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Am I cursed by God because of chronic illness?

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I know my headline looks like click-bait. But have you ever felt “cursed” by more than your share of trouble in this life? Too many griefs and sorrows?

I was very saddened to hear of the death of Nabeel Qureshi this weekend due to malignant stomach cancer. He was a mighty warrior for the faith. He was young, too. Too young to die of cancer…

Within a few hours of his death my friend Penny also passed from cancer — lung cancer in her fifties.

In her case, cancer struck her husband six years earlier and claimed his life the year before my sis died of cancer. So much sorrow in one family, yet so much reason for hope! I’ll come back and explain this. Bear with me.

Sadly, the so-called “religion of peace” was adamantly posting on his FB wall that Nabeel was cursed because he converted to Christianity.

Was his suffering and death truly the result of God’s curse?

My friend Penny’s death? My sis-in-love?

What about the chronic, painful illnesses of those we love?

Let’s get downright honest:

What about Down’s babies?

What about Trisomy babies?

What about intersex babies?

How about anyone born with any sort of disability or chromosomal abnormality? The so-called “freaks of nature”?

I’m going to walk on some thin ice here.

Some of these conditions we never, ever talk about in our nice Christian circles. Certain conditions are more socially acceptable than others.

Adopting children with disabilities has gotten more good PR in the church lately. I’m very happy about this. After all, HOW PRO-LIFE are we if we ignore the least of these among us?

Almost all of those listed will encounter chronic illness.

Someone out there is giving care to all of these precious souls, I hope. Unless you’re conveniently executing them all like Iceland does? Sigh. Off topic. Yes, and no.

Cursed by God with disability or not? What do you think?

I’m getting ready to plunge through that thin ice now!

I want to be very clear. I’ve spent the last dozen years of my life deeply pondering personal suffering. I’m still not the expert!  Many others have been schooled much more deeply in suffering.

I’ve poured over the Bible and Christian books.

Recently I told one of my elders that I had considered myself a reasonably compassionate person before all of this pile of trouble happened to us. Now I feel like I’ve gotten the rude awakening from God. Girl, you’ve got a lot more to learn! BAM!

Charles Haddon Spurgeon once wrote that Christians ought to be known as the kindest, gentlest, and most gracious of people.

Now Spurgeon was also known to be bold and clear with the truth, no mistaking it. However, he was known for his deep love for people.

He also suffered great physical pain that kept him out of his pulpit for months at a time. Was he cursed?

Here’s where I plunge through the ice completely! My answer? Yes and NO!

If you read the Bible and believe it, then part of this is no surprise. We were all cursed by Adam’s fall. The curse brought sin, death, and suffering upon the whole human race.

Read the first several chapters of Genesis if you have never done so! It’s a must-read if you are struggling to understand the Christian faith!

Satan was the crafty mastermind of this terrible event. When my daughter wailed why, why, WHY does my aunt have to die, I pointed the finger where it belonged. Satan started it. Man fell for it.

Please, child of mine, remember that God is good, Satan is bad, and don’t get the two mixed up. Please, please, don’t fall for Satan’s lies.

In the perfect environment, man freely chose evil. Why? Now that’s the real question. The whole creation is still groaning, waiting to be released from this curse. Romans 8:20-23

It’s a terrible and present reality.

Dear caregiver, you feel its wretched grip when you see those you love suffer.

Wait, what about the “not cursed” part? This is my favorite part. This hope gets me out of bed every morning. First, a refresher on the bad news, but keep reading to the end, please. That is where the GOOD news is parked.

“For all who rely on the works of the law are under the curse. For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the Book of the Law, to do them.”

The Apostle Paul will explain also in Romans that if you want to go to heaven based on your good deeds, you cannot sin even once! 

“Now it is evident that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, for ‘the just shall live by faith’.

But the law is not of faith, for, ‘the man who does them shall live by them’.

