Tag Archive | hope

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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Joy unspeakable at the journey’s end…

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Peter was told by Christ that he was going to have walk on a path he didn’t want to go on when he got old. He received a rare gift — insight into his own future.

Church history tells us he was crucified upside down. He asked to be turned upside down, saying he didn’t deserve to be crucified in the same position as His LORD and Master.

How many caregivers are walking on a path we would never have chosen willingly?

About six months into my marriage a wise and lovely older lady at church looked at me and said, “This wasn’t what you signed up for, was it?”

Hospital stay, doctor’s visits, jobless, sick husband, and no diagnosis it was terribly frustrating position to be in.

My friend didn’t pretend to understand all about my situation, but her words of kindness and sympathy have traveled with me all these years.

Did I mention I was pregnant?

Being pregnant was both the fulfillment of a long-awaited desire and my worst nightmare at that point. I was so excited AND scared.

How was I going to provide for our child on single salary?  What on earth was wrong with my husband? Why couldn’t he just pull it together?

Our car was repossessed in the middle of the night — actually due to no fault of our own.  Our payments showed as debited from our bank account and the credit company didn’t receive them. The bank admitted the payments were set, but neither bank or credit company would take responsibility for payments “lost in cyber-limbo”. A lawyer told us we could never win a fight against two big companies with deep pockets.

In fact, now the credit company asked for about half of what was owed in order for us to get our car back.

Utterly impossible to cough up that money in our situation! We were paying out of pocket for specialists’ visits on a very small salary.  We lost our car.

Being repo’d in Maryland is akin to organized thievery. We had valuables inside that car that were never returned to us. We lost our car AND the belongings inside.

Amazingly our credit score was clean because the bank admitted it wasn’t our fault. It just wasn’t their fault, either, according to them.

My personal opinion is that the credit company and the repo company were in cahoots. Thieves. Enough said. Their day in front of a just Judge is coming.

Then our landlord decided to sell the cheap apartment house we were renting. The new owners decided to fix the foundation and jacked up the house too swiftly.

Yes, we were living there. My husband was sick in bed when the walls and floor began to heave.

One week before my daughter was born, I came home from work to crooked doorframes and cracks that ran along the joints of wall and ceiling. It looked like an earthquake had hit.

Miraculously, we qualified for a small home loan, due to no car payment and a decent credit score (and looser lending rules)!

God took care of us despite the cruel and unjust loss of our car. Thankfully we still owned an old beater car that was completely paid for.

A week after our daughter was born, we moved. God has kept this roof over our heads for almost 13 years.

There has been nothing easy about this journey, though. Not one single easy year! However, our Good Shepherd has never, ever left or forsaken us.

Peter speaks pointedly and lovingly, too, about fiery trials. He faced a hostile government, spent time in prison, and ended up giving his life for his faith in Christ.

You have had to suffer various trials, in order that the genuineness of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tried by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

           Whom having not seen, you love; and in Whom, though you do not see Him now, you believe and you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving as the result of your faith the salvation of your souls.” I Peter 1:6-9

While we hold on to hope and reach for moments of joy, the only true joy is found in loving Jesus.

Ah, the other piece of sage advice from my lovely friend.  “Not what you signed up for? Just know your husband can never meet all your needs. You need to be satisfied with Jesus.”

She then told me how poor and broke they were in their first year of marriage. No baby crib, just a blanket folded into an open dresser drawer for their little one.

 I’ve forgotten the other details but it was clear –  her first year of marriage wasn’t what she signed up for.

One of these days we’re going to meet our perfect Bridegroom. Peter describes this as “joy unspeakable and full of glory”.

It just doesn’t get any better than this. The best is yet to come!

We already know how much He loves us — freely, fully, without any good reason to love us. He just does. He has told us that nothing can separate us from His love. He’s committed to us for the long haul.

I’ve had three ladies tell me personally in the past few years how their husbands just decided they were done with the marriage. Just done and up and left.  No more relationship.  The pain in their eyes ripped at my heart.

At points in caregiving, you may feel like your husband’s left you in another senses. One dear lady put it this way, “My husband after his injury just checks out. It’s like he’s stopped trying!” She felt so very alone.

Chronic illness is a physical and mental battle. So is caregiving.

I wouldn’t trade places to experience the pain and physical suffering.

But being a loving caregiver is also an excruciatingly fiery trial at times. Anyone who says differently hasn’t walked in our shoes for very long. Probably never.

You and I are left scrambling to keep all the ducks from tumbling over the Niagra Falls.  Forget keeping the ducks in a row!

The only one Who truly understands is Jesus. It’s a good thing He’s our High Priest and no one else. There isn’t another living soul I’d trust to intercede for me before God.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize wiht our weaknesses, but One who was in every sense tempted like we are, yet without sin. Let us then come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

Christ is our sympathetic Bridegroom. He already has His ear and heart tuned to hear us. We have His full and undivided sympathetic attention when we enter into His Presence. How often does that happen in this age of cell phones and technology?

The road we wouldn’t have chosen is taking us to glory — where we will see our glorious Jesus face to face.

“I Can Only Imagine” was played at my sister’s funeral last year.

Can you imagine? Love like no other awaits at the end.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Keep your dukes up, sis!

My headline today makes me swallow back the tears again.

It’s what I said more than once to my sweet sis who went to heaven this summer.

