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  • janetmchenry

Enduring for a Season

In our son’s sophomore year of high school, he had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and torn cartilage. The timing worked out, because I had taken a semester’s sabbatical from teaching to write a book.

The surgeon’s parting words at the hospital to me were, “Be careful as you lift the movement and ice machines because you don’t want to end up with back surgery.”

That was wise counsel. However, I was not wise in following it. Our son wanted to move from the bedroom to the living room to watch TV, then back to the bedroom to sleep several times a day. That meant I had to lift the equivalent of a good-sized cooler filled with ice water, as well as his heavy movement machine back and forth.

And I began to experience severe back pain. I stumbled along a month later, trying to cope–even trying chiro-massage manipulation. The straw that broke my back was a dictionary. I was cleaning house for our daughter’s slumber party when I leaned over to pick up a dictionary from the floor and experienced the worst pain of my life–worse than the induced labors for our four children.

I could not even stand to fix frozen pizza and serve the birthday cake and enlisted a young woman to help while I lay in bed.

The next day over-the-counter painkillers could not lick the pain, so I rode in an ambulance to the hospital in Reno, where a neuro doc said I had the worst herniated disc he’d ever seen. He prescribed a narcotic and bed rest.

My mom came to help out. She brought her porta potty and set it next to the bed. For three weeks I lay in bed in one position on my side with ice packs on my hip. Any movement was still excruciating. I could not even lift my head off the pillow to read. Hour after hour I lay there unable to do a single thing but pray. A follow-up visit to the doctor for an MRI sent me immediately to the hospital, where I had surgery the next day.

Two weeks later when I was still on heavy painkillers and waiting out that next pill, I realized I was probably addicted. The very moment I realized that, I determined to cut the dose in half the next day and then down to zero the day after that. When I got off the painkillers, I was amazed that I had no pain.

All that to say . . . I learned something from that pain. Yes, I learned not to lean over and pick up ridiculously heavy things. But I also learned what it feels like to be addicted to something. I learned empathy . . . but I also learned that freedom from addiction is possible. I understand that I was only on painkillers for five weeks; others who have need them longer term must have an increased dependency.

But we can endure. And endurance will produce character, which will produce hope. That hope will not put us to shame as can weakness, because God’s love pours into us as we endure. Yes, God loves both the strong and the weak; we both need him. But strength allows me the ability to help others through their struggles and the perspective that #LookingUp does not disappoint.

Janet McHenry does not lift up heavy things anymore. But she’s happy to lift up your prayer needs to the Lord. A speaker and author, she would love to connect with you at

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