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us — as it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’ — Galatians 3:10-13

 The good news is this: Jesus, fully God and fully man, bore our sin curse in His body on the cross. That means for believers in Jesus our present sufferings are temporary.

He told His disciples, “I have told you these things (long, loving sermon from John 13-16) so that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”

Whatever else I do not “get” about suffering, I know this. My sin curse was laid on Jesus.

Pain and suffering are inescapable. None make it through this life unscathed.

Jesus didn’t sugar-coat this. He told His followers the truth.

He also assured them (and us) of His presence. In the floods, in the flames, in the valley of death’s shadow, He is there.

His rod protects is and His staff comforts and guides us.

In the end, I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. No curse can ever harm us there! I’ll never grieve again. No more goodbyes, no more suffering.  Never, ever, ever again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting real about fear and faith…

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Last Lord’s Day I heard a sermon on faith.

Abraham was the primary example used, though there are many, many choice examples in Scripture.

“Do not fear, Abram, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Genesis 15:1

At this point, Abram doesn’t just say, Yes, Lord. Instead he pops his hardest, most troubling question on God. What about that promised son, God?

Abram (soon to be renamed Abraham) had his doubts and fears.

He brought those fears to God directly instead of running away from God. He talked to God honestly about what was bothering him. His doubts did not mean he had no faith. Fear and faith often work hand in hand.

Faith boldly brings fear and doubt to God!

 

God IS our shield of protection through the fiery storms.

Right here and now we are facing major surgery. We can’t know all the possible outcomes. This surgery is only addressing one of many ongoing health issues. No guarantees! More trouble to come. It’s a fearful spot to live in.

So many friends I know are in similar tight spots. I listen to a lot of uncertainty, fear, and doubts.

” I am your Shield.”

Shields protect and defend. Shields often were emblazoned with the emblem of their cause.  Protection and identification in battle.

I recently heard that the Navy Seals are trained never to swim away, but to punch a shark on the snout should it come close for an attack. The only way to deal with fear is to face it head-on.

Now, did Abram go blazing his fears to everyone? I really don’t think so. This seems to be a very private conversation.

In fact, God got very angry with the 10 spies to Canaan. Why? They came home from Canaan and started spreading their fears to the entire nation. Sadly  the fear polluted everyone’s mind except for Joshua and Caleb!

The devastating result was an entire generation that would never see God’s promises fulfilled. They died in the wilderness wanderings that lasted forty years.

I don’t know about you, but to me that is way too long to camp! I think it is okay to put on a brave face, especially for the sake of your children.

One of the bravest acts I’ve ever personally seen was my sis saying goodbye forever in this life to her two precious children.

I wasn’t actually in the room but waited for the little ones to come out.

With smiles and balloons they said to me after this visit — Mommy might go to see Jesus!

Of course, they didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. But what I DID understand is that brave, loving Mommy didn’t frighten them with her intense emotions. It was a peaceful goodbye. It was a mother’s last act of sacrificial love for her children.

Faith doesn’t allow fear to win. You might be shaking in your boots, but faith in God’s promises propels you forward!

God told Abram to look up and count the starry hosts. Number the stars? Impossible quest even with today’s scientific advances! This impossible number was how many “sons of faith” Abraham would have.

“And Abraham believed God…”  Isaac, the son of laughter, was only one of myriads of sons of faith to come.

Number the stars? Go start listing God’s promises. Our tears will turn to laughter someday.

And it’s okay to shed some tears and fears with a discrete, careful friend. But make sure you run to God first. God is our Shield.

 

Not forsaken by God…

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Sometimes we feel like we are swimming alone in the ocean of our own troubles and sorrows. I’m here to share that sometimes we have to look for the mercies of God on purpose.

Mercies can be as small as this beautiful sunflower that volunteered to grow in my garden this year.

Surrounded by mercies great and small we still feel alone on this journey!

It’s true in a way. No one human can fully understand the unique challenges each of us face. “The heart knows its own bitterness.”

