You CAN Celebrate (even if you don’t feel like it at all)

This was such an encouragement to me! In the business of the end of my first semester back in college, I haven’t had the time to write. This blog-post sums up the perspective that I purpose to have as I continue to follow the path God has for me. It’s easy to get discouraged because if I compare my life to others my age, I feel “left-behind,” and “missing out,” a lot of times because I can’t share in the same experiences as many of my peers. The friends I entered college with are already graduated, married, dating, and getting established in their first jobs, while I’m still in school. I could easily feel discontent and “behind,” but the reality is that I am EXACTLY where God wants me to be. If you are in a season that seems “out of sync” with where you thought you should be by now, please give this a read!

Down Cottonwood Lane

It’s no secret that I love this time of year. It’s always so full of energy. There are new beginnings and hard-earned endings. People celebrate all through May, and it feels like the Christmas season of the spring. I always love a good holiday, but all this happy celebration (just like Christmastime) can punctuate the sadness and struggles you may be facing.

I know that a constant barrage of achievements and college degrees might make you wonder where you really stand. I know that watching wedding after wedding can be emotionally exhausting. I know that one more engagement might tip your heart over the edge. I know that Mother’s Day can be full of grief for whatever reason…missing your own mother, infertility, postpartum depression, miscarriage, not “measuring up” as a mother, etc & so forth.

And you might be asking all sorts of questions,

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Annabelle’s Dance

This amazing testimony comes from the heart of family wading through deep waters and their response to the trials God allowed them to go through. It is definitely worth the read and would greatly encourage you as it has me!

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

32 Weeks, 1 Day

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time todie;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time toweep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time todance.”
(Ecc. 3:1-4)

We have spent some excruciatingly painful times weeping and mourning over these past few months. But lest you think we mourn without dancing, here is a glimpse at our dance with Annabelle.


My dear Annabelle,

You have given Mommy and Daddy so many reasons to smile over these past 7.5 months. But since you can’t see outside your cozy little space, let me tell you about some of the ways we’ve enjoyed…

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When Your Life Changes, God Does Not.

 

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“‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

It’s nearly the end of January and I finally dug this post out of my drafts and finished the thoughts I had started recording a month ago. December and January are usually my months to hit pause for a moment and reflect on my life. What changed this past year? How did I mature from those experiences? What do I still need to learn? What do I want to learn? During that process, I do a spiritual check-up to see if I’ve grown closer in my relationship to the Lord, and what new things I’ve learned about Him and His character throughout the year.

I always begin reflecting on where I was a year ago and compare it to where I am today. This year in particular the process brings tears to my eyes as I see a testament of God’s unfailing GRACE. Around this time a year ago I came to the harsh realization that I was not going to fulfill certain expectations that I had set my heart on: I wasn’t going to graduate in May as I had hoped. I was dangerously unhealthy, and if I didn’t stop soon, I’d cause myself serious damage. I was emotionally, mentally, and physically drained from yet another setback in my life. And I didn’t understand WHY God seemingly was allowing me to go through another health trial.

Flash forward to present day. I’m settling down in a new city, in a new state, in my own apartment, with my own car, and two weeks into getting a fresh start at a new school in the new year to finally finish the degree I’ve dreamt about since I was in high school. I’m healthier, happier, and with a renewed sense of purpose with this second chance at university. I have a strong support system of godly, solid friends here in my new town, despite being several states away from my parents for the first time in my life.

There’s been a lot of change in my life in the last couple of months. Let’s be real. It has not all been easy, breezy, and beautiful. Moving for the first time was stressful. Being on my own was an adjustment because I have to learn to buy and cook my own food, set up a house routine that works for me, make sure the rent is paid, and balance all of that with full time school. There’s also the aspect of trying to find a new church, and learn to navigate new social circles that come with the new environment. I’m a transfer student coming in the spring as a junior music ed major. I’ve sat out of school for an entire year to heal, and there’s a good chance it will take a bit of effort to get the music major gears oiled and running once more. I am going to a new campus with new layouts to learn, new professors to get to know, and uncertain expectations of the inner nuances that make a music department. There is a LOT to learn to adjust to. And to be honest, it could feel overwhelming if I try to absorb and process all of these changes in one sitting. (I wouldn’t recommend that.)

