Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Change of Perspective - A Personal Update

Pretty blurry, huh?  Not much fun to look at.  That's how I've felt for the past fifteen months.  I get a vague picture - I am sick, but what is making me sick???
I doubt many people want to throw a party when they find out that they have an autoimmune disease, but when the doctor called with this latest round of test results confirming that I do indeed have an autoimmune disease, that is exactly what I wanted to do.  My husband said that if there was a "congratulations on your autoimmune disease" card, he'd buy it for me.
A few months into this illness, I was terrified that I had an autoimmune disease.  There's no quick treatments to make those go away.  I was so glad when my initial screening came back negative; I was still hoping for a diagnoses of something curable.  Now, fifteen months into this, I'm not picky, I just want a diagnoses.
In September of this year, my frustration  level was so high, I was crying out to God, "Where are you? Why aren't you making me well?  Get me out of this, I can't take care of my family."   Whether it was the Holy Spirit whispering or not, I cannot say for sure, but the words of a song from my preschool teaching days came to me, "Going on bear hunt....we came to a river, can't go over it, can't go under it, can't go around it, gotta go through it, gotta go through it."  I remember in that moment, submitting to that fact that I was not going to be instantly healed, but rather that the Holy Spirit was and would keep walking with me right through the middle of this terrible river called chronic illness .  He would not give up on me and I promised, once again, not to give up on Him.
So, since I've been looking at a very blurred image for so long, I am thrilled to at least have a bit of a clearer picture. We are not sure which autoimmune disease I have, my doctor is leaning toward Systemic Lupus Erythematosus as my symptoms most resemble that,  but he cannot say for sure without further testing. 
So for now, I will continue to make this my goal:

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Saturday, December 17, 2011

God is not Dead nor doth He Sleep

I love Christmas music.  This song in particular, has a had a soft spot in my heart the last couple of years.  It's based on the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day."  He wrote it after the death of his wife and the crippling of his son during the Civil War.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow knew what it was to suffer.
We can relate to his anger when he says :

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men!"

But that is not the end, he remembers, we remember, "God is not dead; nor doth He sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill to men!"

Balm to our aching, weary souls...God is not dead nor doth He sleep beloved.  Be encouraged, be comforted:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's All Because He Loves Me so much

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
Hebrews 12:7

The reason that I'm keeping a blog is to encourage others by what God is doing in me during this dark time of chronic sickness.  I know that what I'm about to say may not be popular, and I am not trying to change anyone's theology, nevertheless, this is one thing that the Lord has encouraged me with lately.

We don't often equate hardship with God's kindness.  Job got an earful from his friends about what hidden sins must be in his life when he endured more hardship than we can imagine.  Jesus' disciples were convinced that the blind man in John 9 must have sinned or was born to sinful parents to be born blind.  It's not too different today.  We hear of God's favor being equated with good things happening from an earthly perspective.  Not too many people will tell you how sick they are, depressed they are, how they were laid off, cheated on, foreclosed on, etc and then follow up with, "Isn't it great that I have so much favor from God on my life?!  He must really love me to be allowing this."  When my husband left for work this morning and my kids came into my room, my achy, feverish body was not saying, "Thank you, Lord for your goodness."  I was crying out for help and relief.
But, here it is, "Endure hardship as discipline..."  Proverbs 20:30, "Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being." Another favorite:  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3.  Some verses are not so fun to relate to.  But beloved of God, I want to remind you that when you are facing unrelenting hardship, you can rest assured that God is working in you and for you; that unrelenting hardship can serve as evidence that God loves you, has adopted you and is refining you.
I often think about David.  While he was young, the priest of God anointed David King of Israel, he went on to slay Goliath, the enemy of Israel that everyone else was too scared to face.  He was then brought to live in the palace and play music for King Saul.  Things went downhill from there.  He ran for his life for several years. I'm fairly certain this is not what he imagined for his life. Reading his Psalms tell us that He often cried out, "God, where are you?!" 
My friend, I don't know what your hardship is.  But, I know how hard it is to face another day knowing that you do not have the strength to do what needs to be done.  I have often cried out in this time of chronic illness, "God where are you, why aren't you helping me?"  If you are wondering where the evidence of God's love is, I don't judge or criticize you, I am often right there with you.  It takes great faith to believe that God is showing us His love by allowing hardship.  It is a dark time when you are facing the same illness, pain, depression, loneliness or whatever your hardship is, day after day with no end in sight
We cannot see what God is doing in the darkness.  But, we have His promise that He is working in us and for us. We see a precedent of God doing a relentless, refining work in those whom He has great things in store for: Job was richer after his time of great suffering than before, David was king of Israel after years of running, Joseph saved nations by his God-given wisdom and leadership.  What does God have in store for us?
To be clear, there is plenty of scripture that tells us that God wants to give us good gifts: James 1:17, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."  But, if you are in a season of hardship, you can consider yourself blessed and well favored.
Psalm 142:
1 A Contemplation of David. A Prayer when he was in the cave. I cry out to the Lord with my voice; With my voice to the Lord I make my supplication. 2 I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare before Him my trouble. 3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, Then You knew my path. In the way in which I walk They have secretly set a snare for me. 4 Look on my right hand and see, For there is no one who acknowledges me; Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul. 5 I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, "You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living. 6 Attend to my cry, For I am brought very low; Deliver me from my persecutors, For they are stronger than I. 7 Bring my soul out of prison, That I may praise Your name; The righteous shall surround me, For You shall deal bountifully with me." 

As always, He is with us, dear friend. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Where is My Hope?

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:11

This is not the type of post I want to make.  But, it's real.  I have been praying Psalm 42; I have been discouraged.  Medically speaking, nothing that's been prescribed/recommended has been helping.  It's pretty discouraging to feel that no one can help you.  But, that is when the Holy Spirit asks, "Where is your hope?"  If it lies in doctors, medicine, nutrition, etc, then I have every reason to despair.  If it lies in the living God, the resurrected Christ, the helping Holy Spirit, then my soul can still hope.  He has not changed!  He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  The man that walked the earth healing and delivering has not retired.
So, while things may look bleak from my earthly standpoint, I am asking Him to help lift my vision higher.  He is faithful and true.
I often worship to this song when I am feeling overwhelmed.  When you have a moment, worship with me: