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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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Read to the end of the story

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I  read through the little book of Zephaniah today.(We’re snowed in.)

Have you ever read the minor prophets? It’s not for the faint of heart. Unlike the positivity thinking so prevalent in today’s American churches, these books do not gloss over the negative. Zephaniah is a short, one-two punch. Judgement is coming. God’s people and the church leaders (ch. 3:4) are among the guilty. Brace yourself.

The contrasts in God’s declarations are so vivid, it makes one reel with the truths revealed.

One example: “I will utterly consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of the heaven, and the fish of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from the land, says the LORD.” Zeph. 1:2-3

The contrast: ” Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, which have wrought His judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be he shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger.” Zeph. 2:3

 Maybe, like me, you struggle to deal with the changes that chronic illness brings. Just when you thought you may have one phase mastered, a new twist hits. The meds change, diagnosis shifts, the doctor scenario changes –a lot hinges on a good doctor — and your life is turned upside down yet again.

Chaos, war, judgment, destruction! Where is the hope in this? Keep reading!

“The just LORD is in the midst thereof; He will not do iniquity: every morning doth he bring His judgment to light, he faileth not; but the unjust knoweth no shame.” Zeph. 3:5

The just LORD does not sin. He is in the middle of our lives, working in ways we cannot fathom.

One evidence of His true work in our lives is the same fruit He gives those who trusted Him in Zephaniah’s prophecy: ” The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, none shall make them afraid. ” Zephaniah 3:13

Safety, food, and rest! These most basic needs based on truth and trust are being met by God Himself for His children.

In the hands of their enemies, safety, food, and rest were never certain.

Now read these words of amazing comfort given to God’s people at end of this book of woes.

“The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty;

He will save,

He will rejoice over thee with joy;

He will rest in his love,

He will joy over thee with singing… (3:17)

…Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee:

and I will save her that halteth,

and gather her that was driven out…” (3:19)

The end of your story and mine isn’t here and now. Keep reading.

Like me, you may seen a lot of heartbreak and misery unfold.

For Israel, war and captivity magnified misery.

Chronic pain and illness twists the knife in our daily living.

Relief is coming. It’s already paid for in full. ” HE has made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”

Your life may feel like a just another tale of human woe, but those that trust in the LORD will never be disappointed in the end!

Anyone want to just skip now to the end of the story? I know. Me, too. I can’t wait to read the end of your grace-filled story, either. Let’s pray for that ending where we glorify God and enjoy Him forever, together.

 

 

Do you “grieve ahead of time”?

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Psalm 16:11 “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

This has been one of my very favorite verses for years.

As I child my family moved at least a dozen times before finally settling in the state I still live in. I was shy. Insecure. A worrywart… These words brought comfort in the confusion.

I’ve been married for almost thirteen years now. For me the path of life has not included a bunch of rainbows and roses.

In fact, the joy has been so often been shadowed by grief over dreams of a path of life I wished for. Dreams have been demolished by reality.

The knife of pain twists in my inner gut as I watch someone I love suffer on a daily basis. It is the promise of joy, eternal joy and rest, that keeps me going here and now. Oh, and time in His presence, in His Word. That is a taste of the fullness of joy.

On today, His day, seeking His face, remembering His love and sacrifice, that joy springs out of hiding.

Every moment of suffering will be redeemed by Him somehow. Cancer, chronic pain that makes life unbearable — how are you going to redeem this agony, God? I have asked that question more this year than any other. But, redeem it, my God. Shine forth! Do not be silent, God.

His word promises this end in Romans 8:28. I always used to believe that promise was for here and now. But it isn’t always.

The working together for good of all things may not be finished until His kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. But! It. Will. Come. For now we grieve ahead of time, seeing the decay of life right before our eyes.

I wonder, honestly, how much more pain can one body take? I wondered at the agony of end stage cancer with my sis, so recently released from suffering.

When things smooth out, when the good days happen, we joy in those moments, true. So we should. God gives richly those things we enjoy. Those are just samples, tastes of the unending goodness of God and the riches in glory stored up for those who love Him.

What a balance beam to walk! How to stay upright? Grief and joy war inside my mind. I hear echoes of this when you post in the comments.

Now I know for sure that it is okay and right to grieve deeply for what is lost, what has been destroyed by the curse, but living in grief constantly is numbing, paralyzingly so.

I need to look farther down the path for joy.

Our Jesus points the way. His life here on earth was so perfectly focused on pleasing His Father each day. Truth spoken. Compassion shown. Needs met. He wept with those who wept. Celebrated weddings.

As a caregiving wife, each extra measure we have to give can be done grudgingly or specifically for Jesus. All that heavy load, well, He carries it with us. I struggle with that inner huff, too, when more is piled in my shoulders than I think I can carry.

And that grief? His shoulders are broad enough to handle it. Tell Him every single sorrow.

“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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

I pray His comfort for you and I this week. What would you like prayer for this week?

 

 

 

 

3 Ways to rehydrate your soul…

Sometimes the well just runs dry. Like me missing my last posting goal, which is every Lord’s Day.

I have not yet learned how to automate this encouragement mission. You and I are down in the trenches together. We have a set of unique challenges as caregiving wives.

I really want to be there for you. I want us to bear our burdens together.

So, I was refilling my own well last weekend.

When you are constantly pouring out, you realize you need to be refilled or else. Emotions take charge. You grow frazzled with those you love. Worse, you either run on auto-pilot, living life without meaning, or you get zonked. Too. Weary. To. Take. One. More. Step.

No! I did not have time or money for some super wonderful Bible conference.

I did not get away to some wonderful, restful ladies retreat. I did not get a spa treatment. But, I did take spend time with special people.