I am faced with navigating a fairly big life change and that is something we can all relate to. It happens. It is a fundamental part of growing and changing into the person God wants us to be. And honestly, it is also a method of sanctification God uses to draw us closer to Himself. I can go back to my journals and relive all the months of that season of waiting I experienced prior to this move. I wrote about my frustration with not having answers, not understanding WHY God was allowing certain set backs, not knowing where I was headed, and feeling very disoriented and confused.

Waiting is not always fun, and we unconsciously presume that once we have answers we will automatically be content! We will have the instant feelings of peace, happiness, and satisfaction for receiving exactly what we want, because obviously that is what is going to make us ultimately fulfilled. O how little our faith is, and how shallow our understanding of God! I have learned that no matter how much my life changes, God does not. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8)

I have learned that no matter how much my life changes, God does not.

During the last two years I had been plagued with uncertainty and much fear, but God in His Grace pulled me closer to His Strength during those vulnerable moments. I look forward to this new season with growing confidence in His faithfulness. So many times God has proven Himself worthy to be trusted, worthy to be praised, and worthy to be worshiped. The last four years have imprinted themselves upon my heart, and I earnestly pray –

“Lord, let me not forget. Help me to remember my broken days. Help me recount your sovereign ways. Help me to rest on history past in the knowledge that your strength is constant, abundant, and vast. Lord, please help me not forget.” 

I don’t want to forget the days that I was driven to my knees, because those were the days that God was tangible to me. The gripping reality of being at the feet of the God of the universe with all of my burdens, and His voice telling me to “cast my cares upon Him because He cares for me, ” it is almost too much for me to try to write out. Abundant love! Matchless Grace! They’re not cliches, but truths.

While reflection is necessary and healthy, I try not to dwell too much on the past. God has new lessons for us to learn every day, and I desire to move into this new season of like Paul described in Hebrews 12:1.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

As Christians we are in a marathon pursuing Christ-likeness. In order to do so effectively, as God reveals our hearts, we must put aside the different distractions and temptations that might hinder us from living holy lives. God will grant us the conscience and the sensitivity to be aware of our personal “weights” as we pray for the Holy Spirit to work in us. There may be another season of faith-filled waiting ahead as a consequence, but we have the power of Christ to help us endure and grow through the lessons that are certainly ahead for you and I. We can rest in the fact that His plans are always just, and His ways born out of His deep abiding love for each and every one of us. Rest in Him, friend!

 

 

 

This Isn’t How I Imagined It Would Be…

How many times have we found ourselves in the midst of God’s plans and said, “This isn’t how I imagined it would be…” I could stop there and not finish that sentence and we could have a whole blog post painfully dwelling on the million thoughts of “what if things were different”  about a past we can’t change. That is not this post.Screen Shot 2018-08-13 at 8.52.22 PM

Some of you may have been wondering what’s been going on with me these last couple of months. Well, this is my life update in a nutshell:

This isn’t how I imagined it would be… but it’s so much better.

I can’t change my past no matter how hard I try. I don’t find my sole identity in it, though it has helped shape who I am today. My past doesn’t dictate my future, but I’ve been learning that my present will help shape my tomorrow. Specifically, my being present. This is Philippians 4:8 living. This is living Matthew 6:25 -34 in obedience.

I’m a dreamer and have a wonderful imagination that I’ve often escaped to in times of stress or boredom in an effort to escape TODAY. It’s a “the grass is greener over there” mentality which obviously isn’t a healthy state of mind I should live in.

I have found that my mind is both a blessing and curse, a landscape of ideas and plans, yet a cage I get easily trapped by when I try to live in a future that hasn’t happened. In that cage I can feed fear and worry in all of its forms: fear of failure, fear of meaninglessness, fear of people, fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, and fear of unfulfilled dreams. Anxiety.

The only thing that has been able to cut through the fog of my mind has been the Bible. Matthew 6 is an amazing passage that is part of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. It addresses the problem of worry (lack of trust in God’s character) and provides a very clear solution to live out truth. Take one day at a time, because that’s how God intended us to live.

Matthew 6:25-33

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

I’ve been learning the “one day at a time” living principle over the last couple of months of being home. Last December I reached my wall in regards to my health and school and decided to withdraw from college so I could seriously focus on getting healthier. It was simultaneously the hardest and best decision I have ever had to make to this day. It was hard because I had detrimentally put off focusing on healing to push through one more year of college. I was miserable mentally, physically, emotionally, academically, and confused spiritually. Thankfully God drove me to my knees and made me face some harsh realities about trying to live up to my own standards versus simply living in obedience to Him.

