
Another effect of our pain is that it pushes me to isolate myself from everyone else in my life, but that is the exact opposite of what God wants me to do. God has designed his church to be a place where we can, as Galatians 6:2 says, “bear one another’s burdens.” Find people who can cry with you, pray with you, encourage you and love you in your hurt.
As God comforts me in my hurt, what I began to see is that I now have a chance to love others in that same sort of hurt. In such a unique and beautiful way, God gives me a chance to seek out others who have gone down the same dark path that I have so I can show them there is hope on the other side.
Pain in this life is a guarantee, but it is also a guarantee that God will be with you through whatever you have to face in this life. As your pain pushes you to isolation push yourself towards God and to the people who love you the most. You have a story to tell, don’t let the pain of life silence you.