Tag Archive | Chronic illness

Is Mindfulness Meditation Something Christians Should Try for Pain Relief ?

One of the most difficult problems of living with one or more chronic illnesses is chronic pain. I personally have lived with chronic pain since 1975, and I’ve used a variety of treatments including over-the-counter and prescription pain medications, supplements, physical therapy, braces, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS unit), ElectroCorticosteroid and Hyaluronic acid injections, and several orthopedic surgeries in hope of relieving the pain – with minimal effect in most cases. One thing I have shied away from is mindfulness meditation for chronic pain.

Focus on the Family says of mindfulness meditation:

“Mindfulness (some use the word grounding) is characterized by meditation and relaxation techniques. The idea is to become more self-aware. You pay attention to thoughts, feelings, and sensations in that moment — without purposefully deciding whether they’re good or bad, and without becoming overwhelmed or overly reactive. In short, you tune in to what’s real right now.”

Many reputable universities (such as Harvard) and medical facilities (such as Mayo Clinic) now recommend mindfulness meditation for chronic pain. What is mindfulness meditation, and is it something I should try as a Christian for pain relief?

Mindfulness meditation can be individual mindfulness meditation, sitting alone in a quiet comfortable space, usually with your eyes closed and not focused on anything specific to begin with. It often includes concentrating on various areas of your body, one at a time.

Or it may be guided mindfulness meditation, which involves listening to someone either on a recording or in person, who will prompt you to relax into a meditative state and then guide you through the meditation.

Sometimes guided meditation uses imagery, asking you to picture specific things in your mind. Guided meditation may include Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), when you focus on relaxing each part of the body, one at a time, to take the tension away from each muscle.

All of these are recommended by some physicians and counselors, so it’s important to decide ahead of time what you will do if mindfulness meditation is recommended as a part of your pain relief.

Opinions about both individual and guided mindfulness vary within the Christian community. Focus on the Family mentioned the following cautions to those considering any secular kind of meditation therapy.

  • Secular mindfulness is based on an unhealthy degree of self-focus.
  • It supports emptying the mind, which can expose people to demonic influences.
  • It encourages escape from reality.
  • It sometimes promotes a one-with-the-cosmos worldview.
  • The concept of “mindfulness” is rooted in Zen Buddhist meditation.

All of these concerns are valid. Secular mindfulness encourages you pay attention only to yourself. In contrast, Scripture teaches us to have the mind of Christ and to evaluate everything in light of our vertical relationship with God and Jesus.

Mindfulness meditation can be compatible with a biblical worldview if it is rooted in Scripture and has a vertical focus on connecting with the God who created us and loves us with an unfailing love. Some faith-based counselors use this form of mindfulness meditation as a therapy tool. If you are considering mindfulness meditation for pain relief, make sure you work with a genuine Christian therapist who will guide you to the truths of Scripture. For me, personally, the decision has been made. I don’t want to use any kind of mindfulness medication, because even when it is wrapped in biblical principles it’s still rooted in Zen Buddhist meditation.

Next week, we will be looking at Biblical Meditation, the kind of meditation the Lord clearly calls us to participate in.

How to Replace the Lies In Your Mind with God’s Truth

I grew up going to church every week, often more than once. I even taught a Sunday School class in my local church. But throughout those years, I didn’t know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord.

That changed the year after I graduated from college. I was beginning a career as a kindergarten teacher. Soon after moving to the town where I had a teaching position, I did what was a lifestyle for me – I looked for a church to join. While this church was of the same denomination of the churches I had been a part of, it was very different.

For the first time, I heard the gospel clearly explained. I learned than Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin, and I was encouraged to surrender my life to Him and accept Him as my personal Savior and Lord. I was told when I did this, that Jesus came to live in my heart through the Holy Spirit. He was now my teacher and guide for how to live as a believer in Jesus Christ. And this began a lifelong adventure was walking the genuine Christian life.

