It was just a simple stone. Nothing attractive about it. In fact, it wasn’t even big. It barely measured 12″ by 6″. It was slanted on a fort-five degree angle, and it didn’t even have an interesting colour or pattern. Who would have thought it would inflict so much pain on an innocent hiker?
We were climbing up one of the beautiful mountains at Pisgah Natural Forest in North Carolina when it happened. We were taking our time to enjoy the beauties of nature that confronted us at every turn of the trail, and we had about half a mile of trail to still cover before reaching the top. I had just stopped to admire a bright patch of gold off the distance. It turned out to be the sun glinting off of a field of golden grain. Absolutely breathtaking! What I wasn’t paying attention to was my next step. As I shifted my weight to my right leg, my foot slid off of the rock it had been resting on, twisting my ankle about 90 degrees counter clockwise. The next minute I was sitting on the trail with pain shooting up my leg.
I guess that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention.
I gingerly assessed the damage, only to discover that I couldn’t put any weight on my foot-just a little problem when you are over a mile from the car! My first thought was, “Oh no! My kids will be so disappointed! They really want to reach the top and I won’t be able to go on!” I tested some weight on my foot again, but it was no use. The pain was too extreme.
What didn’t help maters was that this was the foot I had burned so badly in the Bahamas, the one that had ended up with an ultra-big golf ball-sized blister! I had known then that the burn had been deep enough to injure my ankle muscles. Likely my ankle was still weak from this incident, and this had put me at higher risk of injury.
It’s amazing how such a tiny detail can come back to haunt you!
I took my head in my hands and started praying, and as I did, strength filled my soul. With the help of my family I was able to stand up once again, and before I knew it, I could walk without pain. I was able to climb the rest of the mountain, unaided, AND I made it all the way back to the car, a total distance of over two miles on a sprained ankle. All I could say was, “Praise be to God!”
As it often happens, however, my family simply declared that I must not have sprained my ankle after all. They figured I just twisted it enough to have acute pain, but that I hadn’t really injured it. After all, how could I have walked two miles on a sprained ankle? Once back in the car however, as we were driving back to town, sharp pain once again shot over my foot and up my leg, and when we stopped at a K-Mart to buy an ankle brace, I couldn’t walk. I limped back into the hotel and dropped flat on my back in agony. By this time my ankle was swollen to twice its normal size. How was I ever going to be able to visit all the things on our agenda over the next few days???
I had made a big mistake for not watching out for hidden dangers. I made a poor choice that ended up getting me into trouble. However we have a merciful God who intervenes in our bad choices, and He is able to turn our errors into blessings. I mean, how could I have ever been able to walk on my injured foot for more than two miles without God’s help? By divine intervention we were able to reach the top!
In life we often make poor choices, choices that hurt not only ourselves, but others as well. We have every reason to feel deflated and depressed, blaming ourselves for our mistakes. However we also need to remember that God is a specialist in turning disaster into blessing. If we remain on our high horses of complaints, if we wallow in our own self-pity, if we let our pain dictate reality, we will never notice the opportunities God has provided us with.
“Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.” (2 Cor 7:10 The Message)
Only One can sustain us in our pain, the One who suffered extreme suffering without ever giving up, all because He loves us!
“It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself – all the pain, all the testing – and would be able to help where help was needed.” (Heb 2:16-18 The Message)
Instead of cursing our mistakes, let us rejoice that we have a merciful God who can turn curses into blessings!
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matt 5:4 NIV)
How did I manage the next few days of mountain exploring with a sprained ankle, you ask? Stay tuned for the next devotional: (The Day After).
(To view the entire “The Problem With Pain” devotional series, please click here.)