the harder pain

ocean beach

I’m not sure which is the harder pain: a doctor out of ideas saying, “Maybe lymphoma?” Searching an ultrasound screen to see if you can tell with your bare eyes if your husband’s kidney is failing. Hooking him up to an IV twice a day for months.

Or what we’re going through now.

“Now” isn’t dramatic speculative diagnoses (that thankfully turned out to be wrong), or scary tests and heavy medicine. Now is the point where another doctor says the words we’ve heard from every doctor before him. “I don’t know why this isn’t working. This always works. I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”

So we sit on our couch in our living room and ask one another what’s next. He says maybe we stop everything and try a new fast. I say let’s do that since we don’t have any momentum to lose anyway. We both think, but what if that doesn’t work either?

And what if it doesn’t? I’m asking because I really don’t know. If it doesn’t work, if everything keeps not working, his elbows and ankles will get bigger and bigger. The pain that comes and goes in his hands and feet will lodge their permanently. The days he can barely get in and out of a chair will become more frequent. The times I need to help him put on his socks will become routine.

And then what?

The scariest thing in the world to me isn’t dying. The scariest thing is watching the world of the man I love shrink from the wide, wide everything to our neighborhood, to our house, to a wheelchair. The scariest thing is looking into our future and seeing pain. My faith tells me there will be grace, and love, and joy to meet that pain. But this morning my vision is foggy and the pain is the most clear.

Here is the string I’m holding onto as we dangle over the edge of this cliff:

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)




  1. shanna mallon

    Sending you the biggest hug, along with all my love, and a promise that we are praying and hoping for good with you both. It is hard to understand His ways and His timing but we cling to Him. All we do is cling to Him.

  2. Sarah Alexander

    Oh, Joanna. I am here and I am praying. I am so sorry. I keep reading this over and over…I need to email you.

  3. joannalinberg

    Thank you, guys! I’m always so humbled and encouraged by how willing people are to carry our burdens with us. It gives me hope and hope drives out fear. So thank you!

  4. katie

    you write so openly and eloquently about such difficult experiences. I’m glad to read your comment about having hope, I hope for better days for you both.

  5. Mom

    Oh, J…no words come, only emotions. Today I am relying on the truth that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.”

  6. Rebekah

    I have been loving your blog from afar (one of those click-around treasure hunts), and just wanted to say that I am praying for you. Your writing betrays a beautiful heart, and I am praying God keeps you both. And for the sun to come up.

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