Yesterday, or perhaps the day before, I was chatting with some fellow illness sufferers who did not believe in the Lord, and as I spoke with them about Christianity something dawned on me that I had not realized before: our situation made it seem ludicrously foolish to turn to Him. That isn't a hindrance to the Gospel message, of course, since according to 1 Corinthians "the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." And we need only look at countries of high persecution to see that the church flourishes where converts have no earthly incentive to come to Christ--in fact they have every earthly reason not to since in those countries the likelihood is that it will cost them their lives. And yet, the church grows and people are soaking in the Good News. So it was actually an encouragement for me to recognize this barrier that established a personal cost right from the start, so that only those "foolish" enough to give up their lives will enter.
What am I talking about? Well, with moderate to severe cases of this illness, you have very limited physical and mental energy. So for example, you might only have enough mental energy to talk with three people total in a day, and you have many friends and family that you want to maintain relationships with. You have to choose who gets your time and effort. Already in this all-too-common scenario you can't keep up socially with even your closest friends or family, and now this crazy Christian is suggesting that you should make connecting with God top priority over everything else, which would then mean instead of talking with 3 people a day you only get to talk with 2, or maybe just one. So for someone like me a relationship with God literally means sacrificing certain other relationships with people, because our brains simply do not possess the stamina to fully accomplish both. It means that in order to spend time reading the Bible you have to sacrifice time looking for relief from unbearable suffering. It means that getting on your knees to pray causes physical pain. It means that lifting your arms to praise the Lord might result in not being able to eat a hot dinner because your arms are too weak to fix it. And so on and so forth.
In short, every aspect of Christianity is a sacrifice right from the start. You already don't have enough energy to take care of your own needs, and now this person is urging you to dedicate what little you have left to God? Is she crazy?! Religion is all about being helped, if it doesn't make your life better then there's no reason to do it, she should know that!
No, they didn't use those words, but that was the gist of it. :) And I shared that religion isn't actually about you or me, it's about God. There are a lot of benefits to knowing Him, but there are also many sacrifices and the focus is not on how it helps you but rather on how you can serve God. In essence, I was saying turn to God even though doing so actually makes you physically worse. Who would ever want to do that? And yet this kind of "foolishness" is integral to the Gospel message, of giving up your life that you might find it in Christ.
This morning I find myself oddly encouraged. I am often disheartened to face each day knowing that I'll fail to accomplish even my most pressing priorities, but today He has reminded me that He is the one I must look to, even at the expense of all else. His words ring in my ears: "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life."
This morning, which was my bedtime, I trembled visibly as I opened my heart to the Lord in prayer. I was not afraid, rather I was overcome with a mixture of awe, grief, joy, and the restoration of hope.
Just prior to that I had written out my testimony of how I came to the Lord and also of my baptism. It always amazes me to look back on those two times because it is very clear that God was the one at work. In both cases no human initiated the concept to me since I was considered too young, yet God revealed Himself to me and I responded affirmatively to His call and His instructions. I was an infant in regards to the theology of it all....at aged 3 or 4 what did I know of theology? And yet that is the age at which I committed myself to Him, entrusted myself to His care, began interacting with Him constantly throughout the day in prayer, despising my sin and longing for righteousness. And then at age 9, what did I know about the intricate theology of baptism? I had no outward influence that might have swayed me in that direction, but one night as I was alone in my room praying the Lord informed me that He wanted me to be baptized. The message was plain as day. And while my church made sure I knew the proper Sunday school answers before they would permit it, the only genuine answer on my heart was that I wanted to be baptized because God told me to do it, and I want to obey Him because I love Him. And as the elders questioned me I wept tears of joy for the first time in my life, and again when I was baptized, and I still do whenever I recall the story. God did all that. He revealed Himself intimately to this little kid who at the time had only the faith of a child and nothing more. That was all that was needed.
As I matured spiritually, while the childlike connection with the Lord remained, I began to comprehend theology and to thoroughly enjoy learning it and debating it and searching the Scriptures and prayerfully wrestling with it. Those were the days! I'd spent weeks, months, even, on a single topic, various Bible translations and commentaries and other such helpful references scattered around me as I eagerly read part of one and then another, both brain and spirit hungry to discover the answers. There was always so much more to learn, and the more I did the more I discovered how little I know, and yet there continued to be the drive to know more, to learn more, for my doing so I grew more familiar with another aspect of my Lord's character.
It has been years now since I've been able to ponder theology. I long to, but my brain is simply incapable of following. In a way my walk with the Lord has reverted back to what it was a decade or so ago, with very sweet Bible memorization and interaction in prayer and trust and faith and love. I have grieved for the loss of mental ability to understand His logic and reasoning as I once did. I do so long to be well. This morning the Lord reassured my heart that it's okay. He who led a little girl that did not understand even the basics of theology is certainly capable of leading my heart now despite the failures of my brain to comprehend. He does not and will not require from me that which He has not granted me to possess.
