Tuesday 29 January 2019

The Hidden Blessing of a Long-Term Illness

hope with chronic pain

Call me a medical anomaly if you will, but for the past few years I have been seeing a vast array of doctors, specialists, naturopaths, and basically anything ending in “ologist”. I’ve tried medications, natural remedies, exercise, and diet changes. Even still, I’ve yet to receive an official diagnosis, though I’ve heard several speculations. While I wait in the line up to see one more “ologist” I have come to realize the hidden blessing of my long-term illness.

What I do know for certain is that whatever is brewing below the surface, there are plenty of days where my body simply won't cooperate. Last week, driving home caused my wrists to become so inflamed I was unable to hold a knife to make supper by the time I walked in the door. A few days later it had moved on to a new joint once again causing my daily activities to be severely altered. 

If it sounds frustrating, it’s because it is. But, as frustrating at it is, God is faithful in walking beside me, but also in refining me to reshape me into something beautiful (even if outwardly I appear frail). 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13 emphasis mine)


Have you ever wondered what ALL THINGS includes? The better question, as I’m learning, is, “what doesn’t it include?” 

The answer is: absolutely nothing. 

God has given me a gift in this season, the gift of neediness. I am abundantly needy for his strength, and am reminded of that frequently. I continually find myself in circumstances where I once would’ve thrived in my own strength, but now my body will not cooperate, so I lean on him for strength. Something as simple as opening the stuck lid of a jar required me to pray on the spot, “not my strength but yours. Help!” It opened without effort after I prayed! I really should have started with prayer, but I insisted on grappling the slippery lid, banging the jar on the counter, and doing a weird dance with the jar held between my knees while pulling with my hands on the other end before surrendering and acknowledging my neediness once again. 

God is good like that. Just when we think we have a handle on a situation he humbles us and reminds us it’s not by our strength but by His that we stand. There is NOTHING too small to call on the strength of the Lord for. Our go to at the first moment of a furrowed brow should be to call on God to strengthen us in whatever way we need it. 

Maybe you’re like me and it’s physical strength you need, but perhaps for you it’s mental, emotional, or spiritual strength you call on for help. Whatever it is, I’ve learned the gift of neediness is truly a gift worth praising God for. It is in this gift that I am reminded of His goodness, His strength, His mercy, and His compassion. I needn’t worry about my own limitations when I’m walking with such a mighty God. 

The gift of my illness has carved out daily moments in my life where frustration has the possibility to take over, but instead I see the God who holds me and strengthens me. I see my desperate need for Him in a life where I would've otherwise missed it. Those moments where the forward motion of my life hits "pause" are a place to sing songs of joy to Him as I lean hard on His everlasting strength.


photo credit: John Towner @ Unsplash.com

Monday 7 January 2019

When Our Desire to Please God Outruns His Plans

Staying put when the direction isn't clear

We had just turned the lights off in our bedroom to go to sleep when I remembered that I forgotten something downstairs. Thinking my eyes had adjusted to the light, but seriously misjudging just how much they had adjusted, I began inching towards the door. Thinking it was wide open and I had made it to the threshold I confidently picked up the pace to grab what I needed and get back to bed. However, what I did not know and could not see was that the door to our bedroom was only partially open. In one over-confident leap to escape our bedroom I walked square into the edge of the half-opened door. My forehead notified my brain of the collision milliseconds too late as the rest of my body was already following suit into the edge of the door before bouncing back into the abyss of the bedroom. While fumbling for the bedroom light as the twittering birds encircled my head (because chirping cartoon birdies appear when you whack your head!) I could already hear the quiet snickers of my husband from the bed. He didn’t even have the courtesy to pretend he was asleep and save me the humiliation. 

As I switched on the light to survey the damage to my forehead, my husband managed to squeak out an “are you ok?” between his laughter, which had gone from the quiet snicker to a full on howl as he caught sight of me rubbing my head back to health. To this day he still razzes me that only I could manage to run into an open door. I, on the other hand, maintain that it was only open halfway! I just managed to use my head to figure out how to open it fully.

Sometimes trying to hear God’s plan for your life is like that. We can think we know the direction God wants us to go, only to forge ahead in excitement and hit the wall (or door). Part of growing in faith means wisdom enough to know when to stop and wait patiently for clearer direction. Obviously something I struggle with.

When our desire to please God outruns our desire to be near God we can move too quickly in the wrong direction. Pleasing God comes from the outworking of the fruits that grow in our nearness to him, not in our own decisions to advance our opinion of what should come next. God’s wisdom working in us should teach us that no matter how anxious we feel about needing instant answers and directions we must stop and be willing to wait. God’s timing is perfect, there is no need to rush.

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.
Psalm 127:1

In the meantime, save yourself the headache and instead choose to be still and draw near to God. He is well pleased with us even when we aren’t busy “doing” for him. It is simply our relationship with him that takes priority over everything else. 

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. 
(Luke 10:38-42 emphasis my own)


Photo credit: Pixabay @ Unsplash.com