Families facing disabling health issues are each truly unique. Pain levels differ. Meds differ. Finances differ. The level of challenge differs! Solutions that work for one will not work for another.

What is not unique is that sorrow and trouble chase us all during our time on planet earth. “In this world you will have tribulation.”

Some folks seem to get off scott-free. If we’re fair, we will admit we have no idea what sorrows they actually have lived through or will yet face. Tragedy smacks us in the face every time we see even a small bit of news.

“And I will pray the Father, and He WILL give you another Counselor, that He may be WITH you forever: the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, for it does not see Him, neither does it know Him.” John 14:16-17

Jesus is speaking to His disciples and, truly, all who would yet become His disciples.

It is the last teaching He gave them before going to the cross to lay down His life to atone for sin.

He knew they would be sad and afraid! He knew they would feel alone — perhaps forsaken.

His heart of compassion shines through yet again.

He leaves them with the most amazing and wonderful of promises! Through the Spirit’s ministry and indwelling, they would never be alone in their struggles. Beautiful, merciful Savior!

His Spirit is one of our greatest mercies. Counselor, Guide, Comforter, Intercessor, Helper — these are some of the key roles this often-forgotten member of the Trinity works in your life and mine.

Do you ever wonder how to pray for a situation that seems so hopeless and impossible that you have no idea what or how to pray?

We often fall back on the grand promise of Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to those who love God…”

Wait! Back up a few verses: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know what to pray for as we ought but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

Are things so hard and crazy confusing that you don’t even know how to pray? The Spirit has you covered in Divine prayers.

Are you out of options? Your groans and sorrows are not hidden from Him.

Whatever your struggle, dear sister in Christ, let’s stake our claim on His mercies this week.

“I believe

I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord; be strong, and may your heart be stout; wait on the Lord.”

Sounds kinda like a Romans 8:28, doesn’t it? Only it’s actually Psalm 27:13-14.

When you hang out in the Psalms, you find lots of relevant prayers to fuel your conversations with God, even if you just sigh and groan and praise along with the Psalmist.

Like me, maybe this verse has been your prayer? ” Turn to me, and be gracious to me for I am isolated and afflicted.” Ps. 26:16

Chronic illness brings a lot of crazy to all of our lives, right?

I believe…I am not forsaken! His Spirit is with me on the days I just groan. 

How about you?

I know I’ve missed a few weeks blogging, but I’m committed to encouraging words wherever I can find them and fit them in. Hugs and groaning prayers for you, too, cause I really don’t know what you need. 

 

 

How to scoop the p**p from your mind

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Psalm 40 trashed me this week. I almost had to pull off the road and just let the waves of sorrow and hope roll past.

“I waited patiently for the LORD, and He turned to me, and heard my cry.

He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set me feet on a rock, and established my steps…”

I’m waiting for you, LORD, and you haven’t forgotten me in this horrible pit. It stinks down here.

I think it prepared me for a conversation with my daughter. She was angry and hurt.  She added to the morning snarkiness. It was a lovely drive to church. Hmmm….

People in pain are sometimes a pain to be around. I’m not going to lie to ya. Very few of us are “heroic” all the time, right?

It actually takes a lot more grace to be kind and selfless when you’re chronically ill. Family always sees the “poopy” side of each other any day. Add pain and chronic illness. It’s a recipe for lots of poopy days.

So I took a long walk with my daughter to help us scoop out some poop.

First scoop: God is good. Satan is bad. Don’t get the two mixed up! 

Then I read about the tragic death of a 17 year old on her way to a missions trip. The “blame God game” was alive and well in the comments section. Venom dripped out of so many tongues that I clicked off pretty quickly.

Second scoop: God owes us a happy life full of wine and roses! NOT!

Instead, remember what He has given us. We are forever in His debt. His love and forgiveness through His own beloved Son! His mercies and forgiveness are beyond measure to those who believe. This life’s pain is a temporary drop in the bucket compared to eternal life.

It’s unbearably excruciating at times. It feels like it will last forever. But the pain is so temporary. Paul calls it “light affliction”!

