Just over one year ago, I wrote a post which I now believe may have been a premonition. On one of the last days of 2015 I wrote No Fear Campaign, 2015 and I have thought back to that post as well as revisited it so many times throughout this past year.
I was fueled with courage at the beginning of the year, but I had no idea why I would need it. And then the bottom dropped out of my life and I REQUIRED that courage more than ever. I suffered so much loss this year, I made a huge transition, fought a difficult battle, saw several new doctors, visited the hospital, started physical therapy, home care, and have been exposing myself to many new faces, new experiences, and could never have imagined any of this just one year ago. It’s true that this year, I’ve been in constant crisis management. But it’s also true that I’ve been managing my own crisis. That might seem like a given, but illness doesn’t always allow us that luxury.
Last year, the messages to be courageous seemed to jump out everywhere: Have no fear, do not fear, I am with you, be not afraid. If God wants you to hear a message, you will see it constantly whether it is on Facebook or Twitter or television or out of your home or in your Bible- if you feel like there is something that keeps popping up in front of you repeatedly, that message is JUST FOR YOU! Truth finds you. You can try to ignore it, but if God wants a message in front of you, He will repeat it and confirm it. It’s not a coincidence. And I am so thankful I grasped the message to have courage when I did. It truly saved my life this year and courage continues to change how I move forward.
Things are so hard now, SO HARD. But I’m planning to beat fear once again, and go to my sister’s wedding… in 7 days. This is possibly one of the scariest things I have ever attempted. And yes, I am afraid. As it comes closer, all of those I CAN’T thoughts are terrifying at times.
These posters were made around the end of last year. Around the same time that I wrote No Fear Campaign, I wrote a few other, fearless-themed posts. In one piece, I said: “The strength comes for the step you need it, not days or months ahead.” That is what I am counting on for this wedding adventure. And it helps give me peace that God will strengthen me and my body to do what needs to be done when the time comes, for my sister, and for me.
Whatever trials wait for you tomorrow, and paralyze your heart with worry today, I hope you feel comforted remembering you can call on that added strength and courage at the moment you need it. You aren’t walking your path alone.
~Peace be with you~
“Freedom lies in being bold.”
― Robert Frost
It’s easy to be thankful for your home and your family. Most people are thankful for their health and their careers or education. We should always treasure the people who are good to us, the comforts of home and our abilities, as life is so fragile. Those familiar with serious illness or tragedy understand that better than anyone.
But what if you lost everything?
What if tomorrow it was all gone?
What if you were left with only your physical pain and all of your loss?
How then would you have gratitude?
When I set out to write about gratitude this year, it was only through the eyes of my faith that I could write it.
The Bible asks me not only to be thankful for my blessings, but to be thankful INSIDE of my struggles, in my weakness, in my illness, in my loss, to be thankful in my…mess.
Sometimes all our eyes can see are the broken pieces. Sometimes all our bodies can feel is the pain. At times struggle and burden is all that our hearts will allow us to hold.
Let’s be serious, I’m not thankful for my illness or my loss! But the thought of being thankful INSIDE of it is a concept I can lean into. Maybe I can embrace these challenges because I am being changed, transformed. Maybe I can be thankful through it because I know there will be good to come of it.
What if tomorrow the broken pieces of your life as they are now can be used for something better than the pain you feel today?
What has come out of a dark time in your life that you can now be thankful for?
Have a blessed Thanksgiving.
Thank you to the wonderful writer, lifeinslowmotionblog.com and admin of Changing the World when you are Chronically Ill, Disabled, or Homebound for encouraging me to dig deep and write this.
Over the last 10 years of chronic illness, people have told me that I will be healed if my faith is strong enough, that I am being prepared for something greater in my future, that all of this pain, loss, and disability will be given a special meaning some day. But, I believe that our lives are meaningful even in the midst of the darkest struggles. We don’t have to wait until life becomes perfect to attain purpose and perspective.
In the first couple years after I was diagnosed, college friends told me praying harder would heal me, one suggested the sins of my parents or grandparents may be expressed through my illness, family members sent me books about focusing on God’s healing promises, and I was prayed over for healing at church more times than I can count.
I was so angry and frustrated at everyone! God wasn’t healing me, I was getting worse! Why didn’t they understand? But no one did… I felt all alone to face this new monster eating away at my body and taking down my dreams and abilities one by one. I had such a strong confidence in my purpose, in my “calling,” and I didn’t know why those passions would be given to me, if only to be ripped away.
I do believe God has the power to heal my body. I also believe that healing can come in other forms as well. I used to pray and pray for my body to be healed, for the horrible pain to go away, and for my life to go back to the way it was. Of course I did. Of course I want my pain to go away and for life to be easier. Everyone in pain wants that! As life became a one-day-at-a-time struggle for survival, talking to God changed also. My heart desired to be of service to others (on support groups, online, in my relationships, etc.). Over time, I realized those prayers overtook the ones begging for physical healing. I believe there are different kinds of healing beyond physical wholeness that I hadn’t thought about before chronic illness, or during my first years living with it.
In each of the instances with my friends and family, they were showing up in the only way they knew how to offer hope and support. I’ve since learned that the people who show up are the ones to hold onto- sometimes they take some time and guidance to figure it out though.