This happened in 1972; it’s now 2022, fifty years later. While I’ve matured in the faith from those early days as a Christ, I’m still learning how to walk in the truth of God’s Word. In fact, I’m currently taking a nine week, in-depth course on renewing my mind in a specific area where I’m not yet walking in victory, which I chose as my “mountain” that I need to overcome.

We choose what we will believe! A belief is something that we either consciously or unconsciously accept as truth. But there is only one source of truth: THE WORD OF GOD!

Most of us, no matter how long we have been Christians, still have a few areas of our lives where we are not walking in victory. These are the areas where we need to renew our minds by recognizing the lies we are still believing and replacing them with related truths from the Word of God.

Renewing the mind is basically rewiring your brain to think like Christ Jesus – to have the mind of Christ. Dr. Caroline Leaf speaks of this in her book Switch On Your Brian: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health.

“God designed humans to observe our own thoughts, catch those that are bad, and get rid of them... You cannot sit back and wait to be happy and healthy and have a great thought life; you have to make the choice to make this happen. You have to choose to get rid of the toxic and get back in alignment with God. You can be overwhelmed by every small setback in life, or you can be energized by the possibilities they bring.

“Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking.

In physical terms, this is what happens when we choose to renew our minds. The actual structure of our mind changes as we learn to think differently about a specific area of our lives. We learn to recognize our wrong thoughts and replace them with truths from God’s Word… and continue doing this until we have learned a new way of thinking.

An essential step in renewing our minds is understanding our identity in Christ, who we are in Christ. Our minds have been influenced since early childhood by things our family, friends, teachers and other acquaintances have said about us, things which have physically changed the structure of our brains. Renewing the mind includes building new pathways for our thoughts about ourselves.

I’ve learned that renewing the mind takes time and effort. It requires honestly facing the lies we are believing, lies that are keeping us from walking in victory in a specific area of our life. It’s important that we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in this step, because the very nature of lies is that we often don’t recognize them.

The class I’m currently taking has use begin with a “mind dump,” with listing at least ten thoughts that are currently on our minds. As I did this, I was surprised at the toxic thoughts that showed up. Then, we allow the Holy Spirit to reduce the list, one step at a time, until we recognize the “mountain” God currently wants us to focus on. A question made it easy for me to narrow my list down to one: What does the Lord see as the weighty issues in my life? Suddenly, I knew the area the Lord wanted me to focus my mind renewal on, something I had not even considered before that.

This is just an introduction to renewing our minds. If any of you are interested in a time of intense mind renewal, just leave a message in the comments after this post. I will be glad to give you the name of the study I’ve been doing – for the third time. This is just a taste of what I’m learning about renewing my mind. Each time I’ve done the study, I’ve seen major change in a problem area of my life, an area where victory had always seemed just beyond my reach. IT IS POSSIBLE TO WALK IN VICTORY IN AREAS OF PERSISTENT SIN – AND MIND RENEWAL IS THE KEY!

El Roi, The God Who Sees Me

Life with chronic illness can make you feel very alone.

You go to a new doctor and leave the office feeling like you were not listened to. After being diagnosed, your earlier dreams have been sidelined. Your life now feels as if you have been assigned to a place of insignificance, and you are powerless to change it. In other words, chronic illness often causes us to feel marginalized, overlooked.

There is a story in the book of Genesis about a young woman who was very familiar with these emotions. Her name was Hagar, and she was an Egyptian servant, purchased by Abram for his wife Sarai. Her story is told in Genesis 16.

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” Genesis‬ ‭16:1-2‬ ‭(all verses are in ESV‬ unless noted)‬

A woman’s fertility—her childbearing ability—was of great importance in Bible times. A woman gained a sense of value by her ability to give her husband many sons. Those who could not conceive suffered greatly emotionally.

But Sarai had a plan to give Abram the son he wanted. Basically, instead of asking God to heal her barrenness, Sarai decided to take things in her own hands. And Abram went along with her plan. The story continues:

“So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.” Genesis‬ ‭16:3-6‬

Sarai now decided Abram was to blame for this whole situation. Abram’s response: “Hagar is your servant, so do whatever you want with her.”