Third scoop: God has forgotten about me down in this miserable pit of my current circumstance! 

No, He listens to you, just like he listened to David. He thinks of us with thoughts at cannot be numbered.

“O, Lord, my God, You have done many wonderful works, and your thoughts toward us cannot be compared; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”

Almighty Creator God thinks about me. How can that be?

Dear caregiving wife, if you’re at all like me, it’s easy to let our minds fill up with poop! It’s up to us to keep shoveling it out and to spend time with others who will uplift us in prayer, promises, and praise! Sometimes we need to hand our kid a shovel and gently help them scoop, too. 

This link below is my loving shovel for you. I was so blessed by this article.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/six-words-to-say-through-tears 

What helps you keep from being sucked under in that miry pit? Hand me a shovel, too, please! 

Looking for hope…

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(Found this art on Facebook with no credits. So, to whomever, thank you!)

Our church celebrates the Resurrection. Every. Single. Week. What a hope-filled day!

I can tell you from personal experience when someone you love is dying or has died being surrounded by those who love God makes a  huge difference.

That upper room filled with grieving disciples, well, I can just imagine it. They were together. They were looking for HOPE when all seemed hopeless. They were comforting one another. They were  living in community.

Chronic illness and caregiving is isolating. Depending on the degree illness — so very isolating. Hanging on to hope, to friendship, even, can seem like a lost cause.

Recently I spoke to a senior saint who cared for her husband. She said she lived from years at the edge of our small town and didn’t know anybody! I was heartbroken for her.

If you’re single-handedly supporting the family and picking up the slack at home, time for fellowship doesn’t seem possible.

I’m telling you now, don’t walk this road alone! Just don’t! You’ll end up being sheep-steak for the Enemy!

Get on your knees now and ask. Keep asking. I’m telling you, I needed local friends in the worst way, and God has provided. Pray this for your husbands, too.

Remember Pilgrim of Pilgrim’s Progress? He lost his friend Faithful to a martyr’s death. Then God sent him Hopeful. Love that!   Pray for a Hopeful. Pray for a friend who will love, encourage, and keep you on track. I think that is a Biblical prayer.

 I’m hoping you’ll also find community and encouragement here on this blog. The Apostle Paul loved and prayed for the Roman Christians before he laid eyes on them.

Let’s be that loving community of the broken.

Let’s lift up each other’s feeble hands and weary feet.

Let’s pray for each other, near and far.

Let’s look for hope in our Risen Lord and Coming King today and every day.

 

 

 

 

 

Store up comfort…

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That’s what I like to think my blog is: a store house of comfort.

A place that is real.

Caregiving wives have their hands full in a different sort of way. You and I need to feel we are not alone.

This week I received a lovely little surprise in the mail. A lady in our church mailed a new devotional to me. Her gift will go on my upcoming post “ways to help your hurting friend” list.  So I’ve been taking time to rest, refresh, and read for my soul’s sake today.

Otherwise, this coming week is so busy, so stressful that I could just quit. Quit. Right. Now.

Ever had one of those weeks? Where does a caregiving wife go to hand in her resignation? Especially when the weeks and months ahead look just as intense!

Time for a focus reboot.

Time to quit for one day. One beautiful day in seven exists in which God Himself chose to rest from His creation labors. Time to sit and cry and read and pray in my chair in a quiet house (for the moment). So let me share from my beautiful devotional today, okay?

January 11…”Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)

“Store up comfort. This was the prophet Isaiah’s mission.

The world is full of hurting and comfortless hearts.

But before you will be competent for this lofty ministry, you must be trained.

And your training is extremely costly, for to make it complete, you too must endure the same afflictions that are wringing countless hearts of tears and blood.

Consequently your own life becomes the hospital ward where you are taught the divine art of comfort.

You will be wounded so that in the binding up of your wounds by the Great Physician, you may learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere.

Do you wonder why you are having to experience some great sorrow?

