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Your suffering isn’t all about you…

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Dear sister, I’m about to bleed with you all over this page,

so hang on and hear me out.

Books upon books have been devoted to the “whys” of suffering.

Why another blog post on this topic?

 Well, I’ve had a tiny little ray of understanding, a bit of sunshine in the darkness.

I’ve felt like I have been shut up in a dark closet lately.

 I’ve wondered if death was just around the corner for my loved one. Is it time?

You haven’t seen me post for a few weeks.

I’ve given until I have nothing more to offer.

 No more spoons to pick up (if you understand the “spoonie” lingo among the chronically ill).

Nothing to give you. Just hanging on to Jesus.

Endless sleepless nights I remind myself, I’m God’s girl.

I’m His beloved in Christ Jesus.

He’s promised me His love never changes for me. I’m banking on that.

How is it that David and then Jesus Himself

could come to a place of such suffering in their lives

 that all they could do is cry out brokenly and wretchedly,

 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from hearing my cries?”

 

Have you ever walked through such flaming, scorching times?

I only glimpsed the edges of this suffering during four years

of watching my sis-in-love with stage 4 breast cancer.

 I wasn’t there every week.

What I did see frequently on her “care team” was enough

 to break my heart repeatedly.

I watched the downward spiral of my brother’s health and exhaustion

 and wondered how much more both the cancer patient and the caregiver could take!

It’s my turn in the flames.

I’m watching my loved one suffer excruciatingly both physically and mentally.

 After so many years of physical suffering, the mental battles are equally intense.

 I’m on the frontlines. I’m the primary caregiver and breadwinner.

 Can’t quit. Can’t stop. Can’t resign.

 

There are things you see with burning clarity

 when you are walking through the flames, if you are His beloved.

 If you look with the tear-filled eyes of trust, you see.

God is God. I am not. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.

Words from The Lord’s prayer — timeless and true as the eternal Savior

 that spoke them.

He is LORD. Do I really believe that? Then yes. Yes! He’s got a plan from eternity that is right on track. Satan’s going down.

 God will triumph! I’m just a speck of dust in that eternal plan.

Somehow, we do matter in this plan!

“Are you not of more value than many sparrows?”

“The very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
(Mine are falling out rapidly…easier to count!”)

“All things work together for good to those that love God.”

MY life may be the only “Jesus” that some of those around me see. 

How I walk with the broken matters.

I’m Christ’s ambassador to my family and friends.

Do you any doubt after the events of this last month that this is a cruel, hateful world

 that’s turned its back on God? So many terrible things in the news!

 The depths of evil are too dark for us without God’s love.

“Let your LIGHT so shine before men, that they may SEE your good deeds and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

UGLY truth.

 Divorce and abandonment rates among the chronically ill

 and those with cancer is extremely high.

I’ve seen and heard of it with my own two eyes numerous times now.

 Folks who abandon their family at their time of greatest need —

 what kind of love is that?

My daughter needs to see Jesus’s hands and feet lived out in my life.

 

Our mission as parents is to show the mighty acts of God to THIS generation. How?

True lovers of Jesus, 

true children of the Heavenly Father

 don’t abandon the broken,

 the “useless” of society. Jesus did not.

In fact, hurting people are highlighted in the Gospels.

The lepers, the blind, the lame, the sick all came to Jesus in droves.

He came to show us the Father.

He cast out a Legion of demons from a man so extremely broken that he lived alone

 with dead bodies, tormented and naked.

 

Do we think this is a distant fairy tale?

 

Sometimes I think I’ve been guilty of this distancing myself from

what Jesus actually did while here on earth!

This man living naked in the tombs clearly was not sane!

His insanity was due to demon possession.

 (NOT my take on mental illness — that’s a whole different post).

The point is — Jesus became ceremonially unclean 

to even reach out to this man living among dead bodies! 

He did what most good, religious folk of his day would not do —

 and reached out in healing power to this outcast man.

What about serious genetic defects? Why this suffering? 

Many chronic auto-immune diseases have their roots in genetic defects.

So much sorrow in the gene pool! Why?

Jesus spoke truth with power when his own disciples asked, 

“Who sinned, Jesus? This blind man or his parents that he was born this way?”

Broken words like poisonous arrows from a prideful heart,

 similar to words spoken even today to families who are experiencing health issues.

 

Suffering bodies, suffering minds, suffering hearts — Jesus answers the accusers.

He answers the Accuser of our souls, too.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned.

 But it happened

 so that the works of God might be displayed in him!” John 9:3

What  floods of relief must have washed over this blind man overhearing this!

 How many years had he begged blindly by the side of the road and wondered, WHY?

How many times has your chronically-ill family member, your disabled friend,

your mentally-ill loved one wondered, Why? What am I worth?

 Why am I still living?

