Today, I’m trying to recover from two physically exhausting days of medical appointments and two nights where the pain kept me awake. Life with chronic illness can be difficult, especially when new symptoms start popping up and we don’t know the cause of them. Doctor’s appointments, lab work, medical tests – they can all be challenging when you’re already feeling at the end of your strength.
But as I was taking some time in prayer this morning, God gently spoke to my mind in the midst of all the unknowns to turn my eyes on what I DO KNOW. I may not know why the Lord has allowed this interruption in my plans or what the future holds. But I do know I’m not alone. No matter what today or the future holds, I know I can continue moving forward because the Lord is at my side.
I do know I can choose to draw close to God and find comfort in His presence and His Word.
I do know He is my loving Father, who wants the very best for me.
I do know He is my faithful God who always keeps His promises.
I do know His grace is sufficient for me in every situation He asks me to walk through.
I do know He invites me to cast all my cares on Him because He cares for me.
I do know He proved without a doubt how much He loves me when He paid the ultimate price of giving His Son Jesus Christ to make a way for me to draw near to Him in both good times and in times of need.
I do know He is God over all I don’t know, over every pain, fear, and unanswered question. Even when I don’t know all the answers I can rest in the assurance that my God does!
No matter what fears you’re battling today or what unanswered questions you have, you can know we serve a God who is God over ALL we don’t know.
For the last two years, God has clearly put a specific word on my heart for a Word of the Year. In 2016 it was JOY. I learned that JOY is found in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. And I began forming a new habit of CHOOSING JOY when I didn’t always feel it in my emotions.
In December 2016, I again received clear direction from God for a Word of the Year for 2017. HOPE was the word I heard repeatedly in prayer, as 2016 came to an end. Again, it proved to be a very appropriate choice, during a year that turned out to be one of the most difficult we’ve recently been through. I shared some of the things God has taught me this year about hope in my recent blog post: https://readywriterbr.wordpress.com/2017/12/26/exploring-our-theme-part-2-still-anchored-in-hope/
As December 2017 began, I again began asking God what word He wanted me to focus on for 2018. For the whole month I prayed, but no one particular word stood out to me. Then as I was reading my Bible and praying this final morning of 2017, I sensed God speaking not a word but a phrase to my heart: A NEW THING. I did a search using one of my Bible apps, and Isaiah 43:19 jumped out at me as a clear word from the Lord.
I’m not sure what lies ahead of us in 2018, but there are definitely some signs that God is at work. My husband has an appointment on New Year’s Day that has the potential of being a major breakthrough in his dream of producing Christian movies – or possibly a total detour from God’s plan. We are moving forward with expectancy that the Lord will make His will clear.
Some of the major issues we have dealt with in 2017 are now behind us, others should be behind us in the next few weeks, and still others present longterm issues that are unlikely to be resolved any time soon. 2017 has definitely been a year of walking through the wilderness, but at no time have we been alone. God has clearly led us through this year, bringing us into a place of increased obedience to the precepts of His Word and a deeper knowledge of His nature. As 2017 comes to an end and 2018 is on the horizon, I’m taking hold of this promise that the Lord is making a way in the wilderness and will provide streams in the wasteland.
And as the new year draws closer, God is continuing to speak to my heart. REST. My new Word of the Year. This is a year to learn to REST in the Lord and in His work in my life. To REST in His promises and His character.
Almost from the time I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, I have known what it is to live in hard circumstances. My husband and I had an automobile accident that took the life of our firstborn daughter and left me with numerous fractures. We have a special needs son (now an adult), who is completely bed bound and dependent upon others to meet all of his needs. For several years, my husband, adult daughter, and I were the main caregivers for my mother-in-law as Alzheimer’s gradually took her life. Now, my biggest struggle is with my own health, as I deal daily with a long list of chronic illnesses, including severe osteoarthritis of the knees and spine, lumbar and cervical spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, carpal and tarsal tunnel syndromes, plantar fasciitis in my feet, progressive polyneuropathy, and fibromyalgia.
I haven’t shared what I’ve been through to cause you to feel sorry for me. Rather, I want you to understand that I know what it is to face severe and on-going suffering. I’m not saying that I’ve always immediately turned to God when another painful situation arose. It’s been a growing process. But I can honestly say without God’s grace and strength, I wouldn’t have made it through all of these difficult situations without becoming a person filled with self-pity, anger, and bitterness. I can say that God is “enough” in hard circumstances, if we choose to allow Him be “enough.” And I can share some understandings and steps that have helped me to make this choice.
Recognize that suffering is a result of the fall. We are not promised a life on this earth without suffering. Everyone faces times of suffering, and this will continue until we are in God’s physical presence, in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
Know that God is not the cause of most of the suffering we face. Much of our suffering is a result of sin, either in our lives or in the lives of someone else. An example of this is the accident we had. It was caused by a driver who had been drinking and lost control of his car when he leaned down to pick up a cigarette.
Understand that God allows suffering and works through it to accomplish His purposes in our lives. James addressed this in his letter. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV)
Let go of the past, accept the present, and trust God with the future. Learn to live one day at a time. Take your worriesI about the future to the Lord and leave them in His capable hands. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
Lean on God’s grace and strength, especially on the hard days. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “God shields us from most of the things we fear, but when He chooses not to shield us, He unfailingly allots grace in the measure needed, It is for us to choose to receive or refuse it. Our joy or our misery wil depend on that choice.” Decide to live by the truth Paul learned by his “thorn in the flesh.” “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 ESV)
Take time daily to strengthen your spirit. Prayer, Bible study, worship and gratefulness are important disciplines for all believers in Christ, but even moreso for us as we deal with daily health struggles and challenges. Get to know God by spending time studying His names and character. Listen to worship music that reminds you of the truths you need to hold onto. Look for God’s blessings in the trials, and keep a gratefulness journal. Draw strength from His presence and His steadfast love.
Finally, remember we are only in our present bodies for a short time. Focus on what counts for eternity. “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 ESV)
So, back to our original question: Is God “enough” in hard circumstances? Honestly, the answer depends upon you. He will be more than enough if you choose to allow Him to be. As Oswald Chambers said, “We all know people who have been made much meaner and more irritable and more intolerable to live with by suffering: it’s not right to say that all suffering perfects. It only perfects one type of person… The one who accepts the call of God in Jesus Christ.” My prayer is that we all will choose to be that – the latter – type of person. Choose to be the kind of person James wrote about in the first chapter of his epistle: “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 ESV)