Sarai mistreated Hagar so badly that she ran away from her mistress. As Hagar flees from Sarai, God reveals to this lowly servant the name of God that is the focus of today’s blog post.

“Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” The angel of the Lord said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?””Genesis‬ ‭16:7-13‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

This is the only time that this name of God is used in Scripture. But we see this name demonstrated if not used in many other portions of Scripture. One of my favorite is Psalm 139, which begins with these words.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Psalm‬ ‭139:1-4‬ ‭‬‬

Yahweh is the God who sees us. He knows our every thought and hears our every word, and He is acquainted with all our ways. He is ‘El rŏ’î, the God who sees you and me!

El Roi, the God Who Sees You and Me
The God Who Sees

El Shaddai: The All-Powerful, All-Sufficient One

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless.

Genesis 17:1 NASB

We have now been in our new home for three weeks … three very busy weeks. One of our first goals in our new town was to find a new church. Yesterday was our second Sunday at the first church we had picked to try out, and the pastor is doing a series entitled Did God Really Say That? In it, he is examining some of the common misconceptions we might be believing about the Bible.

Since Eve’s encounter with the serpent in Genesis 3:1-3, the enemy of our souls has worked to convince people to believe lies about God. The lie covered in yesterday’s sermon was the often heard phrase, God will never give you more than you can handle. Pastor Gary Marshall made it clear that God allows us to face more than we can handle in our own strength, but that’s because we were created to need Him. The only all-sufficient One is El Shaddai, God Almighty.

This was a lesson even the apostle Paul had to learn. God gave many revelations to Paul, but to keep him humble and dependent upon the Lord he also faced severe persecutions and other circumstances that caused him to be weak. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, he shares an insight that confirms the truth that God never said He wouldn’t give us anything we couldn’t handle. Indeed, He wants us to know His supernatural power is available to us when we’re weak.

“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NASB

I don’t know what you may be facing today, but I do know from personal experience that God allows us to feel weak so we will learn to depend upon His wisdom and strength. God created us to need Him, not to lean on our own understanding or strength. He is the only One Who is self-sufficient and all-powerful. There is nothing God cannot do. If God calls us to do something for Him, we need to remember that He never intended for us to do it by our own abilities. He has sent the Holy Spirit to give us the wisdom and strength to complete the task. No matter what God may be asking of you today, remember He is the All-Sufficient One. He will be enough if you depend upon Him!

EL SHADDAI: GOD ALMIGHTY AND ALL-SUFFICIENT

Prepare the Way for His Coming

People get greedy, grabby, and grumpy at Christmastime. We’re greedy when we obsess over excess while others go without basic needs. We’re grabby when we insist on drawing attention to ourselves when the glory belongs to God alone. And we’re grumpy when we forget that our worst day is often a thousand times better than most people’s good days. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves over-indulging, over-spending, and over-committing, none of which are healthy, helpful, or healing in any way for us or others.

This quote from a YouVersion Bible devotional based on Susie Larson’s new book Prepare Him Room: A Daily Advent Devotional, stood out to me this morning. Christmas is a time when we need to guard our attitudes, especially when our circumstances are less than ideal. The weeks of Advent are a time to prepare our hearts for Christmas, the celebration of His first coming.

This Christmas is an unusual one for our family. It’s a season I’ve looked forward to, fully expecting we would be settled in our new home and decorating for the holidays as part of the process of setting things up.

But that’s not how things turned out. Hours before we were to close on the sale of our new home, the buyers backed out. Because of this, the family we had planned to buy from had to put the property back on sale. This Christmas, another family is living in the house we had fully expected to be ours.

God pushed the “pause button” on our plans, and as a result our Christmas plans were changed. Even decorating our house for Christmas underwent change, since every open space is filled with boxes we had packed before our plans changed. Decoration had to be minimal, with a tabletop tree to bring some color and our manger scene to help us remember the reason for the season.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the first coming of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This season is a reminder that we are never alone, that Jesus came to be Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus came to bring light to our darkness. He came to die as the Lamb of God, paying the price for our sins. And now He lives in us through the Holy Spirit. His love is constant. And we are never alone, no matter what circumstances we may be facing.

