Thursday, May 19, 2011

Accepting Suffering In Our Lives

“Suffering, once accepted, loses its edge, for the terror of it lessens, and what remains is generally far more manageable than we had imagined.”

~Lesley Hazelton

No matter what kind of suffering you have, are, or will experience in life (marrital problems, abuse, illness, poverty, loss of a job, loss of a loved one, broken dreams, infertility, having a prodigal child ...) accepting that suffering can disarm it of much of it's agony.  I don't mean that we shouldn't do our best to get out of the possition of suffering (especially in the case of abuses), but that we should acknowledge the suffering in our lives and give it to God - knowing that He can redeem even the worst pain and suffering.  He never promises to take away all of our pain and suffering - but He does promise that no amount of suffering can separate us from His love.

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Suffering should not be a shock to us - we should go through life knowing that suffering will be part of it in one way or another.  There WILL be trouble throughout life.  And John is talking to believers here - so faith doesn't take away all suffering here on earth.
1 Peter 4:19

"So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good"

We shouldn't assume that because we are suffering that we did something to deserve it - or that we are missing God's will for our lives.  God allows suffering and sometimes it is even part of His will.
Philippians 4:6-7

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

This passage in Philippians is a great example of how we should accept what suffering God has allowed in our lives.  Not that we can't ask Him to remove the suffering - but that we shouldn't be anxious about it and we can trust that when we bring our requests to Him He will do what is best - that is where the peace comes from.
Romans 8: 31b, 35, 37-39

"If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. "

I LOVE this Romans passage.  Through EVERYTHING we face in life (and Paul knew a few things about suffering when he wrote this) God's love will be with us.  We can have hope and peace as we accept whatever He allows in our lives.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day

Yesterday was a lovely mother's day celebrating with family. As I rushed through the weekend (lots of preparations, shopping, cooking, cleaning) I kept feeling like I was forgetting something. Last night after the business of celbration died down I sat down to regroup and suddenly I realized what I was missing all weekend long: my babies. I sometimes feel like a mama who was made to be a mom but my arms are not holding a baby. I'm not gonna lie - this pain of being childless hurts worse than any physical pain I ever have had. Life is not all peaches and cream. We ALL suffer in some way. I'm not going to say that I am always happy facing the fact that I will never feel a baby move inside me or give my Husband a child that looks like him (because that child would be the cutest thing ever!). I have days were I can hardly breath because I long so deeply to be a mother.

BUT - I am also learning that I can be excited for what God has in store - and even though my ability to give birth to a child is taken away (and I will probably always grieve this in some way) God will work good out of this sadness if I let Him. We ALL have some kind of suffering and we don't often get to choose. But we do have choice over what we do with that suffering. If we allow it to make us bitter and hateful, or trusting and full of love and joy. I can honestly say that I don't hate mother's day. I rejoice in the beauty of motherhood around me and I pray that God will put me in that club someday - but even if He doesn't ever give us a baby - I know that God will use the mothering gift He has given me to love children He puts in our path. I choose to rejoice in His plan and know that He is the Redeemer who turns good things out of garbage. His blessings are sometimes in disguise.

The song above is a song that I heard today for the first time and LOVE the truth contained in the lyrics. Listen to it when you have some time to be alone with God. Rejoice that He can use even the deepest pain for His glory and that is the best blessing of all.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Great Excuses

Whenever we are wondering how we should act the best example to look to is of course Jesus.  Being God incarnate, He never sinned.  Not one of the rest of us can be that perfect.  BUT, if we don't aim high we won't amount to much.  I hear a lot of excuses that we as humans give, and I am ashamed that I use excuses myself from time to time.  "I just have a strong personality - so I come across as rude.", "I'm sick today, so I'm in a bad mood.", "I've been cleaning up all day so I have a right to snap at my husband and kids.", "I got bad news, so everyone should understand that I'm extra cranky today.",  "I'm in pain all the time, so I can't be expected to help with...".  The list of excuses goes on and on, and could continue forever. 