Jesus was not saying that this man or his parents were not sinners —

that they had never sinned!

He was saying that this blind beggar could display the works of God in his life

through the power of Jesus!

For the blind beggar, that meant healing here and now.

He met Jesus the King over genetics!

I’m filled with gratitude 

that Jesus knows our sufferings perfectly. 

He’s in the flames with us.

He will help us do the will of the Father.

 

 

I’m grateful to know our sufferings, your loved one’s sufferings,

if committed to Christ,

have purpose and meaning.

His purposes are always good. Hang on! Hang in there with me!

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s girl…

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Trials and tribulations, worldly situations…yep, it’s a quote from a country southern song.

Sometimes you pick up the phone, and you can hear the hiss of the serpent on the other end of the line. Wouldn’t you think that chronic illness and pain is enough trouble for one lifetime? Cancer? Financial strain? Ever had one of those weeks?

Last Lord’s Day I reminded a senior saint that it is God who is the “lifter up of my head.”

Today she bumped into me at church. “Notice the Scripture reading for today?” Psalm 3.

A week-long struggle with various trials big and small, and I’ve just had to say, God, I’m your girl. You are the reason I can lift my head off of my pillow and get out of bed. You are my Song in the night. You are my peace.

I wept through the hymn today, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.”  Why? Because I know as hard as this time in my life is, His love is for real. I’m God’s girl. He’s got my back. I understand a tiny bit of David’s boast, I will not fear if ten thousand men should come against me.

I’m beginning to fathom the courage that countless martys have laid hold of in defending their faith. He gave me strength to hang up the phone on evil. He’s giving me strength to say yes to life.

Saying yes to life is Gianna Jessen, a survivor of a failed saline injection abortion. Go look up her story for a courage reboot! www.giannajessen.com

I keep hearing her voice, I’m God’s girl, His princess! She was rejected as an unborn infant, and now suffers from MS. Yet she has become a beacon of courage, hope, and joy? She knows she is loved!  So are you, dear sister in Christ.

When Daniel was praying, his prayers were being hindered by demonic forces. But when the angel arrived to speak to him, he was told his prayers were heard and that he was greatly beloved.

You are God’s girl, dear believer in Jesus.

Revel in that love. We didn’t earn it. We didn’t deserve it. Jesus’ body was indeed crushed for us. “He that spared not His own Son, how shall he not with Him freely give us all things?”

Lift up your head in your lonely spot, and give Him the shame that you feel for not having the “perfect” Christian family. Your not-so-normal life is under His watchful, caring eye.

Pray like you are God’s girl. Shields up this week!

Don’t let Satan’s jabs or even the well-intentioned words of the clueless Christian crush your spirit. This week I took a free personality test. Took it twice in fact. It actually pegged me well.

I’ve always struggled with being over-sensitive to the words and actions of others. Sometimes I’ve been overly defensive. More often, I’ve cowered and let others just walk over me. Don’t want to pick a fight.

That has been changing. Seemingly incredible odds have served to drive me to my knees again and again.  I pray that God will destroy the plans of the wicked. That He will keep my husband’s doctors from doing harm.

That He will provide each day for our current battles with insurance, schedules, and wisdom to choose wisely. I pray for true sanity in the fog of pain-filled days. I pray for kindness.

Without the Lifter up of my head, I could not face my current challenges. Now I’m learning to speak His truth, praying I do so with compassion and boldness.

I’ve been seeing His loving care in my daily life and answers to my prayers. Just today I was told that God used me indirectly to answer another’s pray. Talk about a courage booster.

Now I’m asking Him to glorify Himself in ways that will show this generation His power and glory. HIS! Not mine. Red Sea parting power belongs to Him. Manna in the wilderness. Power to stop a raging storm!

God’s girl, faith, hope, and love are yours for the asking! Mine, too. He will walk with us in the fiery trials, and never ever leave us alone.

 

 

 

 

The broad strokes of God’s love

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Dear Sister in Christ, dear fellow care-giving wife, it’s the best of days when you are mind-blown, blown away, filled to overflowing with the knowledge of God’s love for you.

NOT all days are like this. In fact, most days we trudge along. One step, one foot in front of the other.

Then God takes off the blinders when you just refuse to let go of Him and His love. God, I will not let you go unless you bless me. Like Job, you know deep down — though He slay me, I will trust in Him.

Just one tiny glimpse of a few truths of Scripture where God shows His love, and I feel like the richest lady on earth. I’m writing this to remember this day. I’m setting up my memorial stones, and telling myself, remember. Don’t forget. God loves you dearly, fully, completely in Christ Jesus.

I want to tell you, too. I’m hoping you will be encouraged along with me. If you’re at all like me, you need it. You struggle like me to desperately believe and hang on to hope in God’s unfailing goodness and love for you.