Advent is a time for heart preparation. Many of my readers deal with the daily challenges of chronic illness, and when you add other undesired circumstances having a right attitude doesn’t come naturally. I think that’s why this devotional really touched my heart. I needed to make a choice to face this holiday season with an attitude of gratitude instead of grumbling, a time of giving thanks for the good things we are partaking of in the midst of less than desired circumstances.

Even as John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus’ first coming, let’s prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas. Christmas is a time of remembering the first coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We prepare our hearts by choosing an attitude that reflects the One whose birth we are celebrating. Let’s make room for Him to work in our lives, humbling ourselves and allowing Him to continue the good work He has begun in us.

A song to remind us to prepare the way for His coming:

https://youtu.be/HQpLH9BGC8I

God’s Script for Our Lives

“If we were to script our own lives, it’s doubtful we’d include times of struggle and heartache, times where nothing makes sense. I’m sure they felt the same. And yet for them, those times that felt most out-of-control were when God showed up the most and taught them who He was. He helped them understand that freedom has nothing to do with the state of our circumstances and everything to do with the state of our hearts.”

As I read an email from a recent Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study, these words from Stacy Lowe stood out to me. If I had been the one to script my own life, it would be completely different that the script God had planned for me. Yet as I look back over the last fifty years of walking with God, I can see that His script for my life has taught me who He is. It has helped me to understand that true freedom has nothing to do with my circumstances and everything to do with the state of my heart.

When I first came to Christ, I was teaching kindergarten, a job I really enjoyed. I had my life all planned out, but the first change of my plans was turning in a resignation notice to my school and leaving Maryland for Oklahoma City, where I went through a one-year Bible college. While there, I met my husband Mitch and we began ministering together at a nursing home. It wasn’t long before Mitch and I realized that the Lord was putting us together for more than this monthly time of ministry. At the end of our year at the Bible college, Mitch and I were married.

Recently, Mitch and I celebrated our forty-seventh anniversary, so it’s clear that the Lord really put us together. But the path He has had us walk definitely wasn’t the one we would have chosen. It’s included an auto accident that took the life of our young daughter Teresa and left me with twenty-seven fractures. The doctor who treated me told my husband that he didn’t expect me to be able to walk, but God gave me many years of walking without an assistive device. I now use a walker most of the time, with a wheelchair for any trips that involve more than ten minutes of walking. This wasn’t our plan, but God was with us each step of the way.

If I were to write the script of my own life, it would not have included the loss of our daughter Teresa or my own injuries from the accident that took her life. At that time, I felt my life was out of control. But in truth, it was a time when God was at work in my life and when I grew in my knowledge of His goodness and faithfulness.

The next event in my life that I definitely would not have included was the loss of our second child by miscarriage. After losing our firstborn Teresa only a couple years earlier, I felt numb when a trip to the hospital confirmed that Mitch and I were losing our second child, this one that we had no time with on this earth. No, this would not have been a part of my chosen script for my life.

Then, the most life-changing happening we’re ever experienced as a family began in 1984, when our son David was born. By this time we had another little girl, Amy, who was the joy of our lives. So we were excited about the birth of our son. But that joyful expectation didn’t last very long. When David was three months old, he was diagnosed with massive infantile spasms, a seizure disorder that basically stopped his mental development.

For thirty-four years, David was the center of our schedule since he was completely dependent upon others for every aspect of his care. We had a loving team of home care nurses and a very special assistant that did much to lighten our load as the parents of a medically fragile and mentally disabled son. In addition to seizures, David had a paralyzed diaphragm, fragile bones that resulted in many fractures, and a long list of other medical diagnoses.

The Lord took David to his heavenly home in November 2018. Though his home going was softened by a clear word from the Lord to me that He was taking David home, followed by an amazing peace that sustained us during our heart breaking loss of David, it was the most difficult thing we have faced in our forty-seven years of marriage. Yes, I accepted that David was now in heaven and we will see him again, yet my script for David’s life would have been very different than the script I would have written. Healing would have come in the first months of his life, as the elders of our church came to the hospital to pray for David’s healing, not thirty-four years later in heaven.