Those of us with chronic pain, or any chronic suffering, need to be VERY careful not to abuse relationships we have because of our limitations.  Knowing our limits is wise, but using our lack of health as an excuse to do what we know God is asking us to do is a waste.  I think people expect less of those who have chronic health issues, so it is especially easy for us to become lazy in doing what is good and what we need to do.  It is easy to let ourselves have bad attitudes because: "everyone will understand that I'm just having a 'bad day'".  While we do have "bad days" it doesn't excuse an attitude of grumbling and complaining.  I saw this quote on facebook and had to post it here:

"Even if our own troubles are great, we should still serve. Jesus washed His disciples feet on the way to the cross." ~ Tim Keller

This of this next time you are tempted to come up with a great excuse.

AND Happy Mother's Day to all of you beautiful, wonderful, caring mothers out there (my own sweet mama being #1!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Water in the face

I was outside gardening today.  In fact, I spend a lot of time outside in the garden.  Sometimes I just walk around and look at the plants, sometimes I plant seeds, sometimes I water, sometimes I weed til I am covered in dirt. The last is what I did today (well actually I did a little of each but ended with a LOT of weeding.  I am trying to reclaim parts of the yard that have been overtaken by weeds or by plants that grow too well giving no room to anything else.  I've mentioned on more than one occasion that being outside in the garden is thereputic - for me at least.  There are probably some of you who would rather drink cod liver oil than work in a garden.  But not me.  I'm a true child of the earth (as my Farmer used to say when we were all covered in dust after planting row upon row of crops on a hot day), and I feel so alive when I am working in the garden. 

Today while I was working I remembered something.  I was working hard and I remembered how when I was 15 and we were building our house I would be working hard in the garden or playing hard with my brother.  When I got hot from the heat of the day plus physical activity I would go to the red garden faucet and pull up on the handle til the cool water flowed out.  I would put my mouth under the faucet and drink the sweet fresh water and then let it run all over my face and sometimes the back of my neck if I was especially hot.  For some odd reason those moments with cool water just when I was feeling parched and tired was something that stuck with me.

Years later when I was becoming more and more sick I would take walks down the country road, past the farm where my Farmer (although at that time I have no clue of where our casual friendship would go!) worked, past the wild rose secret hollow, to the beach.  Then I would walk back - and since walking back was mostly uphill I would huff and puff and be totally wiped out at the end of the walk.  I often felt pretty bad pain on these walks especially going uphill - sometimes I had to sit alongside the road to ease the pain.  Somehow I felt that walking would make me stronger even though it hurt.  When I finally made it up our long dirt road and onto the first hill of our property I would see that old red faucet waiting for me.  I would put my face under the faucet and drink the sweet water and let it flow all over my face - splashing it over my arms and neck.  At this point I was having continual pain (something that started when I was 18), but when I felt the shock of the cold water against my flushed face it took the pain away for a moment and transported me back to those more carefree days when I was 15 without so much pain.   That red faucet kept me going and became my goal.  I would get through the pain and be rewarded with the bliss of cool water on my face. 

Ultimately, God and heaven should be the Goal that we look to when we are walking through the uphill parts of life.  One day all of us who believe and accept Him will be free of pain and we will see the face of God and be with Him forever.  He will wipe away all of our tears and make every pain worth it in the end.  God is so much more than cool water to a parched mouth.  He is Who I desire to live for every day - He is Who I want to love more every moment of my life.   Words cannot express how important He is, and how He gives me strength I couldn't have on my own.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Faith Fixes Everything ... Right??