What sparked this epiphany? Valentines Day? Naaah. Actually, that’s a hard holiday for those of us whose husbands are too laid up with health issues to be that romantic knight in shining armor.

In fact, I’ll turn off my FB feed that day. I don’t need to feed the feelings of longing when I see my friends light up and share all the wonderful things their truly good hubs do for them. I am blessed by their godly love. I really am. But I don’t need to wallow in what I am missing.

What I have is actually waaay more wonderful!

The Lord my Maker is my Husband.

He sings over me.

He rejoices over me.

He came looking for me, and brought me into His house of love.

He says all the riches of His eternal kingdom are mine forever.

He tells me over and over that He will provide for my needs. And He has. So very faithfully and just in time.

Where do I see His love painted in such big, broad brushstrokes? First, in Jesus’ broken body, hanging on the cross for my sins, eternal love is painted in blood.

Next, I see His compassion poured out on those whom society rejected: the weak, the blind, the sick, the lame, the lepers, the prostitutes, the tax collectors (thieves by their day’s standards), and the Prodigal Son. This means compassion for sick husbands, too, unable to provide for their wives.

The disabled, the abnormal, the “special needs” among us all find equal grace and equal royal privileges at the foot of the cross.

Let me illustrate this point.

In the Bible, mentioned more than once, are a special category of people called “eunuchs”.  Ha! I’d always glossed over that until recently.

Eunuchs are a special class of people also mentioned in Augustine’s works, known as “hermaphrodites”. A certain class of these were forbidden by the Law of Moses to enter into temple worship. (Deut. 23:2) Outcasts by no fault of their own.

But Jesus did not ignore this problem. (Matt. 29:12)  In fact, unique prophecies included eunuchs with amazing promises given to them.

One of the most remarkable of these eunuchs was Daniel. A man who could not enter God’s temple entered into God’s presence in prayer so faithfully that angels literally fought the powers of hell to bring answers to his prayers.

In Isaiah 56 God lavishes beautiful, rich promises on these persons with special needs and physical abnormalities.

Finally, in a burst of gospel beauty, Philip encounters the Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Isaiah. Philip is specifically commanded by the Spirit to speak to the eunuch about Jesus.

The eunuch then asks a loaded question,

” What prevents me from being baptized?” Acts 8:26-28

Philip, a blue-blood Jew, understood what doors God’s grace had opened.

Boom! Baptized then and there. No second-class church membership for this eunuch.

In Christ alone we find this wholeness, a total acceptance in the Beloved. His perfect love lavishes His perfect beauty on His children. Now that’s more than any husband could give to me this Valentine’s Day.

 

Every life matters…

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Today I sat down to write one of those difficult notes you need to write if you live long enough.

For the past ten years as part of our church family, we have enjoyed the presence of Nathanael. I never held a two way conversation with him, but I’ve rubbed his head as he sat strapped in his wheelchair. He had the biggest smile, but we’ve seen it for the last time on this earth. We’re going to miss his enthusiastic outbursts which punctuated our services at times. He was always welcome in worship. When we got the email announcing his passing, we were encouraged to share with his parents how God has used Nathanael’s life to teach and bless us.

It was no coincidence that I stumbled across my sermon notes on that great command, “Thou shalt not kill”, just as I was looking for my cards to write this note.

I know from personal experience that if you are chronically ill, finding purpose in your life can be a huge challenge when you are feeling low. Getting real here — has your chronically ill husband ever told you he feels worthless?  Did you know there are a multitude of implied ways that we can break the command, Thou shalt not kill? Abortion, murder, and suicide are the most obvious applications.

Failing to value our lives, no matter how insignificant they seem,  borders on breaking this command.

We cringe in horror and are infuriated at the ruthless brutality alive and well all over our globe today. So we should be!  The very existence of certain departments of security points to the basic lack of value for life. Then there is history: Hitler, Stalin, and all their cronies who used their power for evil, crushing people like bugs. But, back to Nathanael — the fact that this severely disabled boy could smile and laugh reminded me to praise God. He was loved and treated with dignity and respect as a being created in the image of God for his less than two decades of life on this earth. His life mattered. Your life matters.

 Everyone is potentially someone who could praise God.

The Westminster divines really hit the nail on the head with this simple statement. We are created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. As someone who can praise God, your life has worth. When your husband is down, when the pain meds are talking, whatever the case, remind him that he is, indeed, special. As Jesus said, “You are of more value than many sparrows, ” after he had pointed out that the Father sees EVERY sparrow that falls.

Our worth is not measured by our abilities or possessions, but by the One who created us. 

“For by grace are you saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Hope this helps start your week off in a different light. Be encouraged! What you do for your husband has value if done for His glory. His life matters and so does yours. Thank you, Lord, for Nathanael, your gift to remind us of the value of life.