1.) Talk with a dear friend in person if at all possible.

Seriously! You need to cry on someone else’s shoulder sometimes. Our husbands can be extremely needy or distant, depending on their current health and mental struggles. We need community and friendship!

A VERY wise elderly Christian friend of mine told me you only get a few true-blue trusted friends in a lifetime. As sisters in Christ, we ought to have more than a few.

But even Christians gossip.

Don’t give us the benefit of the doubt.

And they surely don’t “get” our husband situation.

I don’t say this to be mean or bitter. Truth hurts, though. It is seriously hard to find a true Christian friend you can trust with your secrets and not feel judged, in the wrong sense of that word.

Maybe it is because you have to find a friend mature enough to handle suffering. A lady who is wise and discreet is a treasure.

Add warm and caring to that…Someone who will not hold you at arm’s length because all is not perfect in your life. I hope I can be that kind of friend. We all need that friend! Do you have one or a few?

2.) Soak your soul in the WORD. I listened to sermons and Scripture music. His Word is a lamp that lights up the dark.

This should have been number one on the list. We need God’s Word like plants need water. Although I visited another church, I still spent His day in His house.

It was so worth it! The dark places come to light under the light of the Word. There healing begins. God’s truth tells us what’s wrong, what’s right, and how to make what is wrong right.  To stay healthy, gotta keep growing!

3.) Count your blessings. It sounds trite. It is so true. You get joy from drawing water out of the well of salvation.

I could be living in darkness without Jesus.

How does anyone handle chronic illness, loss of a loved one, severe financial strain, and caregiving joyfully without the hope of new life in Christ?

His redeeming love is my greatest blessing! “If anyone be in Christ, he (or she) is a new creation.”

My soul sings when I take time to meditate on His love, power, and goodness.

If you are in a dry and dark place, reach for His Word, His love, and the love of His people.

 

 

 

DO the next thing — how to care for the suffering.

Picture me on my hands and knees scrubbing toilets. Confession — I’ve scrubbed more than a dozen this week!

Yes, this is part of how I make my living, scrubbing other’s toilets. I have a dream to make the written word my living one of these days.  To part ways with the survival mode I’ve been in for so long.

Yet Jesus himself took up a scrub rag and a basin of water. He washed the dirty, dusty feet of his disciples — all twelve of them. No one else had signed up for the job. Such humility He calls all his true disciples to live out.

Somehow this toilet scrubbing is also making a path through grief for me. I can help my brother keep a sense of normal tidiness. His wife loved a clean house, even with two littles constantly creating messes.     Doing this one small thing brings her nearer to me. (I can just hear her saying tongue-in-cheek, Wow! I’m so flattered that my toilets remind you of ME! I know, sis. My bad.)

If you’re  a fan of Elisabeth Elliot (wife of martyred Jim Elliott, missionary), then you know she buried three husbands. She was well acquainted with grief.

“Do the next thing.” This was her motto. Meeting the routine needs helps you survive life on the ash heap of grief. Surely Job and his friends at least ate together.

The meals my friends have brought to me have made life bearable this week. My brother’s church, family, and friends are feeding him. In turn, we are able to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving with life.

Grief is a regular part of caregiving. My husband mourns the loss of function. I miss the adventurous person I married, now barely able to leave the house unless well-fortified with extra pain meds. A routine list of the “next things” to do helps us cut through the fog of pain. When we have had help with the challenging tasks, the encouragement is tangible.

Food, a small list of tasks to accomplish, the company of friends, and help checking off the list — these are a few ways to truly encourage your chronically ill friend.

Like Jesus taught, the dirty feet always need washing, but it takes eyes of humility to see and meet those needs. Dear caregiving sister, I pray you will have help on your journey today.

Small and broken, vast and mighty

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photo credit: Danielkordan.com

At least we got to say goodbye. The final goodbye some do not get. So hard. So sweet in the sense of, I’ll see you again, dear lover of Jesus….Dear sister-in-love, loving wife to my brother, joyful momma to my niece and nephew.

Like Job now, we sit in our dust heaps and seek healing for our wounds. So very small and such broken people we are!  And, once again, nothing has changed since Job’s millennia. A few offer real comfort.

Others pass by or avoid our ash heap and say nothing. A common problem faced by those with chronic illness — lonely on their ash heaps, or worse, fending off word-arrows of accusations. Who really wants to visit the cancer wards? Or the sickbed?

The words leap off the pages of Job like they were written only yesterday.

“He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea. HE made all the stars — the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the southern sky. He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles…if He snatches someone in death, who can stop Him? Who dares to ask, What are you doing?” Job 9:8-10, 12

When you know someone you love is dying, the whole world comes alive in vibrant technicolor. You can almost taste the moments.

The sunset on July 26 was beyond amazing here. I could see the edges of His majesty, and almost peer through the clouds to ask, Please don’t let her suffer anymore. Please take her home. She cannot even communicate to us anymore if she needs more pain meds.

Some days your chronically ill friend or spouse may say these words. Please just take me home, God. Life hangs by threads of pain. And we dare to ask, What are you doing?

Such a question God never answers. He speaks to Job on his ash heap.  He tells him to look up. To look around. To recall the day of creation.

Some answers are so vast that our finite minds cannot hold the infinite realities.

Like a pebble tossed into a vast, still lake, my sister’s life touched hundreds of people with the ripples of her life, breast cancer journey, and faithful death trusting His plan. Your life matters! Who knows how your story may inspire and encourage another?

We cannot possibly understand how our light ( but very painful and terrible in the moment) afflictions are working an eternal weight of glory, only for those who are lovers of Jesus, God’s only beloved Son. Fellow ash-heap sitters, sit, mourn, and share my comfort. Look at that sky and wonder!