Men, are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Are you frustrated with doctor’s appointments, medications and their side-effects? Do you feel misunderstood or disrespected because of your pain/illness, or perhaps you have felt like a second class citizen? Is your relationship on the brink of disaster? Have you lost hope?
Well, I am here to first tell you that if it wasn’t for God’s faithfulness, love, grace and mercy and the presence of the Holy Spirit, I would not be here to encourage and inspire you. Second, I pray that you will find that you are not alone and you are right where God wants you.
My name is Jeff Kenyon and I am a 40 year old male, living in the Santa Cruz County area. I have a lovely wife named Isabel, who I have been married to for close to 13 years. She is an RN and we have a lovely 3 and 1/2 year old daughter named Adie. I (Jeff) live with Chronic Pain. I have CRPS Type II, with severe Neuropathy pain. I also have mild to severe depression and Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. Men, I also suffer with the private, physical issues that are accompanied by high levels of long-term prescription narcotics and/or high levels of opiates, which I get everyday, through a Medtronic’s Internal Drug Infusion Pump. I am also on many oral meds that are for different physical conditions.
I will never forget the day, April 18th 2004. I woke up with severe back pain, with muscle spasms. I could not stand up above my waist. I was healthy with nothing really to complain of. I was extremely fit inside and out. But little did I know that the 18th of April would change, not only the course of my life, but it was the beginning of what God had in His plans for me. It was surely nothing I would have planned, but thankfully God is in control. I was stunned how fast my life really changed.
As a man and also having invisible illnesses, I have had many physical challenges, from struggling just to get out of bed, to going for a short walk outside. In the beginning I did not want to go anywhere. I was much more isolated then, than I am now thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but I still have occasional bouts of wanting to be alone. In the first 2 years, I did not have a lot of confidence in myself.
As time went on, I lost my job because I had used up all the time I had with the company. This made me feel like I was “less than” a provider. My wife was beginning to feel that she had to take over everything, which put more stress on her life and on our relationship. I was slowly seeing my physical life deteriorating. I was quickly realizing that I need to focus on God first, letting Him lead me and not have all the reliance on the doctor’s.
After my State Disability ran out, I had to apply for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). I had a company, who specializes in SSDI claims represent me. Well, S.S. denied my first two applications. We applied for an appeal hearing with an Administrative Law Judge. Only by the power of God, I was granted a hearing, one year after I first applied. I saw and felt God move in that hearing, through everyone involved. God gave me the exact words to say.
This was the first miracle of many to come. My representative said to me after the hearing, “I don’t know how you did it, but you really did it”! He told me that I didn’t even need him in the hearing. I told him it was all God; He came through for me again, as He always has. God rewarded me generously with back pay, plus Permanent Disability Status, with a monthly check for me and one for my daughter, which pays for her monthly Christian pre-school. Praise God! For the first time, I finally felt like a provider; like I was somebody important again. I did what God asked me to do, which was no easy task. It required me to respond to God’s calling for my life, despite my Pain and illnesses.
I would have to say that I have and still sometimes do struggle with people’s opinions and perspectives. As a man it can be very frustrating at times when someone says “Oh you are sick? You look like you could easily work.” Have you also heard “Well God’s word says “If a man does not work, he will not eat.” Another one “Well, if you are here at the coffee shop, you should be able to work.” I have listened to other’s perspectives/opinions for over the past 4 years and have been judged by the “outward” appearance. No one is an expert at anything unless they experience what you are experiencing.
I never have been able to explain my illnesses to someone who does not have it. I went through allot of frustration in the first 2 years because I felt like I needed to get validation from people first and not God. Now, when someone asks me what happened, I simply say “I have Chronic Pain and medically, irreversible nerve damage.” I do not debate with anyone. We are validated through God. We do not need people’s approval. We need other men that can talk to one another about our illness/pain where the language is understood. The type of fellowship that creates trust, honesty, respect and confidentiality. I have definitely found this to be a profound truth, in my accountability with men at church and with other men, through Rest Ministries.
I have been raising my daughter at home since she was 3 months old. My wife went back to work at this time. This brought another set of responsibilities on top of my Chronic Pain/illness issues. Over the last 4 years and in between many surgeries, I can’t put it into words how I have seen the power of God through our Lord Jesus Christ at work in my life. Being a stay-at-home dad with Chronic Pain/illness is a new challenge everyday. Patience is key. I don’t know how many men would choose to be a stay-at-home dad, but I have found that it is the best line of work I have ever had. My wife and I have been blessed that I am home with our daughter and we are developing a closer relationship because of it. Think of all the “healthy” men that are out there who are either not around, or they have no interest in the kids.
God does not look down at us because of our inabilities; He looks at our hearts and motives. He loves us right where we are. It is not by accident that you are in the position you are now in. God chose you because if He didn’t think you could handle it, it would not have been given to you. God does not see you for where you are at; He sees what you can become. We may not see all of the blessings through our pain, but what God has in store for us trumps anything this earth could ever provide.
Philippians 3:13-14 “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching toward what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”
I pray for all the men out there who feel there is no hope, there is. Your situation may be much worse than mine, or maybe not as bad. I can share with you that we cannot go through any of it on our own. I have found, the more consistent I am at serving others, I am being blessed and encouraged in return. Plus it helps take my mind off of my pain. Rest Ministries, thanks to our awesome God, has given me a purpose in my life. God led me to RM because He knew exactly where He wanted me to serve, but also the ability to talk and walk with other men, struggling with their situation.
Won’t you take a leap of faith and come fellowship with many different men, who are eager for fellowship? You won’t be sorry!
With much love to our loving God, Rest Ministries and all the men who feel pain.