To tell you the truth, the last thing I feel like doing right now is writing.
That is a terrible thing to say to your reader friends, I know! But I’m just being honest here, saying what I would say to a really good friend. I’m drained. Two nights away from home and watching my sis-in-love suffer terrible pain as she struggles with cancer, and then my husband calls. He and my sis both spent the night awake. Raw pain. Real suffering. Maybe I should just shut my mouth right now before I am an epic failure at encouragement.
Oh, but Jesus met me at church even though I was late and bleary-eyed.
As tired as I am, I cannot wait to give you snippets of Isaiah 62 which was faithfully taught to us this morning. Nothing fancy. No bells and whistles. Just truth spoken with quiet passion. So here is the good news, sisters.
“You shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will name.” Is. 62:2
Legally my name is no longer Lost, Forsaken, Doomed! I’ve been adopted as joint-heir with Christ. My inheritance is far better than the richest oil sheik! Even though I can’t claim a single rich relative, I am a royal daughter.
“You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem…” Is.62:3
Ever wish you could be a princess for a day? Or a week? Or even just have someone to clean and cook for you for a week? Now we’re talking! Some of you know what I mean.
“For the LORD delights in you…” Is. 62:4
Now this is the sweetest thought to me. If you grew up feeling and knowing that your father delighted in you, you were one blessed child. So many parents do not know how to communicate their love wisely and well. Many children are downright neglected and abused.
God leaves us in no doubt of His dear sweet love for His children. He planned from ages past to rescue, redeem, and adopt His children. Then He clearly and repeatedly states His unchanging love for us. I can never hear this enough. I forget this too often. It was a healing balm to my bruised and aching heart today. I had to share this comfort with you. Hugs!
One of my favorite little fellas gave me this coffee mug.
I still see the joy on his face when giving me this gift. Precious and priceless! Faith is also a precious gift. I pray for those I love dearly to have true faith. My daughter, my sister — the one I rarely see but love and miss — family and friends facing devastating circumstances are part of these prayers. Jesus prayed for Peter on verge of Peter’s wrenching denial of him. “I pray that your faith fail not.” But what is faith?
The life of faith does not mean a life free of trouble.
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Philippians 1:29
I always tended to think of suffering for Christ in terms of those who are literally being tortured and abused for refusing to deny Christ and His Word. That is the basic meaning, I am sure. But there are many other ways of suffering for Christ. Being committed wives to the men we married for His sake fits, too. Seriously! It takes faith in His promises to stick it out. You do so in faith that this hard road you have chosen to stay on is for His glory and your ultimate good.
A friend of mine wrote a book called The Secret Life of An Unlikely Convert. She challenges professing Christians to think of what they have repented of and given up to follow Christ. She was living a lifestyle she loved. She encountered God’s Word. Slowly studying she soon realized she was living a life of sin outside of God’s boundaries. Her conversion made her life at that time harder, not easier, as she then made choices that led to a radical change in lifestyle.
Faith is not the power of positive thinking!
Don’t get me wrong! I am a huge fan of gratitude and positivity. I love watching inspirational movies and reading positive stories. All the positivity in the world won’t rescue you if you step out in front of a speeding tractor trailer or fail to pay your tax bill!! Faith in faith itself leads to depression and doubt when things are not going well. Instead, we turn to the real and literal Author and Finisher of our faith. He showed his real wound scars to doubting Thomas and said, “Reach out your hand and touch me.”
“Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
My mom lived in over a dozen homes in my first ten years of life.
No, she was not in the military.
She got married when she was 18 and my Dad was 19. She moved wherever my Dad could find a job and affordable housing. Like Ma Ingalls of Little House fame, she made a home for us wherever we went. Curtains in the windows, homemade bread, and a tablecloth on the table were standards in my home. My mom showed me heroic courage in her cheerful acceptance of old houses, old cars with no AC, and garage sale clothing. She was over 3,000 miles from her parents and all of her family. I cringe when I think of how hard this was for her in those early years with three little people. No support, no money to call home — we were literally all she had, and she loved us like there was no tomorrow.
She taught me to be thankful even when life was tough.
