There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sharing our hearts, fears and pain with someone who “gets” us. A kindred spirit. A soul sister. Those kind of bonds energize and empower us.
I believe that’s why the enemy works so relentlessly to keep us quiet. To convince us that no one could possibly understand our pain, our mistakes, our fears. And beyond that, that no one would even particularly care. After all, everyone has their own problems. Maybe we look fine. Who would really believe us? For those and other reasons, I stayed quiet about my chronic pain for so many years.
My autoimmune disease causes a lot of different types and sources of pain. But the most intense by far is a condition I have called interstitial cystitis. The best way that I can describe it is misery. But if you’re looking for a more scientific definition, it is a chronic inflammation of the bladder lining. It is basically like living with some degree of a urinary tract infection at all times, but there’s no infection. Only the pain. Doctors, for the most part, have no idea what to do for it.
The few times I reached out (with those outside my close circle), I was met a puzzled look or sympathy, but no real understanding of what I was going through. That made me feel even more alone. Easier just to paste on a smile and mask my pain.
As my pain intensified over the last couple of years, my coping mechanisms began to fail me.
One night, I got angry. Angry that this pain didn’t seem to have a purpose, other than making me miserable.
Sure, it had made me stronger, more compassionate, but I was questioning if those qualities were really worth the price. Then, I clearly heard this in my spirit: “Share it.”
I put up a fight. No one is going to “get” this. How do I share it? Who do I share it with?
Then the thought came to me about a new website I had just heard about called The Mighty, dedicated to stories of people who struggle with chronic illness — either personally or as a parent of a child with a disease. Within the space of about an hour, I dug deep to share my experience and how God had used it in my life for good. It felt simultaneously frightening and freeing.
The next morning, my heart pounding, I emailed it to the editor. She emailed me back with lightning speed: Hi Melinda, I’m so thrilled to have you on The Mighty. I’ve been working to get more post about invisible illnesses. Thank you for this piece. It’s great.
The article, “What My Invisible Disease Gave Me Eyes to See,” was up on the website before the end of the day. I posted it to my Facebook page and the messages and comments started pouring in from others who were also in the shadows, living with silent pain — physical, spiritual or emotional. They “got” it. Suddenly we all felt less lonely and discouraged.
Perhaps for the first time, I understood the power of my testimony. Revelation 12:11 tells us that it’s one of two things that defeats the enemy: “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.”
Telling our story makes it safe for others to do the same.
The loneliness and defeat of isolation is broken. And we begin to feel hopeful and empowered. That is what Satan fears. No, not everyone will understand our pain. But there are far more people suffering in silence than we realize. God designed us to encourage one another: “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4
I always thought that the most powerful testimony was delivered after the painful, difficult circumstance had past. When we’re on the other side of the darkness. But what I’m realizing is that our testimony is perhaps the most powerful when we can’t see much daylight, but still reach out to others and choose — moment-by-moment — to cling to the truth of God’s Word and believe in His goodness.
Recently, I had this text exchange with a friend of mine who is also fighting very difficult circumstances:
Me: We’re in the same dark place, my friend. My prayers are short these days. Like you, right now I feel like God doesn’t hear me. I wish I could be more of an encouragement, but that is where I am right now. In my short prayers you will be at the very top of the list.
Grace: Strangely enough, you have been an encouragement. That someone who feels called to women’s ministry, a wife, a mom can feel so spiritually tired and worn. Thank you. That makes me feel less alone.
There is power in our pain, friends. Tell your story.
© Melinda Means. Excerpt from Invisible Wounds: Hope While You’re Hurting.
Kindle and Paperback versions available on Amazon.
The Kindle version is $2.99 for a limited time. The Paperback version is currently $8.99 and includes a Discussion Guide perfect for both individuals and small groups. If you purchase the Kindle version, you can find a downloadable Discussion Guide by clicking here.
Every time I read Melinda Means, I feel like I’ve encountered the heart of Christ. In Invisible Wounds, she goes one step further. She shows me how Christ is holding my heart in his Hands, and how He holds me gently – every wound, every broken place – to bring wholeheartedness to my life. This book is for any woman who is hurting today, any woman who needs to know that hope is one heart-cry away.
It’s rare to find someone who will share her wounds with the kind of vulnerability Melinda does … Her voice is powerful yet tender. She will challenge you and encourage you at the same time. And chances are, you’ll laugh and cry…and maybe even find yourself nodding with a deep understanding as you read the hard-earned wisdom in these pages.
~ Carey Scott, author of Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life
Melinda shares her battle to find hope and hold onto her faith as she copes with the challenges of her personal debilitating disease, as well as the condition of her precious son. She allows you to see and feel her struggles and numbness all while being transparent about her doubts and questions about God. Her book will bring much-needed inspiration to others who have invisible wounds, too.
~ Amy Lykins, Executive Director of Business Development at Proverbs 31
Melinda understands so well this often-hopeless journey of hidden pain. To the woman who thinks no one sees—this book is for you. To the woman nursing hurts that don’t seem to heal—this book is for you. And, for every one of us (including me) who needs a God-sized reminder that only Jesus can help, this book is for us. Make sure you get two copies—someone you know needs hope while she’s hurting, too.
~ Joanne Kraft, author of The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids
In Invisible Wounds, Melinda gets real and encourages us to do the same. It’s through this realness that we can find grace from God and stronger relationships with others. Stories from Melinda’s life, her friends’ stories, and examples from Scripture all work together to help readers view their hardships as the training ground for growth. I’m excited to have this book to recommend to the special-needs parents that I minister to each day.
At some point in our lives, each of us has dealt with the fear, pain, doubts, and discouragement that Melinda writes about in this book. She describes beautifully how to address the lies the enemy places in our hearts. Melinda also helps us see that through our relationship with God and the promises we receive through knowing Him as our Lord and Savior, we can overcome these wounds. I am encouraged as I journey through her words and feel that through this book, Melinda will reach women as seeds of hope and love are planted—ones can only be found through Christ Jesus.
~ Cheryl Goss, Founder and President of Connecting Ministries
In Invisible Wounds, Melinda courageously opens the door to the inner struggles of a woman’s heart. She reminds us that God wants us to give him the depth of our pain so that He will show us His presence. With approachable wit and grace, Melinda’s words are a soft balm to our open wounds, providing healing and restoration to weary souls alike.
~ Christen Price, speaker, blogger at christenprice.com and author of Practice Hospitality and Invited (releases March 2017)