©2020 Gladly By Karissa Barker

  • Karissa

Dear Delilah

This year, I greet Delilah as a friend. I rebelled and cursed her for four, but in this fifth year, I will walk alongside her as a companion. I thought that since I could not overcome her physically, the way to overcome her would be through willful rebellion, a "despite you" attitude. You suck, Delilah, BUT GOD.


Maybe that got me through the first four years of a constant migraine and pain so bad it takes all I have to get out of bed every day. The first year, in which I could barely function at all and life seemed to completely crumble, my husband and I jokingly named the migraine that had given me seizures and blinding pain and taken everything else "Delilah". No one understood or saw what our little family was going through, and would innocently ask if Karissa still got headaches. Maybe that's why I chose the name Delilah, she reminded me of Samson's Delilah in the Bible: she may have looked innocent but she really came to destroy everything.


Every year I had secret hopes she'd leave me alone, or at least give me a break, and I'd go back to getting my "normal" migraines that only wiped me out for a couple days at a time. There was no way she could stick around constantly, all the time, without ceasing.


Not past a year.


Definitely not two.


Impossible for her to stay longer than three.


And here we are at four.


This morning, I was able to walk around the neighborhood and see the early light filtering through the trees and worship. My head hurt so bad that my protective "danger" voice told me to go home before someone found me in a ditch, but I somehow knew it'd be all right. So I kept walking, and I thought about how last year I maybe couldn't have done this.


God has led me through the antagonistic relationship with Delilah to one of appreciation at all the gifts the pain has brought. Instead of a "despite you" attitude, I now have one of "because of you". Instead of shaking my fist at her and saying BUT GOD, I now know "with God."


Your trial, your suffering, the deepest pain you have, can be the very pulpit from which God's goodness is preached. I would make the case that it has to be. There's no other way to live, otherwise it is a slow death of pushing back what could maybe propel you forward.


I thought that I was stuck, because my body is stuck. I thought that because in four years the biggest prayers and pleas to God were answered as "no", and nothing around me changed except the passing of time that I was stuck.


I see now that the only way I was stuck was through constant rebellion against God's very clear will for me.


Yes, I said it. It is God's will for me to suffer in this way.


How do I know? Because I am suffering this way, and Christ has my whole heart.


Here is the beauty in it: that is not the whole picture. That is one tiny part that I tend to focus on in the biggest way.


God allows us to suffer, but never in opposition to what is best for us, and for The Greater Story of Redemption and God's glory.

When people look at suffering, and say "how could anyone follow a God that allows that to happen", what they are really saying is "I'm afraid God allows that to happen."


Because it is easier to have a willfully rebellious "DESPITE YOU", then to press into the oldest fear in the world. The very fear that pushed Adam and Eve toward the fall; the fear that God does not love us and want our good, not really.


My life has been really hard. My life still is really hard. But I know so many people who have it harder. And some live despite you lives, and some live with you ones.


God allows us to choose Him. He laid out the groundwork for a life of love and peace, and even made us for The Garden (Genesis 1-2). But through giving us a choice, and the capacity to love, He allowed us to choose to turn away from Him (Genesis 3).


My dear old Delilah is not a cruel gift from God. Delilah is a result of living in a world that is broken and full of sin. And God allows us to bear the hurts of this world: the brokenness of thousands of years of sinfulness, because He allows true love. He allows us to choose Him, instead of coming in and wiping everything away.


To come and remove all suffering and death and evil would mean removing all of us: the creators of it. And friend, God loves us too much for that.


Instead, God chose too. He chose to put on pain and live amongst us, and bear the full weight of our hurt (2 Cor 5:21). He spread His arms wide on the cross, wide to the world, to say "come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)


Jesus bore your pain (Phil 2:6-11). And He went farther: He bore the consequences of your rebellion, and mine, and every evil. He bore it and died with it, and rose to conquer it.


Jesus is your way out.


Jesus is the way we can live a life of purpose and promise and endurance through the hardest things. And Jesus is the answer to the age old question, that deep fear of "How could I follow a God who allows that?"


We have to have the courage to say "How can I not follow a God who redeems that?"

I am walking this year, on the anniversary of when my life changed in the back of an ambulance four years ago, next to Delilah as a friend. She is no longer a constant reminder of all that is wrong, or a trigger of a fearful mistrust of God.


Every step I take, I take gladly alongside Delilah. Every breath I say "gladly, gladly, gladly" as a reminder that Christ came to abolish fear and pain by bearing the full weight of it. Every second in pain is a reminder that Christ is redeeming it all, and that God will never allow me to be overcome.


I will boast all the more gladly of my suffering. Because Christ's power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)


Jesus says "take up your cross and follow me." The only way to be stuck is if you decide to stand next to that cross and curse it and kick it and scratch at it until you wear yourself into exhaustion. The only way to be unstuck is to take up your cross. The most incredible thing is that when you choose to bear it with your eyes on Christ, the load is lighter. Jesus tells us "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:30)



My life is full and powerful and mighty, mightier than the pain that I have to drag around. Because the God that is allowing me to go through it is working all of the pain I have to face in this broken world together for my good, and there is an eternal weight of glory waiting for me (Romans 8:28, 2 Cor 4:17)