“Cheer up, ye saints of God, there’s nothing to worry about, nothing to make you feel afraid, nothing to make you doubt. Remember Jesus never fails, so why not trust Him and shout. You’ll be sorry you worried at all tomorrow morning.” Mom would sing this to us as we were stuffed in the back seat of the car with 4/50 AC on many a blazing hot day in coastal SC. (4/50 AC refers to 4 windows rolled down as you travel down the highway at about 50 miles per hour.) It seems ludicrous now. We were far from saintly. We whined and scrapped with each other constantly.
She made us be nice to each other — eventually.
“If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” Mom wore this saying out. She also made us think of five nice things to say to each other when the sibling insults got out of hand. I appreciate this so much now as my siblings are my dearest friends. We learned a lot about kindness and forgiveness from Mom telling us our rude ways were not acceptable. I am working on this now with my daughter. I soon figured out that not all moms teach this to their children. I am blessed.
She read many wonderful stories to us.
Yes, the Little House books were on the list. Most of the stories were of brave (or scared) people doing brave things. We actually did not miss TV in our early growing up years. We had real heroes that came to life in the pages of books we shared. I was very, very familiar with all the heroes of faith in the Bible, heroes with flaws, but brave men and women of faith nevertheless. A child needs heroes.
What does this have to do with chronic illness and caregiving?
Gratitude comes from faith that all things, even the yucky or terribly hard things, are working together for good to those who love God. Romans 8:28. In I Corinthians 13, we learn how love is supposed to look in everyday life. That kind of love is often tested when your hurting spouse is cranky because of suffering, or you have to shoulder his responsibilities along with your own. Saying five nice things to him can really be a challenge! Thank the Lord, Mom made me practice. Do I always succeed? No, I can relate closely to those flawed heroes of Bible fame.
Because of Mom’s example of cheerful faith, gratitude, and perseverance, I am encouraged in my rocky, uphill climb of marriage to a chronically ill husband. My mom is truly my humble hero.
What if your mom is not your hero?
- I have dear, dear people in my life who have had terrible moms. That is the raw, bleeding truth. Some of these people have become amazing moms. That did not happen by accident! God chooses the weak things to confound the mighty.
- Off the top of my head I can mention a few amazing ladies to use as your personal role models. For examples of faith, courage, and compassion, read the lives of Amy Carmichael or Gladys Alyward. There are many more in history.
- Look for a truly wise, godly mentor at your church. Ask around. Whom do the moms look up to and turn to for advice?
- Make a list of areas you want to grow in using I Corinthians 13 as a guide. Study the Bible passages that relate using a concordance.
- Pray for God to continue to do His good work in you. In the sermon today we were reminded how God’s Spirit prays for us when we do not know how to pray. That is me all the time!
Go ahead and share in the comment section if you have a hero in your life. Those stories are good for the soul!
From Philippians 1:6 this phrase of hope and encouragement lifts up my soul and puts a smile back on my face. I thought you would enjoy this song and these words of encouragement. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter, God-breathed, to a suffering church. If you can imagine for a moment the Roman Empire during the time of Nero who hated Christians with a brutal hatred, and see Paul sitting in a prison cell writing these words.
He is more concerned about what was going on in the Philippians walk of faith than what he was suffering at the moment. He gives several clear, pointed instructions to keep the fellowship of believers on the right track. Be humble. Rejoice in the Lord always. Give thanks in all things.
When we are down in the muck of messy life, almost sucked under by the load of pain, or the huge pile of extra responsibilities on our shoulders, God is still busy doing a good work in the lives of each of His children. He is going to be faithful all the way from now to glory. I am banking on that faithfulness. Many have gone before me who have testified that God has carried them through the darkest trials. I know my desperate weakness. It will be His strength and faithfulness I need to cross the finish line in faith.
Hope the song link works on your end. I am working on learning new techie skills. So, let me know if it worked for you! Blessings on your week!
Ever feel like you are down in a deep mud pit and cannot seem to climb out?
When I spoke to my friend, faithful spouse of a chronically ill husband until his death, about guest posting for me, she said, “Oh, but I didn’t always have the right attitude!” I assured her that every single wife of a chronically ill husband I have ever talked to has had the same struggle. Husbands and wives, sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, all experience this battle. Married, celibate, rich, or poor — loving one another well goes against the grain.