I don’t know the struggles and challenges your life as a Christian has included. They may seem insignificant in comparison to what our family has faced, but I’m sure there have been times of heart break and pain which definitely didn’t seem insignificant at the time. The script God has written for your life likely included events and circumstances you would not have included if you were writing the script for your life. Yet, as we walk the path God has planned for us, our hearts are shaped by His presence so that we are continually becoming a clearer reflection of the image of His Son.

As Stacy Lowe wrote in her email for a Proverbs 31 Ministries online Bible study, those times that felt most out-of-control were when God showed up the most and taught us who He was. As we walk the path of life God has laid before us, we learn that true freedom is a result of God’s work in and through our circumstances to mold our hearts to look more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

As Stacy Lowe said, “Freedom has nothing to do with the state of our circumstances and everything to do with the state of our hearts.”

Freedom is the result of our heart surrender to God’s script for our lives, trusting that His plan for us is good because the One who wrote it is good. Even when we don’t understand our circumstances, we can always trust the One who rules over them, believing He will use them for our good and for His glory!

Realizing the Brevity of Life

During the month of July, I have been reading through the books of Psalms and Proverbs, and this morning’s reading included Psalm 90. I’ve been using the New Living Translation to get a fresh view of these Scriptures that I’ve read hundreds of times in the around fifty years that I’ve been a Christian.

Psalm 90 is the oldest of the Psalms. It was written by Moses, in the form of a prayer, and entitled From Everlasting to Everlasting. The first verses focus on the eternal nature of our God.

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Psalm‬ ‭90:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Moses starts with a reminder that no matter what circumstances we face, we have a safe dwelling place in the Lord. The New Living Translation calls it a home. In Him we have shelter and protection from danger or distress. The Creator of the earth and heavens calls us to come to Him and be secure.

The next verses are Moses prayer of lament over the brevity of life and the judgment of sins. This section ends with a reminder that our “secret sins” are not a secret to God.

“You spread out our sins before you— our secret sins—and you see them all. We live our lives beneath your wrath, ending our years with a groan.” Psalm 90:8-9 NLT

‭‭Then we come to the two verses that jumped out at me as I was reading them this morning.

“Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away… Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Psalm‬ ‭90:10, 12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Seventy years are given to us!” These are the words that seemed to jump off the page as I was reading this morning. And before I looked forward, the words “teach us to number our days” came to mind. I was surprised to see that this truth was only two verses ahead. Because of the brevity of life, and the fact that I turned seventy-two in February, the thought came that I am “living on borrowed time.” The time when I will “fly away” to be in the presence of the Lord could be any time.

Remembering how fragile our life on earth is a good reminder to appreciate the years and months and even the days I still have to complete the purposes of God for my life. I need to value every moment and live wisely and with purpose. Time is short, so I need to live with a sense of urgency, seeking God’s wisdom for each day’s tasks.

At age seventy-two, I’m well aware of the brevity of life. As I read these verses, 2 Corinthians 4:16 came to mind. It begins with a reminder not to lose heart when our outer self, our physical bodies, begin wasting away. In my own life, over the last year I’ve seen the cartilage in my knees waste away so that my knees are now basically bone on bone. How do we not lose heart in this situation? The key is remembering this life is not all there is.

Living with chronic illnesses such as arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and an endless list of other infirmities, as many of you who read my blog do, is living with watching your bodies slowly waste away. But the good news is that’s not where the Apostle Paul ended this verse. He added the encouragement that our inner self is being renewed day by day.

If you are a Christian, one who has been forgiven and who has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, your inner self is renewed as you spend time in God’s life-giving presence. Colossians 3:10 (ESV) says we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Through prayer and reading the Bible, God’s written Word, your inner self, the part of you that was made for eternity, is being renewed daily by the Holy Spirit.