Yesterday we almost missed out on church.  Since Joshua had been sick and he was looking toward chemistry final exam today he needed to sleep in.  So we literally slept through the first and second service.  Then we spent the day in the garden and playing singing hymns with the piano and guitar ... and viola.  It was so much fun.  Sort of last minute we ended up going to the evening service partly because we had to drop something off at church.  Pastor Jonathan was starting a new series.  EXCELLENT.  This sermon was so very good and so very important when living a life in chronic pain.  And this sermon reminded me of so much of what I want to encourage myself and others on this blog.   I KNOW that I have faith.  I believe that God could take away my pain right now.  But, I do not buy into the prosperity gospel that God gives health and wealth to ALL those who have faith.  I choose to live in the reality that life is hard and full of pain - but with God there is hope.  Not hope that God will do whatever I want.  But that God will do what is best and that even pain can be used to bring glory to Him.  I am choosing (and it is a moment by moment thing) to live the life that God gave me and to live with joy based on he relationship that I have with God and the hope of heaven and the belief that there is so much more than this earth.  There is so much more than a broken and hurting body.  Faith doesn't mean that I get what I want when I want it - faith means that I trust in God even when life hurts and makes me want to doubt everything.  Faith isn't holding onto God when everything is going smooth - it's jumping off a cliff knowing that God is holding me even when I can't see His hands.

PLEASE go to Pastor Jonathan's blog and go down o the bottom of the blog and click on download to listen to the sermon.  Then come back here and tell me what you thought about it!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On the other side of the fence

My Husband was sick this past week.  I knew something was bad when he told me in the middle of the night that his throat was sore - so I got up and got him some medication.  The next day he had school and work but he sent a text asking for me to pray for him to get throught his shift at work because he was feeling so achy.  When he got home I took his temp. and he had a fever which continued to get higher through the afternoon and evening.  Finally he feel to sleep and I knew he was REALLY sick when he didn't even want to eat his mom's homemade chicken soup with dumplings (which I had made for him).

Sometimes it's good for those of us who have continual health issues to take care of someone else who is in pain and feeling horribly sick.  While there are distinct differences in having a passing illness and being in constant pain or illness - it can be helpful for us to see how it feels to be the one caring for something who is sick.  It's important to feel the worry over if something could be seriously wrong, to know how it feels (even in part) to watch someone you love deeply feeling pain and sickness.  Not only does it move our eyes from the constant danger of selfish interspection, but it also helps us feel what it's like for those who are close to us to deal with our health issues.  I wanted to snap my fingers and make my husband feel better.  I LONGED to take away his fever and pain he was having.  I wanted to do anything to make him drink and eat and feel ok again.  I hated seeing him suffering.  I would a million times rather be the one who was sick (and I did end up catching a mild case of whatever it was he had) than the one watching someone suffering.  This is probably how my husband feels when I am in noticable pain or sick. 

I think the discipline of thinking outside of ourselves is so healthy and needed.  It isn't a pity party.  Life isn't just about me and my comfort.  I (and you) need to think how it feels for those who are close to us and love us.  Our chronic pain and illness that never goes away causes GREAT pain to those who love us as well.  Maybe it causes more pain to them than it does to us.  So for all of you who are reading who love someone who is dealing with chronic health issues: thank you for sticking with us.  Thank you for loving us even though our lack of good health causes you pain.  Thank you for being here when we feel alone.  Thank you for not giving up.  For going to yet another doctor appointment.  For reminding us to take medication or vitamins.  For cooking for us when we don't have the energy.  For finding little ways to ease our discomfort.  There are really no words to thank you enough. 

Lastly, in living well while dealing with chronic pain or illness, those of us on this side of the fence can ease the pain of those who love us and want us to be cured.  When I choose to live in joy even when life is no fun - I ease the pain that my husband (and others close to me) feel when they look at my life.  No, I am NOT always happy.  Life is NO fun at times.  Pain HURTS - badly sometimes.  But, there IS joy and hope and meaning even in a life lived with pain - and that is because of Jesus Christ.  Grab onto that joy and hope and meaning.  If you don't know the peace and joy that Jesus can give please talk to me about it!  I would love to share the best new I have ever heard with you.  He is the reason I live.