Over the next ten years you will find many others afflicted in the same way. You will tell them how you suffered and how you were comforted.

As the story unfolds, God will apply the anesthetic He once used on you to them.

Then in the eager look followed by the gleam of hope that chases the shadow of despair from the soul, you will know why you were afflicted.

And you will bless God for the discipline that filled your life with such a treasure of experience and helpfulness. (No author given, just says selected.)”

This sweet comfort reads like a sermon on II Corinthians 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Father of mercies,

and the God of all comfort;

Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble by the comfort which we ourselves are comforted of God.

For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so also our consolation abounds by Christ.

And whether we be afflicted it is for your consolation and salvation,

which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer:

or whether we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.”

Praying you, too, will find comfort and strength for this coming week, dear sisters.

 

 

What to do when you’re dried up and worn out

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By the end of winter, I’m not the only one crying the blues.

Some of you LOVE winter. That’s fine with me. I’m not offended. But some of us have to dig deep to remain cheerful and upbeat for the first three months of each year.

We live in an old, 1885 home. It’s never quite snug and warm in every room.

Winter seems to bring a blizzard of troubles, too. It’s as if the minions of hell know we’re at our weakest.

One year we discovered we had to rebuild part of our foundation in FEBRUARY! Just as we had the floor open semi-permanently, a major cold snap hit. It makes me shudder, still, to think about that.

Inevitably my husband succumbs to weeks of a semi-bedridden state. I pick up the slack. Once it was MRSA. Other times, the old immune system just bottomed out.

So enough already of this list of winter miseries. What are some ways to combat the blues?

1.) Try very hard to get out of the house to worship in the Lord’s Day.

I’ll be brutally honest here. There’s been many a Sunday when I open my eyes and can’t feel like getting out of bed. I have to shake myself and make myself get up.

Maybe your husband can’t go at all. Or maybe you are the caregiver for someone bedridden. Maybe http://www.sermonaudio.com can become a secondary church service for you.

I would still encourage you to ask for some help or a fill-in companion so that you can touch base with God’s people in person at least sometimes. The Lord places a special importance on gathering together. Hebrews 10:24-25. David, the Psalmist, speaks of his gladness in going up to the house of the LORD.

I rarely leave worship without at least one encouraging nugget of truth to carry with me.

2.) Say yes to visitors.

I’ve been regretful that I’ve not exercised more of an open door policy. To my shame, I’m always worried about my home being in an acceptable state. My food might not be the finest. Really? Is that important? The simple gift of company is a worth it!

When I’ve invited a guest from church or local friends to visit us, it has done a world of good for my family’s morale. We. Feel. Almost. Normal. Today we had company. It was wonderful! My food? Hmmm… not terrific.

Right now, I have someone else I need to invite over. It’s on my to-do list. The meal will be simple. I will only clean a few rooms. That’s the best I can do.

What about you? Too tired to cook and clean for company? I hear you! Maybe you could even just do snacks on the back patio? Or a cup of tea and sliced apples with a friend? Make the visit as low stress and restful as possible.

 3.) Most importantly, know that God is with you in the valley of the shadow, in all the winter seasons of life. His love is your greatest hope! Here’s a passage I’ve thought about all week.

Although the fig tree shall not blossom,

neither shall fruit be in the vines;

the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat;

the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD.

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hind’s feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places.”

Habakkuk 3:17-19

The context of these words is fear, trouble, judgement of the nations, and the depth of human tragedy and brokenness.

It’s like being frozen in winter miles from anyone with hungry wolves surrounding you. You alone facing the whole wolf pack…

The prophet finds light and joy in one Source alone. He finds conquering strength. He finds the ability to teeter on the edge of precipices of trouble with the agility of a mountain goat.

In the end, dear caregiving wife, only the LORD can cause you to overcome.

With the eternal aid of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we can find joy on this journey even in our sorrow, weary bodies, and worn souls. Praying we will overcome together.

Thine be the glory forever and ever, Amen.