Her fight is over. She went out in faith and love. My fight and yours — well, that is very much ongoing.

The fight theme is very much a thread that runs from the beginning to the end of the Bible. But I despise war! I hate a family feud. Raised voices and angry tones make me sick inside. I’m not even fond of cutting jokes and sarcasm just to be sarcastic.

“That old serpent, the Devil” doesn’t give us much choice. He walks around on a search and destroy mission. I could feel his slimey breath this week. The horror of a yet another diagnosis. Answers we didn’t want. A doctor who delivered the news in such a callous, crass, self-serving way that I called her the “b” word. Something I have never called another human being.

You know when Satan is seeking to destroy your faith. He uses people — those who are His willing instruments. Yes, like Hitler’s cronies, or those who fund and work for Planned Parenthood, those instruments seek to convince you that their way is the ONLY  and BEST option. Whatever the abominable system calls for is right. It must be. Some group of wealthy doctors, philosophers, and politicians says so.

GOD calls us to fight for our covenant marriages, for our children, for whatever is true and lovely and right! Like a friend of mine who found out she is carrying a Down’s baby — NO! NO way, your other “option” is not even an option!  I don’t want to fall prey to Satan’s mind games.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

RESIST him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” I Peter 5:8-9

We have to keep our weary heads in the game, dear sisters. Be sober, clearheaded, truth-filled thinking. Be vigilant, always watching our backs with our weapons handy. Gotta keep those dukes up.

I felt so tired and alone, trying to be strong for both of us with the forked tongue of the Serpent right there in front of me. My husband was feeling so weak, and sick, and tired of being sick and tired.

What’s a body to do? We prayed. We cried a lot. We’re not done doing  either.

I can’t. I can’t do this alone. Neither can you.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time.

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” I Peter 5:5-7

Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, will not leave us to fight alone.

Jesus, who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, understands the deepest agony of our earthly sorrows.

Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, is interceding for us in glory.

Jesus, that great shepherd of His sheep, is preparing a place of greatest peace and beauty for us when this earthly fight is done.

Keep fighting on your knees, dear one. Keep your dukes up.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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!

 

 

One word of hope and Mimosa…

Mimosa — the name of a lovely flowering tree — also is the name of a lady of courage. Let me tell you her true story.

Mimosa and I became friends through the pages of a book written by Amy Carmichael in the 1920’s. I’ll have to introduce you to Amy properly on another day. Both lived in India a hundred years ago.

Right now as I write this, there are other ladies living in refugee camps. Life is sparse. A hundred years ago and now? Faith has cost them all they own.

The gospel, the Good News! All Mimosa had was a few moments introduction to God as the living, loving God of all gods, the one Who made her and all things. She was visiting the Dohnavur Fellowship where her sister Star lived. Then her Hindu father snatched her away, refusing her pleas to hear more.

Though the “stick danced” for Mimosa, a little flame of understanding lit her heart. She firmly refused to smear ashes on her forehead for Siva, the family’s god of choice. She had a heart of love for the loving Father God she knew almost nothing about.

Fast forward to an arranged marriage, an unscrupulous family member who weaseled her dowry away from her, and a husband whose caste did not encourage him to work. Three babies later and no money, Mimosa toiled in the fields to keep food on the table. She prayed regularly in her little pantry, spreading out her sari to God.

With no Bible, no church, and no Christian fellowship, Mimosa clung to the few things she had learned about God as a child. Her neighbors and her family mocked her faith. But the worst was still to come.

Her husband was bit by a poisonous snake and went blind and mad. She had no one to watch her babies while she worked in the fields, and then her infant son became very ill. While her husband was bedridden and her little son lay dying, her roof caved in during monsoon rains, and she had to find temporary shelter for her family.

“I am not offended with you,” Mimosa told God. Her infant son had died. The village blamed her for his death as she refused to buy a charm for his healing. More cruel mocking in her hour of pain…

Her husband regained his sight and sanity but had no urge to better his family. Often he lived with relatives leaving Mimosa to fend for herself. Mimosa bore two more sons.The main trouble was keeping the rice and curried vegetables on the table. One night she prayed for food and it seemed no answer was coming. She did not want to dishonor God in her unbelieving village by asking for help.

A knock at the door around midnight — there stood the one kind relative she had. She lit the lamp, for he had been unable to sleep until he brought over rice and curried vegetables. Mimosa and her boys feasted at midnight.

No Bible studies, no pat on the back, no words of encouragement. She could not read nor write. Her sister Star did not know how to reach her.

And then her oldest boy smeared Siva’s ashes on his forehead so that he might work at a Hindu shop.

Her heart broke. She wanted her boys to know the one true God. Yet how could she teach them?

At Dohnavur her sister Star was praying for Mimosa. Never giving up hope of seeing her and her boys.

Once again Mimosa remembered Dohnavur, prayed, sold her last dowry items, and set out to make sure her sons had the chance to really learn about God. The village was in an uproar. She would be breaking caste. Her husband and the relatives he lived with opposed her. Yet she still set out with her boys on foot. Three days later they arrived.

 Spreading out her sari to God and not smearing ashes to Siva on her forehead finally brought Mimosa and her sons to a place of truth, comfort, and safety. One word from God’s Word had been a lamp to her feet all those years.

Sisters, keep praying in hope. Whatever hardships you are facing, hope in God’s love and Word.