When you walk in the door, tired from work, and your husband greets you once again with the true tale of his sufferings for the day…
How many of your husbands are mostly positive and upbeat about their illness? How many are very intentional about doing the best they can to function to the best of their ability however limited it may be? Or do you find stretches of days or weeks where the shadows outnumber the light?
Well, I can tell you, as the months turn into years and the body continues to break down, the emotional, mental, and physical battle with daily chronic pain is wearing both for the sufferer and the caregiver. Rejoicing in the Lord always is like running the middle stretch of a marathon. If you haven’t faced this type of battle before, don’t judge! Even if you have, don’t judge! Your situation is/was different in some key way. Christ does not crush the bruised reeds.
When you have to remember and keep up with all the important dates, bills, and responsibilities…
My lovely neighbor told me about how her husband of thirty years had a massive heart attack and was told by his doctor if he did work of any kind it would kill him. Suddenly she had all the responsibilities of her husband as well as her own normal duties. Months, maybe years went by before he did pass away.
“Some days I just longed to have someone take care of me again. It was so hard.” Now she is married to a kind man who cares for her in so many ways. It is beautiful to see.
When your husband puts on his game face for friends, but you see the crash and burn coming…
Like today! My husband made it to church, was chipper, and stayed late to enjoy the fellowship. He looked and acted pretty normal. But, he slept most of the way to church and most of the way home while I drove. He crawled into bed as soon as he got home. I paused a few moments ago to massage his badly cramping leg and find a med for him. “I guess I stood around for too long talking.”
Or the weekend recently when he attempted a car repair with a big burly friend. Having a friend help made the talk and laughter flow. Hours went by. I’m sure the friend thought my husband was just fine. But he did not see my husband load up on pain meds before, or the days he spent in bed afterwards.
Reminding yourself that God will not leave you or your spouse alone in your suffering will adjust your attitude.
I told a friend recently that I wished there was a daily saint pill I could swallow. Ha! Not so…
Somedays my heartfelt prayer is just this: God, you know all about this. I can’t fix it. It is more than I can handle on my own. Then I turn to the lives of the saints in the Bible. Almost every single one failed to respond in faith and gratitude at some point in their life. But God was faithful. God is faithful. God always will be faithful. So, I am reaching out a weary hand to my sisters who are down in the mud pit with me. Climb out! Reach for the light, joy, and strength found in Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
When life seems like a maze and you wonder what is going on, you are not alone.
I am going to give you another book recommendation. Thanks to the kindness of a friend, I have been reading The One Year Book of Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament. Author Nancy Guthrie must be no stranger to suffering as she and her husband cohost a GriefShare video series. I don’t know her story, but I am going to post part of her devotional for your encouragement and mine. Her March 6th entry is titled, “Fruitfulness in Suffering”.
” At the very beginning of his covenant relationship with his chosen people, God told them about the tremendous suffering that was ahead for them: ‘You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.’ (Genesis 15:13)
God’s people would suffer, but it would not be wasted, meaningless suffering. It would be fruitful suffering. They would emerge from Egypt with great wealth and great in number. How would they become ‘strangers in a foreign land’? Through the suffering of Israel’s beloved son, Joseph.
Joseph suffered the abuse of his brothers’ jealousy as they sold him off to a caravan of slave traders heading for Egypt. There Joseph worked as a slave until he suffered as a result of the false accusations from Potiphar’s wife that put him in prison. He suffered being forgotten in prison for many years before he emerged to become second in command to Pharoah.
But, when he was released, his suffering did not leave him embittered. In fact, he celebrated what God had done in his life through his suffering in the naming of his sons: ‘Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family. Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.'(Genesis 41:51-52)
Joseph was able to look at his suffering and see that it was not wasted; it was fruitful. God was accomplishing something good through all the hardship and hurt he experienced.
Likewise, Jesus, the greater Joseph, was willing to suffer, confident that his suffering would bear much fruit. The writer of Hebrews captured the fruitful suffering of Jesus: ‘Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.’ (Hebrews 5:8-9)”
I had already mentioned my hero Joseph in another post. His statement in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” This is the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament! All those years of pain and hardship did not make him arrogant or bitter.
Remember, dear sister in Christ, you are not alone. Praying God grants you faith and encouragement today in the middle of the maze.