“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
This quote rings true with so many areas in my life right now, whether it be our journey into fostering, continuous struggles with my health or simply the courage to make various decisions that I know in my heart are the right (but not easy!) ones to make.
About a year ago I saw an orthopedic surgeon about pain that I experience in my right knee. It was nothing new but had been growing worse and so I was referred to him to look into it further. The belief was that due to the misalignment in my right leg, the joint was suffering damage, which could eventually lead to the need for a total knee replacement.
After gathering multiple X-Rays to try and determine if surgery could be done to correct the alignment in my leg, we were all quite astounded by the images that glowed back at us through the light box in his exam room.
The X-Rays showed leg bones that were strong, healthy and fully developed. The orthopedic surgeon, who has worked extensively with children at Shriners Hospital, was amazed at the a-typical results from a patient with my condition, Spina Bifida.
He further explained that his only conclusion for seeing such strength in my bones was owed to the fact that through everything I had never stopped using them. He said that when bone is stressed it actually in turn becomes stronger. It’s counter-intuitive thinking but we had the X-Rays to prove it.
“Bones are living tissue. Weight-bearing physical activity causes new bone tissue to form, and this makes bones stronger. Bones and muscles both become stronger when muscles push and tug against bones during physical activity.” -National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Upon hearing his words, my mind immediately flashed back to countless times in the hospital after surgery where I had to “get up and walk” despite excruciating pain, to my parents instilling confidence in me by maintaining expectations for me to have the same household chores as my siblings, and then to my first week as a freshman in college in downtown Chicago. My apartment was only three to four city blocks from the EL (which took me to my classes) but to me it could have been three to four miles.
At the time, I wasn’t wearing any braces on my legs and each step felt like I had stepped in wet cement. That combined with the elements of weather made each trip to and from the brown line a mental and physical battle.
On each of those days, when life required me to get back on my feet and keep going, I often wondered if those activities might be the cause of me ultimately losing the function in my legs.
But here I was, years later, sitting and listening to a doctor tell me that those years could actually be attributed to making my legs stronger.
I can’t help but think about the direct correlation that this picture has to the rest of our lives. After all, the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” must exist for a reason, right?
I am constantly amazed at how God has created our physical bodies to reiterate the truths that He has laid out for us in His Word. Scripture repeatedly affirms this idea of suffering producing strength;
Romans 5:3-5 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
2 Corinthians 12:10 “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The solution to correcting this knee pain ended up being more complex than we originally thought it would, so that is a surgery that has been put on the “back burner” for now.
But I was reminded of the important mystery of God’s redemption in the midst of pain; that if we keep going in the midst of the suffering on this earth, God promises to bring strength to our soul.