Basically, I had come to a point where I had to stop, drop, and heal before I seriously (and permanently) damaged my body. (Chronic stress will do a number on you!) The first few months were extremely hard on me as I sorted through the jumbled mess of my heart and head when all of my close friends were preparing for graduation and I was indefinitely postponed from participating.

Oi, did that hurt. I felt like an utter failure, left behind, and worthless. There wasn’t an end in sight. I thought I would be walking, and I wasn’t going to, not to mention I didn’t know if I was going to be able to any time soon. Everyone was moving on into a new season of life and I was in this weird invalid limbo, useless and (in my lying thoughts) easily forgotten. Safe to say, I was extremely frustrated with myself and the prison of an unhealthy body and mind.

God never leaves His children or forsakes them. Instead, He provides peace that passes all human understanding to help us grieve, to comfort us, and strengthen us to take the next faith step in His timing. I was driven towards His Word which was my only comfort and my only clarity during the first couple months of 2018. I had the luxury to take all the time I needed to immerse myself in meditating on God without the pressure of urgent responsibilities. I had the luxury to have precious unhindered one on one time with the Lord, and the luxury of being still and quiet so I could hear Him clearly. I learned a lot.

  • I learned about His abundant Grace towards me. (2 Cor. 12:8-9)
  • I learned more about myself and began to find my identity in Christ instead of my own human expectations. (Psalm 139) 
  • I learned crucial lessons about living in FAITH and accepting God’s grace in my daily life. (2 Corinthians 5:7, Heb. 11:8b)
  • I learned about His perfect LOVE that casts out fear (1 John 4:18, 2 Tim. 1:7) and how I could rely on God loving me perfectly and allowing different experiences into my life to refine and push me to be more like Him. (James 1:3, Romans 5:4) 
  • I learned to TRUST in a Sovereign God who completely understands me, who anticipates and meets my needs, and who cherishes me and provides the emotional security and stability I was searching for. (Isaiah 55:8-9, Jer. 31:3)
  • I learned to think and inundate my mind with TRUTH so that my expectations reflected God’s expectations for my life rather than what I thought other people wanted me to be. (Phil. 4:8)
  • I learned to take steps of faith on God’s terms at God’s pace, reassuring myself of the steadfastness of His mercy and character instead of worrying about the end result.  (Prov. 3:5-6, Ps. 119:105) 

I learned to trust God with my future however it looked (health-wise, academically, and relationally) and continued to pray for direction. I still had the question about finishing my education because it became clear that God closed the door to finishing school at the university up north. My health was seriously aggravated by the weather and I honestly needed a fresh start if I wanted to be motivated to finish my degree. Out of nowhere, a friend offered me an opportunity to join her on a trip down south where we’d visit her alumni university in South Carolina. I prayed about it and went on that trip in faith, waiting to see what would come of it. It soon became evident that God was working through this opportunity and multiple people I met began to affirm that this might be a new direction for me to go.

All of my questions about health care, transferring credits, connections, and living arrangements were basically answered. I found myself surrounded by some of my closest college friends who had graduated the year before and moved to the area around the university I was looking at! I had abundant access to health resources that could assist my healing process. I had people who shared and understood my experience with chronic illness. And I had a opportunity to get the fresh start I desired as I pursued God’s perfect will in my life. I was invigorated during my visit due to the climate, and I actually felt healthy for the first time in 3 years! It was incredible!

Fast-forward to today, I have more energy because I’m allowing myself to rest and I’m cognizant of a healthier homeostasis. I’ve changed several bad habits and am earnestly working on making newer healthier ones. I’ve been accepted as a transfer and will continue pursuing my music ed degree down in Greenville, SC. In a few months I’ll be moving there to live on my own for the first time! I am anticipating all the lessons God is teaching me in this season of growing health, new unknowns, and faith tests.

With this season of change comes a lot of future content as I continue to share what God is teaching me as He leads. I’ve learned that He controls my “pen” and when He wants me to write, I’ll write.