No matter how many years you have left on this earth, they are a brief moment compared to eternity. Don’t despair when you see your outer self wasting away. Instead, turn your focus on renewing your inner self and on doing the things that will count for eternity.

Don’t Forget to Take Your Medicine!

King Solomon was known for his great wisdom, and one little tidbit of his wisdom is found in Proverbs 17. The first half of verse 22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”

In a Better Homes and Gardens article entitled “Laugh Your Way to Good Health, ” writer Nick Gallo said, “ Humor is good medicine – and can actually help keep you in good health.” He quoted William F. Fry, M.D., who described laughter as “inner jogging” and good for a person’s cardiovascular system. Laughter is also a great “prescription” for stress and anxiety.

Dr. Fry concluded, “An enduring sense of humor, especially combined with other inner resources such as faith and optimism, appears to be a potent force for better health.”

Christians, above all others, should benefit from laughter because we have the greatest reason to be joyful. Our faith is firmly rooted in God, and our optimism is based on the assurance that our lives are under His wise control.

If laughter is so good for our health, I thought we’d make today a day for sharing some short videos that have triggered our sense of humor. Let’s “laugh our way to good health!”

Reclaiming Our Lives: Embracing the Life We’ve Been Given

Can you imagine what it would be like to live on a submarine? According to an article I recently read, some civilian submarines have windows – technically called “viewports” – but when the submarine is deep underwater, all you see when you look out is blackness. Without artificial light, the crew on a submarine would be unable to function.

Trying to live with chronic illness solely on human perspective can be compared to living on a submerged submarine without any artificial light. To make sense of our lives when we are struggling with the pain and limitations of chronic illness, we need the light of God’s Word to push out the darkness. Having God’s perspective is like having a periscope that allows us to see beyond the darkness and obstacles in our path and navigate safely toward our destination.

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As we continue with this year’s focus on reclaiming our lives after a chronic illness diagnosis, today I wanted to focus on the truth that sometimes we need to let go of our life plan and embrace the life we have been given. The first steps to reclaiming our lives when chronic illness and the limitations it causes don’t go away are acceptance of what is and trust that God really does love us and knows what is best for us.

As a young child, my dream was to be a teacher. After finishing high school, I enrolled in a state college in my home state of Maryland and graduated with a degree in early childhood education. During this time, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, and I was confident I was right where the Lord wanted me. My plan was to teach kindergarten, which I did for two years before I heard the Lord calling me to attend Bible college, where I met my husband Mitch.

My life plan was to get married, find another teaching job in Texas where I was now living, and continue living out my dream of being a teacher. But it wasn’t long before we faced a major obstacle.

My husband and I, with our toddler Teresa, were on a trip to see some friends in Fort Worth and pick up some construction supplies for Mitch’s boss, when a drunk driver ran into our vehicle and forever changed our lives. My husband came out with a cracked rib and knee, and lacerations on his face and knees, but Teresa and I weren’t quite so lucky. Teresa did not survive the accident, and my doctor told Mitch that, if I survived, I might never walk again. Though we mourned the loss of our precious daughter, God was gracious and I did survive. Though the injuries I received in this accident were the beginning of a battle with degenerative arthritis and neuropathy, I was able to walk without assistance for many years.

In 1977, our daughter Amy was born, and when she was four years old I was able to return to teaching, this time in a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten program our church started. The following summer our son David was added to the family. We quickly noticed David had an unusual sensitivity to light, but we weren’t worried about his health.

When David was around three months old, we decided to move to Houston where Mitch’s family lived. A couple weeks later, we took him in to see a new pediatrician. She was extremely concerned that something was wrong, and before the day was over David was admitted to Texas Children’s Hospital for neurological testing.

To cut the story short, David was diagnosed with Massive Infantile Spasms, a seizure disorder that basically stopped his mental development and left him unable to do anything for himself. Now we were facing an obstacle that was so big we had no idea how we would navigate it. It truly felt like we were in a submarine, deep underwater, and unable to see beyond the darkness and obstacles ahead.

