Using my Pain to Write
By C.E. Stone
2019. A year sparkling with brand new possibilities. A year ago, I was hoping fervently that the unwritten months of 2019 would bring resolution to a crisis my husband and I were facing. He’d been dealing with a mystery illness for 6 months, his health only worsening until he was too disabled to work. But as the dozen doctors we saw could offer no diagnosis, we’d limped along, watching as our situation grew more desperate. Finances. Plans. Dreams. Writing goals. All those were poised to go out the window, so I hoped things would improve in 2019.
It’s no exaggeration to say that 2019 was the year that almost broke me. In some ways, it did. I could fill a book with all of the things we suffered last year. My husband's continued decline. The loss of his job due to illness. Traveling out of town multiple times to go to the best hospital, only to see even more doctors without answers. Unwanted conflict with relatives who’d once been a support.
Summer of 2019 was the lowest point of that year. I’d just come off of the busy season with my job. I hadn’t taken a break in 6 straight months. What free time I had between work, appointments, insurance calls and insanity was spent weeping and processing one crisis after another. I began to feel like this was how life would be, the rest of my existence. I hated it.
I've spent the majority of my life as a pretty content person. My greatest dreams have always been two things: to be a stay-at-home mom and a published author. Poverty and hardship had kept me from my first goal. Fear and timidity kept me from pursuing my second until 2018. But my husband and I had been doing okay and finally working toward those dreams.
Then, tragedy. I watched for a year as my fit, 28-year-old groom morphed into someone with the energy of an 80-year-old man. He went from confident, quick strides to tottering, unbalanced steps. He went from wearing T-shirts in winter to shivering beneath piles of blankets in the summer. He went from having a sharp mind to sitting and staring vacantly for hours. I can’t adequately express the anguish and grief of witnessing my young husband slowly losing his health.
There are no words.
Publishing plans stalled as survival mode kicked in. I didn’t even have a spare moment or brain cell to work on a story or think about my worlds. No more talk of whether to have kids or buy a house first. This was barebones subsistence, and my husband and I were doing everything we could just to get through the summer without giving up.
Our bank account, hearts, and hopes were running past empty. I even began to question whether God and His plans were good. I, who had always been the cheerful, trusting person with unshakeable faith. In the face of such bitter trials, I felt more kinship with Job’s weeping than Jesus’ victory. I even became consumed with despair, though my mom and best friend thankfully helped me out of it!
Fall came and went in a rush. We’d gone past the point of trying to figure out my husband’s ailment. At long last, he wasn’t getting worse…though he also wasn’t getting better. Despite fewer appointments, however, December was insanity. Five birthdays, a full load of work, and the usual holiday bustle flew by. We still had no concrete diagnosis. I was overwhelmed with the stress of what felt like a million things to do. And on top of all of this Decembral chaos, I discovered an auto accident claim had been filed against me for a minor, parking lot bump with ZERO damage to myself and the other car.
I spent my birthday depressed. All my dreams seemed shattered. I was exhausted and over-burdened by a crushing, dispiriting year. The future only looked bleaker. My husband’s health was the same. When I got a notice from my insurance company that I was found at-fault for the “accident,” I’d had it. That was it! I burst into tears and fell to my knees in our little apartment living room.
“Why God, WHY???” I cried out. It hurt to even speak. “It makes no sense! I don’t get it! Is there some sin I’m committing that I need to stop? Some lesson I’m not getting? Why God? Why are you allowing this pain?”
I didn’t expect an answer. So many times, it felt like I’d cry out, only to get silence. This time was different. Almost immediately, a still, small voice whispered in my mind, “Use your pain to write!”
“WHAT????” were my first thoughts. Surely this couldn’t be? I’d been so overwhelmed, crushed and burdened that I hadn’t worked on my story in months!
It wasn’t like I had any time. I had doctors to call, bills to look after, assignments to make! But I knew God had spoken to me. So, I dropped what I was doing, walked to my desk, and opened my Christian sci-fi story. I didn’t even pick up where I’d left off. Instead, I scrolled to the end of the document and began to write the last thing I ever expected.
“The world was a tangled mess of torments. Cybrius dropships descended on an unsuspecting town, emptying raiding parties onto the virgin soil. Houses burned. The young and elderly fell beneath the brutal assault. Drudges crashed through the swampland, pursuing a group of fleeing women who sought—desperately—to evade their unfeeling grasp. To escape an existence from which death would be a release.”
I paused. Why on Earth was God having me write a scene about my tortured, 19-year-old minor character who had PTSD? Yet inspiration caused my fingers to fly. I continued at a frenetic pace, the pent-up creativity of many months fueling my obedience to a command that made no sense. The story shifted to a vision of an Edenic garden. I painted the scene of a fountain, a shining Man with nail-pierced hands—an offer of pure water. And my minor character drawing closer to the object of my scene:
“Do not hesitate when the gift is freely offered,” the Man said. His voice was soft, yet it carried the power of thunder. “Ezrith Dashmír, is anything so impure that I cannot make it new? Is anyone so lowly that I cannot exalt him?”
The ex-Cybrius fell to his knees. He did not deserve this. He did not deserve to be here, in the presence of such perfection. And still…part of him yearned so deeply to taste of that perfection! To be whole. The Figure walked towards him, extending his hand. Pirateer feared he’d touch Him, and be burned by His brilliance. He stopped mere feet away.
“You will be broken,” the Man said, sorrow in His voice. “But take heart! I shall allow this so I may raise you up, for I delight in using the weak to shame the proud. And through you, I will bring great evil to its knees! Remember! He who thirsts has only to come to Me for living water.”’
You will be broken. By the time I reached this point in my paragraph, my cheeks were flowing with tears. My fingers trembled from a feeling of awe mixed with overwhelming emotion. I finished the scene, but the words of Him who had inspired me filled my head. And my heart, for the first time in months, felt joyful.
“Use your pain to write.”
I’d like to say that everything got better, after that epiphany. It didn’t. My husband and I are still
scraping by. His health is still in a shambles. Our tears are more abundant than our smiles, and I still have moments of raw emotional agony. But you know what?
I got better. My attitude changed. No longer did I feel lost or purposeless. No longer did my pain seem pointless. And as I stopped neglecting my writing, God opened up my schedule to allow me more time to write.
I’ve always felt like writing was a tool to glorify and serve God. I’d laid that tool aside as necessity dictated, but God had a purpose even in my pain. A calling for my writing. Through the sufferings of this past year, I understand what others go through far better. I can empathize with so many more people than before. I can write from so many characters’ perspectives more authentically, because there’s few issues they’ve faced that I haven’t.
How about you? God may not be calling you to use your painful experiences in your current work of art. But what other thing may He be calling you to use for His glory? What hardship or trials could He be allowing in your life for a greater purpose?
A lot of us are going through pain right now because of the coronavirus. Some have lost jobs, lost loved ones, or are dealing with more aches and pains due to increased work hours. Whatever your situation, I can tell you from experience that God cares about you even when life hurts.
I still don’t know why the Lord wants me to use the worst year of my life to write. Or exactly what He wants me to write, for that matter! In the end, neither the why nor the what is important. What I HAVE learned from 2019 is that when God speaks, I must listen. Great things come from doing what He asks. Our pain is never purposeless. Even our agony isn't wasted, and one day, Jesus will wipe away every tear we've ever cried. Even the deluge I cried through the insanity of 2019.
In the meantime, please excuse me. I’m going to go use my pain to write...