I hope this gives you encouragement that while the seasons of waiting may be long and silent, God is still working! He is always steadfast in His love, and His love will manifest itself perfectly in our lives as He directs us. God always has a plan for our lives, even when it doesn’t seem clear to us. That’s when we need to apply Philippians 4:8 to our thoughts (Whatever is true -think on these things.) Our clarity isn’t a requirement for God to be working. He isn’t in the business of always answering to the benefit of our immediate happiness. God always is looking for our eternal joy and happiness which only comes through Christ and a life surrendered to Him.

This isn’t what I imagined my life would be.

It’s so much better.

To God “that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” Praise His Name!

Chronic Illness: Part 4 – Music and Suffering

 

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It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt inclined to write here. There have been other things in my life that have needed my attention, so this blog fell to the back-burner so to speak. In my time away, however, God has taught me so many things that I definitely want to share with you at a later date! There will be a life update in a future post. 🙂 To review what we’ve talked about in this Chronic Illness series already, check out Part 1 ,Part 2 ,and Part 3. Now on to today’s topic!

God’s Truth and Music

I initially had another post planned as the “part 4” in this series on chronic illness, however I felt that this topic would be a nice juxtaposition to the previous post describing the spiritual battles behind being sick.  Again, this was organically born from my own experiences in the last couple of months. The Lord has been gently leading me to greater understandings of the lessons He has set up for me in this season of illness.

Just about a year ago, one of my best friends introduced me to a particular song by musician Laura Story called Blessings. At the time that friend, two other mutual friends, and I were dealing with different degrees of illness in college, and this song resonated in our hearts at the deepest level. Last September I went to the Getty SING! music conference in Nashville where I saw Laura Story and Joni Eareckson Tada speak in a session on music and suffering.

Laura had to deal with the life-changing experience of walking with her husband through a brain tumor journey. Joni Eareckson Tada became a quadriplegic after a diving accident at 19 years of age. Both ladies shared the impact that music had played to comfort and challenge them through their trials. Music has a way of penetrating our souls in ways mere words cannot. We can be comforted as well as challenged by God’s truth as we listen then meditate on a song. My journal is full of hymn texts and song lyrics that I’ll mull over in my head to keep my mind focused on what is true about my God and what is true about my situation. The spiritual battles are fought with TRUTH. Jesus resisted the devil by quoting scripture. The Bible is FILLED with so many verses that speak about the importance of speaking Truth to oneself as a source of strength, defense, refreshment, and encouragement.

“Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11) 

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) 

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4: 1-4) 

One of the greatest hurdles with dealing with chronic illness is how many LIES we can tell ourselves and how many lies surround us. The world gives us temporary solutions to combat the despair, discouragement, and depression we sometimes feel in response to our chronic illness. There are placebo pills, positivity/empowerment messages of “Don’t let this illness get you down! You are stronger than you think!” and distraction philosophies that the world tells you will help regulate your emotions during times of trial.

They might seemingly work for a time, but those of us who’ve gone through “deep water experiences” know that the world’s solutions will not satisfy or penetrate the heart levels as God’s truth can. They are inferior to the superiority of our Sovereign God.

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) 

Only God’s Word can help bring light unto the darkness of our situations and comfort us with a “peace that passes all understanding.”

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Music alone can be powerful. It has a way of comforting the soul when it’s in the deepest of turmoil. The Bible gives us an example of how the evil spirit within Saul was calmed when David played music.

“And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” (1 Samuel 16:23)

There was a research study done by the American Psychological Association that delved into the effects of songs with violent lyrics on aggressive thoughts and hostile feelings. Basically, studies like the one above observed what happened to people when someone used music and paired it with “un-truth” and the resulting social, emotional, and psychological consequences. If you wanted to see more information on this, just type “Does music influence behavior?” in your search engine. I guarantee you, you will find hundreds of articles talking about the effect of music on the brain.

So what happens when you combine TRUTH and music together? This is the cool part. You have a powerful combination that helps to comfort your soul in the most trying of times, and a means of hiding God’s word and truth in your heart through repetition!
Joni Eareckson Tada emphasized how we Christians need to have deep truth we can cling to and meditate upon to lift our spirits in trial. I couldn’t agree more.