I could go on and tell you about the next thirty-four years, which ended with the Lord taking David home to be with Him last November, but this is enough of my story to help you understand that my life definitely has not turned out the way I planned.

To continue functioning, my husband and I had to release the life we had pictured when we first married and to embrace the life we had been given. So how is this possible? Here are some steps to take, along with a few Scriptures that have helped me navigate this path that was so far from what we had planned. (All verses are in ESV)

• We must choose to let go of the past and turn our focus on the future.

“Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭3:13b-14‬ ‭‬‬‬‬‬‬

• Remember God more highly values inward renewal above what is going on outwardly.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‬‬‬‬‬

• Do you feel like outwardly your body seems to be “wasting away”? Is chronic illness the “thorn in the flesh” that you’ve begged God to take away? For me, God’s answer, for now at least, has been similar to His answer to the apostle Paul.

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

• Scripture makes it clear that life on earth involves warfare and suffering.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:8-10

• Finally, while Jesus has already defeated the enemy, we won’t experience the full effect of His victory until we go to be with Him in the new heaven and the new earth. Until that time, let’s hold on to the promise that it won’t always be like this.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” Revelation‬ ‭21:3-4‬ ‭‬‬‬‬‬‬

Are you still mourning what you’ve lost from chronic illness? Are you struggling to embrace the life you’ve been given and begin moving forward? If so I hope you will join me in the following prayer.

Father, I am choosing to embrace the life You have given me. You know this is not what I had in mind for my life. But for now at least, it is reality. I will not lose heart, even though it feels like my body is wasting away. I believe Your grace is sufficient for me, even in this situation. I will be content with weakness and hardships, because when I bring You my weakness You replace it with Your strength.

Father, I recognize life on this fallen earth is a battle. I have an enemy, the devil, who wants to devour me. Help me to be sober-minded and watchful, to recognize his attacks and resist him as I stand firm in my faith.

Lord, thank You that Jesus has already defeated the devil by His suffering and death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. This time of suffering will come to an end when Jesus returns to set up His Kingdom. Then there will be no death or mourning, no crying or pain. These will have passed away never to be again. Until that time, help me to seek Your will daily, and to walk in the fulness of what You have for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Learning to Wait Well

I am in a time of waiting. I have been in a time of waiting since shortly after I heard a call from the Lord last spring to write a Bible study for our small Bible study group at church and made a commitment to do so. I was preparing to get started on this project, even got an outline down on paper, when suddenly my health took a deep dive from which I still haven’t recovered.

Suddenly, my life was filled with one appointment after another, trying to figure out what was going on and come up with a treatment plan for hopefully getting back to where I was before things changed overnight. Unfortunately, since that negative overnight change, there have been no positive overnight changes. Instead, there have been a series of small and gradual steps forward, each including extended times of waiting.

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Waiting isn’t optional. It’s a part of life, some times moreso than others. But choosing how we will wait is up to us. Will we wait with complaining and discontentment? Or will we wait with trust in the One Who rules in our lives, remembering He is not only in control of our circumstances but also in control of the timing? Waiting well means continuing to look forward to the future we’re moving toward while living faithfully where God has us right now.

How do we wait well? God’s Word gives us several answers to this question. Let’s look at a few from the book of Psalms (all verses in ESV)

  • To wait well is to wait prayerfully.Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” Psalms‬ ‭25:4-5‬ ‭
  • To wait well is to wait with strength and courage.Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭31:24‬ ‭
  • To wait well is to wait with joyful trust in the Lord and in His steadfast love.Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” Psalms‬ ‭33:20-22‬ ‭
  • To wait well is to wait patiently. “I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭40:1‬ ‭‬
  • To wait well is to wait with hope and expectancy.Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us.” Psalms‬ ‭123:2‬ ‭
  • To wait well is to wait believing God will do what He has said in His Word. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭130:5‬ ‭

One of the best ways to wait well is to turn a time of waiting into a time of worship. Worship causes us to shift our focus off of our limiting circumstances and onto our limitless God. Let’s choose to wait well, and let’s back up that choice by turning our hearts toward the Lord in worship.