“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”. -Joshua 1:9
I have been having problems with my back for the past few years, so it was not surprising that in December of 2015 I was again in physical therapy for the third round. While there was definite improvement, by February I was still struggling to do my normal exercise routines without back pain. This is typically just “life” stuff we all experience; however, on December 12, 2015 I became engaged to my boyfriend of almost 2 years. The back pain occurring was bad timing. I tried not to think about the pain and continued into 2016 with wedding planning, physical therapy visits, and lots of Advil :).
The doctors were not at the point of recommending an MRI, because a lot of back pain issues are “wait and see”. Also, since it was the beginning of the year, my health insurance deductible was nowhere near being met in order to cover the cost of an MRI. We had since set our wedding date for May 28 and there was so much excitement going on with wedding showers, future plans, and celebration that it did help keep my mind off my back. By March 2016 I was not improving. In fact, the pain was getting worse and I was having shooting pain going down my leg (sciatica). I went back to the doctor who recommended an MRI and to begin corticosteroid epidural shots. When the MRI came back stating I had a ruptured disk in my low back, I was honestly shocked. During my early 20s, I went through pain issues and many doctors appointments where they “just couldn’t find anything wrong”, so I was not expecting to get an answer on my pain this time. I felt sadness but also relief that an issue was found.
Prior to my epidural steroid shot, they put you in a room for pre-op. Little did I know, the nurse that I would encounter would be such a God-send. As she was giving me a sedative I noticed on her wrist was tattooed the bible verse Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”. It was in that moment I felt God assure me everything was going to be okay, even if I needed to go through with surgery.
The definition of courage is “the ability to do something you know is difficult or dangerous” (Merriam-Webster.com). I would need this courage a week later when I took my MRI scans to a neuro spine surgeon for a second opinion and was told I had the choice -to have the surgery with a quicker healing time, or it could take up to 5 years to heal on its own. (And by the way, God was so sweet to orchestrate my cousin referring me to this doctor AND me being able to get an appointment so quickly. That was a “God-story” in itself).
At this point in my story It was April and my wedding was in May. I knew surgery was inevitable, I really didn’t want to be a newlywed having back surgery, and the pain was so intense, we moved forward with scheduling a microdiscectomy spinal surgery for April 12, exactly 6 weeks and 4 days before my wedding. It was absolutely miraculous that my insurance went through in time and that the surgeon got me into surgery so quickly.
I witnessed once again how bizarre yet perfect God’s timing is. During my early 20s, I had a surgery 2 weeks before starting my graduate school program, and another surgery in the middle of my semester of my last year of grad school. Neither of those surgeries came at what seemed to be “a good time”. However, God got me through those rough times and he would get me through this as well. I realized that I had been strengthened through those difficulties and had more courage to face pre-wedding back surgery.
Each time we face something difficult and overcome it, we have more courage for the next trial we go through. Its as if we exercise our courage muscles, preparing us to be brave in the future.
Even when the timing of something does not seem “ideal”, perhaps God is reminding us that HE is on the throne and we get an opportunity to grow our courage muscles.