There is a great debate about musical style in the Christian realm, and while I won’t get into that, I truly believe that one needs to go to the Bible for himself to decide what his personal preferences will look like. There are clear guidelines that we need to follow in regards to be discerning about what we allow to influence our life. (Psalm 19:14; Phil.4:8; 1Cor. 10:31-to name a few.) The Bible must always be the root source of our convictions, personal choices, and grounding beliefs. You have to look there first and know your God deeply to get a clearer picture of what pleases him (music included!), and He surely will direct you! We shouldn’t go to the Bible to justify our own choices. The Bible’s truths and principles need to dictate our choices. Isn’t it wonderful that we can serve the same God and yet do it in different ways that are all pleasing to Him!

Not everyone is going to have the same convictions as to what style of music is “good” for them to encourage their walk with Christ. There’s going to be a lot of variety, but having different opinions doesn’t have to divide us if we are all united in the body of Christ and in the truth of His Gospel.

Music can be powerful and it can truly help those of us suffering through “deep waters” cling to the saving, comforting Truth of God.

Here are three songs that have greatly helped me through my years of sickness.

“Day by Day”  – Linda Sandell

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.

 

“Lord of the Small” – Johanna Anderson

Praise to the Lord of the small broken things,
who sees the poor sparrow that cannot take wing.
who loves the lame child and the wretch in the street
who comforts their sorrows and washes their feet.

Praise to the Lord of the faint and afraid
who girds them with courage and lends them His aid,
He pours out his spirit on vessels so weak,
that the timid can serve and the silent can speak.

Praise to the Lord of the frail and the ill
who heals their afflictions or carries them till,
they leave this tired frame and to paradise fly.
to never be sick and never to die.

Praise him, O praise Him all ye who live
who’ve been given so much and can so little give
our frail lisping praise God will never despise-
He sees His dear children through mercy-filled eyes.

“Blessings”Laura Story

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

 

 

 

Chronic Illness: Part 3 – The Spiritual Battle

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If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2 of this series, feel free to catch up!

I took a little longer to publish this, because this post is rather tricky for me to write. I suppose that’s because I’m in the midst of this specific focus on chronic illness. It’s not something I’m reflecting on that happened in the past, but rather something that I am currently dealing with. This is a look at my reality.

In the first post, I briefly talked about the emotional and spiritual warefare people face on top of the physical battle of chronic illness. Here’s my main thought on that.

As Christians in the scope of all eternity, our earthly physical suffering is merely a backdrop to spiritual warfare where our heart is the prize.

That’s a bit much to chew on, so let me try to break it down a little.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Spiritual Warfare: The Greater Battle

When you think about a person suffering from a long term illness, your focus is primarily on the the pain that they are having to face. You may see a outward disintegration of health (sometimes you don’t #invisible illness), but you rarely get a glimpse of the internal conflict that is a day to day reality for us.

When my body is weakest I have to fight the most. I have to fight the lies that Satan tells me: lies about my situation, lies about the the duration of my suffering, lies about my future, lies about my worth, lies about who God is. I am bombarded by thoughts of discouragement, despair,  anger, frustration, impatience, pessimism, fear, worry, and defeatism. I will be addressing how I fight specific lies Satan and my flesh bring to mind in an upcoming post, but here are some very common ones.

“I can’t ________, anymore.” 
“I used to be able to do ___________.” 
“I’m helpless,… worthless,… insignificant,…useless.” 
“God is cruel… unfair… vindictive… selfish…”
“If God was truly a loving God, why is there pain and suffering?”

When you’re lying in bed, stuck in some sort of “suffering limbo” and “everyone else” in the world is moving forward, it’s easy and natural to think despairingly about your situation, to question God, especially if you can’t seem to see an end to all of this. If you’re not actively fighting to think on truth, and you indulge where your feelings will lead you, I assure you, without a doubt you’ll surely end up in a very dark place. You’ll turn those lies over and over and over again in your brain, until basic depression can consume your mind.

You follow your natural feelings, you follow your natural responses, you’ll end up in a very dark, fear-ridden, worry-consuming, despairing, God-less place. Guaranteed. No doubt. I’ve done that, and I felt utterly alone. And I’m sure that anyone who has experienced some sort of chronic illness has been there too.

I feel that the primary difficulty of being chronically ill as a Christian is fighting the spiritual war that seem to overwhelm us in our weakest moments. Especially when we feel we are physically too weak to fight our minds. To me, at least, that is the biggest and most important of the battles I’m facing in the present, more so than the physical. Medicine may help alleviate my “outer” pains, those pertaining to my body, but it does very little to help with the battles of the mind and heart. When our bodies fail us, we are left alone with our minds, and if we are passive, it is so easy to give in to our flesh, to the world, and to Satan who ultimately rejoices in immobilizing our potential to minister for Christ.

