For the context of this testimony, please see the post Baring Our Souls at Church.

I am grateful for this opportunity to share a few things with you today. It is my prayer that in these short moments, the grace and comfort that God provides even in the midst of suffering shines through.

As Butch’s part mentioned, I have been experiencing chronic pain for the past 18 years. Doctors have ruled it fibromyalgia because they have no real answer. The pain that I experience is similar to what you might feel if you were to slap your hands together hard repeatedly. Your hands would most likely hurt and tingle for a bit, but they would soon recover. Imagine if it never stopped but only changed in intensity. That is what my pain is like.

It is in my upper arms, my lower back, the back of my thighs, and my feet. It gets worse with pressure against my skin. This has made many activities difficult or impossible. I can’t walk for more than a few minutes or stand for more than a few seconds without the pain in my feet increasing.  I couldn’t sit for more than 15 minutes for years. I have spent years on the couch on my stomach because it hurt too much to sit, stand, or lie on my side.  Unfortunately, lying down also began to hurt because my ribs got sore. Therefore, there is no position that gives me relief, except in the pool.

Today, praise God, I can sit for longer periods of time thanks to a program Butch created that is designed to slowly acclimate me to normal activities again. I am still in pain every day when sitting or standing or walking, but I am making progress.

As you might imagine, my physical suffering has also caused some emotional and spiritual turmoil. There have been times when I have been overcome with grief and have fallen into despair.  I can’t help but sometimes feel the years that have passed while I’ve been in this state and what it has caused me to miss out on. I’ve gotten frustrated, angry, and sad; and sometimes it’s all so hard to bear.

In moments of deep despair, I have fallen beyond the bottom of my rope, that place where you just can’t go on anymore mostly because you just can’t see the point. It is a very low place. I know what it is like to wonder where God is, to wonder if he is mad at you, and to wonder if things will stay the same awful way forever.

Thankfully, by the grace of God, I did not linger too long in that place or in those thoughts. God’s word and the truths within both sustained and restored my spirit when needed. Through all my trials, God was never actually absent nor did he remove his care from me. He provided for me in countless ways.

One thing that has been an incredible help to me through the years is the knowledge that God is sovereign. I have learned from the scriptures that our Lord is sovereign over everything including our ways, over life, over nations, and yes, even over suffering. In the throes of suffering, it is very comforting to know that you are in his hands, even if it seems like things are spiraling out of control. I know that no matter what is going on, it has not caught him off guard.  I also know that it is not without purpose. I have learned from the Bible that God works all things after the counsel of his will, that none of his purposes can be thwarted, and that he causes all things to work together for good for those who love him. That’s incredibly comforting.  I rejoice that I am not at the mercy of my circumstances; I am in the mercy of my sovereign God, always.

It is God’s mercy and everything else about him that makes his sovereignty so comforting. His control operates within the context of who he is, and he is holy and good and filled with compassion and lovingkindness. I rejoice that he said, “I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things.” Because of all he is, he has my trust and is my hope. I do not know what will happen down the road, but I know God is good and that he is working all things for good. I count on that. Through my suffering I have come to see that good may not mean what I want it to mean, but I know that God always has what’s best for me in mind.

Because of this, I praise him and wait on him.  I also thank him for my salvation and for all he has provided, including a selfless and godly husband and loving children. I know that my Redeemer lives and through him I will live forever more.  To him be the glory forever. Amen.

Sharon Lareau