By Roxanne Smith

My right hand holds something I would rather get rid of: it holds pain. I have daily, intense, disabling back pain which forces me to lie down 22 hours out of every 24.

My husband Andy and our friends at St. Luke have seen me through 23 years of living like this. We have tried very hard as a family to get rid of my pain. Andy has supported me through four major back surgeries, three local pain clinics, medications, physical therapy, and a host of other attempts to manage my symptoms. Except for one level, my spine is completely fused; it does not bend, twist, or flex in any direction.

After all this time, after all these prayers, after all this work, I remain disabled by pain. It just hurts 24/7… a deep, throbbing, hurts-to-breathe, burning pain.

My right hand holds something I would rather get rid of: it holds constant and severe pain. I wouldn’t choose that for myself, but I have come to accept it. My right hand holds pain. But I like to imagine my left hand is open and empty. More than once I have asked myself, what will I hold in my other hand?

It turns out that pain has some really nasty friends: bad apples like rage, depression, self-pity, and bitterness. They seek space in my open left hand. In my own strength, that would be the best I could do. I would try to cope with my life, but I would be stuck carrying those toxic emotions around. Pain in my right hand, bitterness in my left. I wouldn’t have a shot at being a content person, let alone having moments of joy.

The Bible talks about people being able to receive the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit. These fruit are listed as love, joy, peace; patience, kindness, goodness; faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5: 22).

These are supernatural qualities; these are not qualities I can attain on my own. But I figure, I already have pain in my right hand. I don’t want a bunch of toxic junk in my left hand. There is an alternative.

So I ask God to bless me with the fruit of His Spirit. I ask Him to help me with my pain and the broken parts of my life. I ask him to give me His peace, which the Bible says passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). And I hope that, more often than not, my open left hand contains things like patience, kindness, peace, and self control.

What does it mean for you to live life with your hands open, both to your life experiences, but also to God? What type of pain, struggle, or disappointment do you hold in your right hand? Even more importantly, what will you hold in your other hand?