Choosing Joy

In the past year and a half, my emotions have gone up and down based on the health of our 15-year-old son, Josh.  He began playing T-ball at the age of 4 and advanced through Little League, All-Stars, and eventually into select ball at the age of 13.  He had an incredible season that year.   When he turned 14, he started to complain of an ache in his lower back.  We didn’t think much of it.  Athletes pull muscles all the time, right?  He rested for two weeks and then started practicing again.  Josh went through a cycle of back pain, rest, play, back pain, rest and play for several months.  During that time, we took him to a physical trainer to improve his flexibility and strength, which helped for a while. Over time, however, the pain persisted so we sought medical care.  The journey to wellness and baseball has not been one filled with joy.

Initial MRI results revealed two stress fractures in one of the vertebrae in Josh’s lower back.  Athletes who participate in sports with repetitive twisting and arching movements, such as baseball, are more susceptible to these stress fractures.  Over the past year and a half, Josh has endured 5 months of complete rest (as in NO physical activity except for activities of daily living) followed by physical therapy 1-2 times/week with daily home exercises, wearing a hard plastic back brace (a.k.a. “the girdle”), putting orthotics in his shoes, praying for healing and questioning God’s goodness.  Early on in his recovery, he had a setback.  A second MRI showed two additional fractures were beginning to develop on another vertebrae. That setback has made Josh’s recovery time even longer.

Needless to say, Josh’s recovery and return to baseball has been a very difficult one. The hard part about this story is that after following the doctor’s orders for a year and a half, Josh’s back has not completely healed.  In fact, the doctor told us that the fractures may never completely heal.  As Josh has begun to transition to more difficult exercises and a less supportive back brace, he is starting to have lower back pain again.  Not only has Josh not healed, but our younger son recently sustained a similar, but less severe back injury.  Ugh!  Needless to say, my mom heart emotions have been all over the place.  Many times I have questioned God’s goodness for our family and focused on what is NOT going well.  Do you know how hard it is to watch your son long to play a sport he loves only to miss two seasons? To keep him busy during the summer when he isn’t allowed to throw water balloons, swim, hike, jog, or ride a bike?  To watch him put on his back brace and push the orthotics into the shoes he will wear that day? To listen to him tell you that so-and-so who had a similar back injury 6 months ago is already playing baseball again? To watch the disappointment and fear in his face when his back starts to hurt? To listen to him say he wonders if God cares about him or even loves him? These have robbed me of joy.

The sermon series on JOY is timely.  I am reminded that God does not promise an easy life.  In fact, He promises the opposite.  James 1:2 tells us to “consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Scripture does not say “IF you face trials;” it says “WHEN.”  And why do I need trials? Verse 4 tells us “so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” When I choose joy, I am able to see God’s hand in the midst of the hard stuff.  During Josh’s recovery, he became a straight-A student and even took an extra online math class.  For fun, he started playing the guitar and developed an interest in photography! He has been an encouragement to other young athletes who are injured and is considering a career in the medical field.  Above everything else though, Josh has started talking to God about His plan for his life.

As of now, Josh is working hard to become physically strong in order to compensate for stress fractures that will only heal with a miracle.  If a miracle of healing does not occur, I pray Josh will learn to choose joy, that he will know God’s goodness and will be open to God’s perfect plan for his life.  I pray that my faith in Christ will sustain me, knowing at the center of my being that God is good. I long to demonstrate a joy-filled life to my family, to show my children what it looks like to deal with the temporary tough stuff with my eyes on eternity. I imagine choosing joy will take a lifetime of practice, but “I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in (me, Josh, my family) will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6)

 


 

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2 Comments
  • Carolyn Jean DeMoss
    Posted at 23:26h, 05 August Reply

    Choosing Joy was a good message for me to read. As a widow who has been through unbelievable happenings that would not have occurred were my husband here to protect me, I have a better grip on what it means to lean on God 100% of the time. Raising children and being married often occupied so much of my time, that God was set aside. Josh, you are learning in your youth to depend on God in your personal challenges. I know that being active in all the things you love to do means so much to you and will pray that you continue to embrace those new interests; also that your body will be healed. It takes a lot of patience and diligence for such challenges. You have a great mother.

  • Laurie Hatakeda
    Posted at 20:23h, 05 August Reply

    Thank you for sharing so vulnerably about the challenges of your family. It must have been and still must be at times very discouraging and sad for Joshua to miss out on what he loves. It’s heart breaking as a parent to watch our kids go through such difficulties. So glad Joshua is talking to God and making such great choices for good despite the disappointments. I pray for healing of the stress fractures fo Joshua and for your other son. I pray for comfort, peace, perspective and encouragement regardless of whatever happens. Thanks again for sharing. It encourages me to trust and rely on our caring, faithful God,

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