That is the real battle, I feel. It is greater than the physical pain we may face, because our responses to the spiritual battles shape our perspective of who God is. Our perspective of who God is in turn shapes our lives and ultimately informs where we choose to spend eternity.

Spiritual Warfare: The Reality

It’s so easy to think when you’re physically healthy, cognitively sharp, and not currently experiencing trials, “I’m strong enough and smart enough to resist temptation. I’ve got enough will power to not fall for Satan’s deceptions. Telling myself those lies is ludicrous. It’s immature Christianity. I know who my God is. Just don’t think like that. Lord, just take away those thoughts.”

Ok. Let’s try that. Don’t think about pink elephants. Don’t you even dare even think about one ear of a pink elephant. Are you thinking about pink elephants? Whether or not you actually did, that’s a classic example people have used to show the futility of trying to control your mind by sheer will power. You cannot simply ignore or remove said thoughts like you may clean your computer desktop. You must change your focus and replace those thoughts “the weights that so easily beset us,” with truth. What is true about God in your situation? This is the ONLY way to fight the spiritual battle.

When Satan tempted the Son of God in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-11), Christ used scripture truths as His rebuttal. Like your invisible illness, you may not necessarily “see” a spiritual battle going on, but there is definitely one going on.  Satan is actively trying to use all of your circumstances, your flesh, and the world to distract you, to cause you to stumble, to weaken your faith in God, to change your perspective of God, to make you unprofitable and unusable to God. 

I know it. Because I can see that actively happening in my life. After a great encouraging Sunday when I’m reminded of how much God loves me, I’m riding this “spiritual high” of a refreshed understanding of my Abba’s character. Yay! Life is great, and I’m content with my sickness in that I know I’m drawing closer to God, so therefore, I can rejoice. Though life isn’t ideal, there isn’t anything to challenge my thinking otherwise. That’s Sunday.

Monday comes, and I might have a break down physically, or something someone says or does emotionally and physically stresses me. The next thing you know I’m questioning God’s love based off of my feelings. Note: That’s always a bad choice.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?(Jeremiah 17:9)

Thoughts like the following start to come into my mind, like cascading dominos. I don’t feel useful. I don’t feel like I’m ever going to get past this hurdle of weakness. I’m defined by my sickness. I’m never going to get better. Nobody loves a sickie. I’m a burden. Why is there so much pain? Why can’t I just be normal? On and on, and on.

Think of putting your face next to a hydrant and asking the fireman to turn on the water. I plummet. And as I sit amongst the carnage of my destructive thoughts in a moment of clarity, hours have past. Valuable time that had I been more active at guarding my heart and running away from my temptation to dwell on lies, I could have been writing, reading truth, encouraging, uplifting, praying, and communing with God. My passivity to the battle that I didn’t know was in front of me, rendered me useless for a day to the Lord.

Ironically enough, Satan uses my moment of clarity to start shoving feelings of guilt, of despair, of regret, of frustration, of confusion, of utter loss, and the inability to receive grace into my heart. I think: “I failed again. I sinned again. This was the ____ time. God must be tired of me failing. I’ll never conquer this. I’ll never be released from these bonds. I’ll never…

Lies, and more lies, unrelenting, hard, heavy, battering against my soul as Satan, my flesh, and the world work against what God is trying to do in my life. I want to be used of my Lord in whatever way He desires. I am His servant, who is willing to be taught. I am His little daughter who clings to Him as she tries to walk on those wobbly legs of faith. Yet I didn’t think I had to be a soldier so soon. My armor is weak, but my Father’s arm is strong as He helps me to lift the sword of truth to defend against the Enemy.

I fail countless times. Oh how I fail. Sometimes the weight of succumbing to temptation weighs heavily on my heart, because I feel beaten and down trodden, unable to have victory. I have been reminded recently that God gives Grace for EVERYTHING. While I feel far from triumphant, I know God will continue to give me strength, when I have none to fight these daily battles for my heart focus.

We have victory through Salvation. Satan no longer controls us. We CAN say no to temptation. We have the potential in Christ to resist. We just forget that way too often. There is hope in Christ. There’s a spiritual battle going on, and I’m right there with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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