During the storms in life, it is so common to be told that when the storm lifts, we will use what we’ve learned to help someone else, or we will have a greater sense of clarity. Well, when the rain doesn’t let up, when your body is constantly beating you up, if you are terminally ill, there is no waiting for healing to make use of your life today. Loss of health forces us each to look at our mortality and time in a new way. The desire to make a difference in the world doesn’t stop just because one’s legs, nervous system, or liver is failing. For so many remarkable individuals I have met over the years, illness can even inspire a new-found purpose, passion for growing in new ways, and redefining success based on what they hold most precious vs. what society has told them is of importance.
If you feel as though your purpose has been lost, and you don’t know why your life has taken this sudden detour, please know that you are not alone, and you are still on a path that is your own. You have not been forgotten. Your life still has meaning, even now- even in the mess you feel you are going through. You don’t have to wait for the perfect body and perfect life to be useful. If I had waited for that kind of moment, I think I would be waiting for eternity! Even in the middle of your struggle, your story matters. What you are going through matters.
Do you remember that old children’s Sunday school story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? I hadn’t really thought about it much myself over the years, but the type of pain CRPS causes- brings up the idea of fire so often… these guys popped into my mind recently.
So, the story goes that King Nebuchadnezzar was way jealous of God and created a big sparkling golden statue. He was super proud of it and forced people to bow down to it. If not, he would chuck them into a pit of flames, historically called “the fiery furnace.” Every Sunday school kid learns that 3 guys go and stand up to the king. When they get thrown into the furnace, an angel appears and they aren’t harmed at all in the fire.
I was checking this story out in Daniel recently to see if there was something I might have missed when I was…ya know…five?
So, the king was forcing all of his top political officials to bow down and worship his big new statue. They were the typical “yes men” that we are used to today- politicians, eh? It was no big whoop for them to bow down, but some tattle tale told King Nebuchadnezzar there were 3 Jewish men working in Babylon… Snitch.
Do you think Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego heard about “Furnace-Gate” ahead of time and the 3 friends were discussing or even arguing how to handle it? I wonder if they prayed asking for strength or guidance. Maybe Meshach got cold feet and his friends had to give him a pep talk. Who knows…
What we do know is that they were dragged in front of the king while officers of the courts and politicians were all around to witness what the 3 Jewish clerks would do. Bow or burn? They didn’t JUST say “No.” These guys had major guts! They told the hotshot king that they wouldn’t even defend their reasons because having faith in their God was reason enough: “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Boom goes the dynamite! Oh no you didn’t! And the king was so enraged, the furnace was turned up 7x hotter than normal. The flames were so intense, a few of the king’s servants were killed just opening the door! Imagine how scary that must have been to watch other men incinerated right in front of you… These 3 guys have so much faith that God can and WILL deliver them that they just double-dog-dared the wild king Nebuchadnezzar in front of all of his most loyal men to throw them into the pit of flames. As they were being tossed into the fire like lowly criminals, hands and feet bound, a room of satisfied eyes watching… do you think they wondered why God hadn’t delivered them already? As they felt the heat and flames blinding them, they might have thought, any time would be good, Lord!
They were thrown inside of the fire to die. The door was closed behind them. I can only imagine that there were smug celebrations from the peanut gallery. Colleagues, now toasting to their own survival by placating the king. Can’t you just hear the laughter from Nebuchadnezzar’s lips? He had won. He was stronger than the God he was so tired of competing against for attention.
But wait…the king looks inside of the furnace to find no suffering, no screaming, no pain, no death. “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” the king asked. “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
That’s right, not only were they completely unharmed in the fire, they were hanging out with a messenger of Heaven! Right in front of the King and everyone to see. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were removed from the furnace, their clothing, skin and hair inspected for any sign of burns or injury by the king and the officials. The king was completely amazed. For the first time in his life, the king praised God. He was so impressed by the faith of the 3 men so willing to give up their own lives than serve any other false idol. And the king was so overwhelmed by the magnificent miracle he had just witnessed- it changed the hearts of so many in the land.
Imagine how much courage it took for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to hold to their guns. These guys were just every day men. They weren’t prepping for a day like this. They were yanked out of work. What an act of bravery and faith! They had to have been so petrified. Choosing between their lives, their families, unsure of what would happen after they are gone, and knowing they might be burned alive… but it was all worth it for what they believed in. Their faith and passion was so strong. They boldly waited on an unknown miracle to save them. They believed it. Yet, they were still willing to die for their faith. Willing to risk it all because their beliefs were too important.
I keep thinking of the moments going into the furnace; they must have been wondering when the miracle was coming. God could have intervened at any point in the day to spare the guys from such a terrifying and humiliating ordeal. But, God waited until Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in front of a room filled with top level politicians and a king, AFTER they were thrown into a pit of fire… then an angel appeared. Because of the courageous choices of 3 men, God was able to use their lives to create a domino effect in all of the land.
Sometimes life feels like being thrown into a pit of fire. We start out with full faith, completely sure there is plan for us, but then, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the flames increase by 7 and we don’t understand where God is. It’s very scary- horrifying! The scripture doesn’t say whether or not they were frightened or worried. They were just people, so I’m thinking this was absolutely the scariest day of their lives! In the most difficult time of your own life, remember that God’s intervention and timing is perfect. You might be in the fire with the flames rising all around you, but He will be with you. At times, you might have people watching you, scoffing, but He can help you use your story to change lives and hearts. It might not be the life you planned for, but He has something even bigger in mind for you. Who knows, you might end up being a legend too!