And so today my heart is thankful, thankful that He has done and will do the work, that it is not on my shoulders to bear, thankful that nothing can separate me from God, not even this illness that ravages every other aspect of my life. I can trust Him. He had His eye on me as a little girl and He is watching me now--He would not bring me to this place for nothing. I will continue to worship Him and to weep in His presence as I present my petition, and I am thankful that He hears and asks no more of me than my all.
Man, this blog has been depressing lately. That isn't intentional but it is telling. Life has been a matter of going from crisis to crisis with little opportunity to think about anything other than getting through the current issue.
People want updates on how I'm doing, and in the past year or so I really haven't given them much. It's become too difficult to talk about in that way, because it forces me to think about my symptoms, which makes it more difficult to distract myself from them. I'd much rather spend my time researching completely unrelated subjects like which manual grain mill is the best or what people used before there was baking soda or how to survive a nuclear event. I call them "virtual hobbies" because I enjoy a variety of Interests that I cannot act upon. They're a pleasant vacation from my life.
But helpful as it may be, God also calls me to live in this life. To not flee from suffering, but to face it squarely. I used to do so, when I was more open about sharing it with others, but the burden became too heavy for them and I found I cannot bear it alone. I know that I am not alone, the Lord is with me, but when God's Word instructs us to carry each other's burdens I am certain it is refering to fellow humans, and that there is a reason it is important to do so.
So here is where I am hopefully going to start learning how to share my burden again. It is a heavy one, but perhaps if others share it the load can be lightened enough that the joy the Lord gives me will surface again.
That has to be the end of this post because I am grieving very hard right now. I could distract myself with happy things, but Jesus set the example of praying through it so off I go. Pray for me. Encouragement does not mitigate it and tears do not bring relief, the raw suffering simply must run its course. And He will bring me comfort.
I've been pondering lately a lot about faith.
From what I can tell, the modern church is much heavier on logic than it is on faith. Everything has an answer, a solution, an explanation. A lot of those answers can be very helpful and applicable. But sometimes there is no answer, and only God-given faith will bring you through.
When I was blogging through those two weeks of spiritual agony, I received some well-intentioned but unhelpful answers as I sought counsel on the matter. It appears that the Church as a whole is agreed that if God seems distant then you must be doing something wrong or failing to do something you should, and as soon as you get back with the program the issue will resolve itself. For some cases this may be true, and people easily buy into it because lets face it, who doesn't need to grow in their spiritual discipline? But as I prayed and read my Bible and preached to myself and pursued God with all my heart and I still received no comforting touch, I was reminded again that our God is an entity and not a formula. I dare say the fault was not with me or my spiritual discipline, nor was it with the Lord - yet I have no answer. If I say God withdrew His Spirit from me then I'll get quoted Scripture about God never leaving us, and the theology becomes more complex than my brain can follow. All I know is this: my Lord is in control, is wise, and has given me the faith to trust Him through this. And that's enough for now.
I would write more, but I'd like to sort out my thoughts first. I will just say that I find my need for faith without answers extends beyond myself, because I know so many suffering so extremely, and I do not have answers. But He is sufficient.
On a happier note, I have been so blessed lately by a multitude of little things. When I find or hear or think of something that delights me I'll laugh aloud, clap my hands, and have the hugest grin plastered on my face. This reaction is normal for me, and it only recently occured to me that most people are not as expressive of everyday joys as I am. The sound of rain on my roof or a spider returning to it's web when I accidentlaly scared it or the wind shaking my trailer or a truth of scripture made more real to me or reading about running a household - these are the kinds of things that delight me, when I have the energy to think of them, and I am thankful the Lord is giving me these moments of joy.
The Lord has granted me His comforting touch again.
It happened last evening, as I was weeping in His presence, I was comforted in my grief, and I have been so since. It does not stop my tears but it does make the load much easier to bear. As Jesus said once, "I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Yesterday I also found myself ardently thanking Him for a relatively small matter, the ability to attain proper posture. The significance of this gratefulness was that I whole-heartedly attributed this gift to Him. I have been blessed in many ways in these past two weeks, more significant ways than that, and I have thanked God for those blessings because I knew that He deserved the credit for it...and I was as sincere as I could possibly be without feeling it. I asked myself, how could I know these gifts are from God and yet still be unable to see His goodness? My self-examinations yielded no answer. But then yesterday, for a moment, He opened the eyes of my heart to taste and see His goodness once more.
I didn't do anything differently than I have been doing these past two weeks; there was no solution on my part - the simple fact of the matter is that God answered my plea. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, and He has given again.
I know that there is still much to be done in my heart but now is not the time for analysis; it's a time to rest in the peaceful comfort of His presence and leave the work to Him.