Faith, Gardening, life, relationships, Stories from Scripture
Comments 14

May{Be} I’ll Embrace the Purpose of Pain

The trowel rests still in my hand and I sit to rest my leg, the broken and healing leg that throbs throughout the day. My fingers feel the pulse in the place on my shin where they grafted new bone into the break that wouldn’t heal: it thrums angry against the still-red perfectly drawn incision scar.

But I know a secret about healing that I didn’t know before the accident. In my pre-accident life, I’d never had stitches or broken a bone or required surgery. I had my health, however little I thought of it. But this secret of bone healing, of understanding just a little bit more of this “fearfully and wonderfully made” body of mine has changed my spiritual comprehension.

The secret is this: the swelling heals. The inflammation brings freshly oxygenated blood to deep parts of my leg that need it most. The rhythmic pulse-beat that I touch with fingertips tells me healing is happening.

Yes, it hurts. No, I don’t like it. But because of the doctor’s skillful repair, I can break from my tasks knowing that the throbbing has a purpose.

As I sit, I survey the garden that encircles me. I see newness everywhere.

I see more plants than I’ve planted, seedlings and starts of perennials competing for groundspace with weeds. I see at least ten new raspberry canes. I see the need to share with others.

I see truth written in green sprout script across black dirt page: growth takes place in the dark spaces of garden soil, that melange of composting death that feeds new life.

And in the repeated trilling of the birds I hear an echo of the invitation of Christ again, “Come to me and I will give you rest for your souls.” {Matthew 11:28}

Ah, sweet rest. I long for the absence of this pain. I try to recall how I felt before my every movement was framed in discomfort.

But rest alone creates atrophy. This secret, too, I learned from healing wounds.

If I never rose to move the leg with two dozen fractures, it would waste away into a lifeless limb, useless to its designed purpose. It’s in the labor of rehabilitation, in the inflammation of bearing weight again that my leg will heal. When Jesus’ gentle invitation arrives at my heart’s doorstep, it’s an invitation of purposeful labor: walk with me, take my yoke of burden upon your spirit, plow the hard soil of life with me and learn how and where and why. He extends an invitation to draw close to God through living alongside Christ {Matthew 11:27}.

It is easier and it is lighter, but it’s not carefree and painless.

The yoke is easier because Jesus’ shoulders are offered to bear the weight of the tilling through life and he knows the way we should go. And most importantly, Jesus, who is intimate with the omniscient Father, knows the purpose of our pain.

Rest is not the absence of labor or an eternity-long spiritual vacation, but purpose for our souls.

 I rise to the work again. Trowel in hand I scratch the surface of the soil.

I loosen the hard-pack left by winter, turn over the debris of tattered leaves and bury them into the dark places where they will crumble and give up the nutrients trapped in their square-walled cells. I cut the soil and bring air and light to the garden bed. I participate in the process, in the purpose of the seasonal, cyclical song of nature. My heartbeat finds its way to scars again, but I smile when I feel the rhythm because I understand something of soul-rest and of the purpose of pain and the gift that it is to new life.


Dear one,

I know there is a unique story in your pain today. Your pain may be physical, like mine, or it may be deep, still-tender soul bruising from your past, or confusion or rejection or loneliness. Won’t you respond to the invitation to seek out the purpose of this painful season? Won’t you take the hand of Christ and strap yourself to his grace and walk the hard way with him? He loves us so….





  1. Jennie says

    So Timely Alyssa, As Erik was diagnosed with cancer once again today. The pain is fresh and raw. I know that Jesus will plow through it, He will lighten our load by carrying our burdens and give us what we need during this time. But it hurts none the less, hopefully the pain brings Jesus closer so that we can breath easier.

    • I’ve been praying for Eric. This burden your family bears is heavy, and frightening, yet the faith you show encourages others so much. I hold you up to heaven’s gates —

  2. i imagine in the light of such an injury working in the garden is a great thing to do….creating and seeing all the new life, knowing the same thing is happening in you right now…

    • yes, it is. I forget sometimes that the same things are happening in me an I need that reminder that growth is actually taking place…

  3. The garden is the best place. Period. I think I like it more than church, sometimes (did I just say that?)
    Well. I’m just being honest.
    I’m glad you’re healing by the way. I’m glad you’re finding God in the tender spots.

    • Ah, I agree – in the blue-skied cathedral, with the choir of birds and the silent witness of growth, we can worship in spirit. God’s found my sore soul in the garden many times and met me there — thanks for sharing!

  4. Floyd says

    It wasn’t so long ago we were sending up prayers on your behalf. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hear of your season of healing. Much wisdom will be gained and I’m convinced that God has a special plan for you that only this experience will qualify you for.

    When I was a kid I was ran over by a 6000 lb forklift. Broke my back and smashed my knee. Some twenty plus years later they removed the sheared part of my knee cap that was missed back then while I was getting a new ACL put in and the majority of meniscus removed. I’m headed for another knee surgery this year… I’m not sure I know the reason for it, but I can tell you I’m thrilled to walk.

    I’m praying for your complete healing… There is a significant possibility that your kids to watch God pick you up? Whatever the reason, I pray your life brings Him honor.

    • Wow! now that’s a story, Floyd. That you lived through that accident is amazing! I’m so glad you did, and that you tell stories like this (and on your blog) that provide perspective, humor and poignant truth. The prayers are like the quiet current on a wide swath of river — they keep me heading in the right direction even when I see little progress — thank you so much.

  5. Danelle says

    “Rest is not the absence of labor, but purpose for our souls.”
    Perfectly said Alyssa. I’m taking it with me today. 🙂
    Thank you friend. 🙂

  6. I’m with Danelle. “Rest is not the absence of labor, but purpose for our souls.” yes. I’m taking that with me, too.

    • I, for one, love the idea of escaping altogether, but it never provides the fulfilling our souls long for. But purpose, this enables us to embrace the mundane, the difficult, even the caustic elements of life. Thank God for giving us purpose and denying us the immediate escape hatch. Bless you friend!

  7. Such encouraging words! I have allowed too many things to make me immobile for too long! Too tired. Too sad. Hurts too much. And I found recently that I was surrendering my freedom along with my movement! So I force myself to do things that hurt because I CRAVE healing more than I do ease! Does that even make sense?

    • Yes! It makes complete sense. It is part of the healing process to work through the painful parts. I think it’s in our nature to want to escape any and all discomfort, but in the end, padding our bodies or our souls with ease really does cause atrophying, weakness and unhealthiness. I get exactly what you’re saying 🙂

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