I have a few sweet friends who check up on me now that I’m back in bed full time and ask how I’m doing. I am inexpressibly glad for any sort of human contact (other than at a doctor’s office) throughout the week while I’m ill. As life seems to be set in slow-motion and my days are consumed by this never ending pain, fatigue, and brain fog, it becomes increasingly harder to hold on to any sort of hope of getting better. This has been my story for about two years–of course setting aside the blissful 5 months this past summer and fall when I tasted what it was like to be back in a somewhat healthier body before this most recent relapse.
Day after day there is only one thing on my to-do list: surviving
As things grow worse, and doctors become more confused, and my ability to think, read, walk, even talk and swallow are compromised it gets harder and harder to honestly answer a friend or family member when they ask me how I am doing. It’s hard because I know their hearts are aching for me just as much as I am aching physically from this horrible disease. I hate delivering the disappointing news that is the reality I live in every day.
And then recently when a dear friend asks, “how can I pray for you spiritually?” I am at a complete loss for words. For hours I let that text or message go unanswered because I am too confused about how to even respond.
I am discouraged. I battle it every day more than I ever have with this illness. I don’t know if things will get better. Neither do my doctors. I’m not even sure if we truly know what exactly is plaguing my body…is it just the Lyme and other tick-borne diseases? Have I developed some sort of sclerosis or other sort of damage to my nervous system? Is my body just going through some sort of tough time with the autoimmune aspects of this disease? Will it all be fixed with IVIG? Or is there something else–some other infection that we’re just missing? Is it the IV antibiotics that just aren’t working for me anymore? Should I drop everything and go completely holistic? What is my body missing? What’s going on? Why is this happening? Shouldn’t I be over this by now? Is this going to continue for the rest of my life? But it can’t! I have plans! I have dreams! I have goals and aspirations, things I need to try, and do, and succeed, and fail, and learn, and grow, and LIVE!
But I am here. Stuck in this wasteland of suffering; just wandering aimlessly with no plan, no idea of what to do, or why I’m even here. “What IS your plan for me, Lord?!?” I think it would be sort of helpful to know, don’t you? Then maybe I can find some purpose in this–real purpose; not just some empty, religious sayings that are a go-to for most people when they try to sound encouraging.
I hear them all the time (and sometimes I catch myself almost parroting them to others). There’s the “God won’t let you go through something that you can’t handle” (which is not biblical, by the way), the “God has a wonderful plan for you; just hold on“, the “God loves you so much“, the Romans 8:28’s, the Jeremiah 29:11’s, etc. And while some of those are true, at the moment of deep suffering I don’t care about any of them. Because this situation IS too much for me to handle; I don’t care about God’s wonderful plan for me at the moment since what I’m going through now is part of that plan, and I really don’t think it’s all that wonderful; I’m too tired and weary and OVER IT ALL to “just hold on“; and honestly…I don’t feel very loved right now. And yes, I know those Scriptures. I’ve had them memorized since I was a child. Those verses are somewhat meaningless to me right now because my battle is NOT with whether or not those verses are in fact true, but with believing that He is even there for me right now. I can’t see Him. I can’t feel Him or His presence. And I frankly don’t want to call out to Him at the moment.
As I answered my friend’s text earlier when she asked me how she could pray for me spiritually, I simply wrote, “Pray for hope.”
Friends, this suffering makes me feel hopeless. I’m having such a hard time holding on to hope. I know it’s supposed to be an anchor, and a lot of people (and by people, I mean basic white girls) get really cute tattoos of anchors with that nice quote about hope, but I’m having such a hard time holding onto hope. I need hope. We all do. But in all this suffering what I really need to be reminded of (instead of those superficial, Church-folk affirmations) is that no matter how far I go into this suffering–this pit of despair–Hope Is Mine.
I already have it!
“Well WHERE, then?!?! Where is this ‘amazing’ hope that I supposedly already have?” I inwardly rage. “Look to that empty cross, and then in that empty tomb“, His truth gently reminds me.
For the longest time any holiday or celebration that rolled around had often seemed to make a mockery of my suffering. Superficially speaking, whenever there was (or is) a holiday I’m supposed to celebrate, I can’t help but feels like it’s just taunting me in my anguish. “Am I seriously expected to pretend to be happy? My life is completely falling apart in every way imaginable and I’m supposed to celebrate in spite of that? Is it really fair for me to have to go on Facebook, or Instagram and see people post pictures of their happy lives with their happy families when my own is destroyed and in ruin through no fault of my own? I didn’t choose for any of this to happen. And I am completely powerless to do anything to change it. I’m stuck…and I don’t see things getting better any time soon, because it just keeps getting worse…and worse…and worse. And with each passing day I’m stuck here just watching it all happen.”
Recently I was reminded that the celebration of holidays, like Easter, for a fresh example, weren’t designed to make those who are suffering feel even more miserable. Nor are they for everyone else to take another opportunity to add to the facade of a “happy”, care-free life by posting a nice holiday greeting of themselves and their loved ones for the whole internet to see and be deceived. Nor were they designed for greeting card companies and the like to make a profit, as some Scrooges would suggest. *Bah humbug!* These are all distractions to the great truths that are at the very core of these holidays; truths that we celebrate annually in order to remember. Holidays like Easter are supposed to remind us of the hope we have even in our suffering.
“Look to the empty Cross, and then to the empty tomb.”
I look, and such hope is found there! I am reminded that I already have hope! And it is all because of the Resurrection. It is because of the resurrection I have hope–my Savior is not dead. He is Alive! If He were still dead, and his body rotting somewhere on this Earth, then all hope of salvation would be lost. (1 Corinthians 15:12-22) But because of the resurrection, we have assurance that our debt of sin was paid in full. We are justified in Christ, and have peace with God the Father. We were once children of wrath, dead and hopeless in our sin, deserving of death, with no way to make it right on our own until Jesus Christ, our Messiah, stepped in and died the death we deserved to die.
Ephesians 2:12-13, ” Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
The Resurrection assures us that, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) We are now invited to freely join in fellowship with the Father. The curtain has been torn in two! (see Hebrews 9 for further clarification/study)
Because of the Resurrection, I have hope, and hope eternal! Even if this illness continues to be a puzzle for the brightest minds all over Eastern America, and I continually have to go from doctor to doctor, appointment to appointment with very little answers. Even if I we have to try other alternatives and travel far and wide for help. Even if things get so bad and I lose my life to this disease and all the dreams I have for my young-self die with me–even then I will still have hope. Because this hope is secure in the resurrection of my sweet Savior, I will still have it even in the harshest storms of the soul when I can’t feel it.
For hope is not something we can muster with all our might. Hope is something that is given. It’s ours in our Savior. It’s steadfast. No one and no circumstance can take it away from us. It’s what we are sealed with until our faith becomes sight and all we are promised becomes a reality for all eternity.
It is because of this hope that Paul wrote in while he was in prison, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”
2 Corinthians 1:8-10
Fellow believers, remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in different parts of the world who’s churches were bombed during their Easter Services, and who’s congregations were massacred by the hands of evil extremists. Pray for the families of the thirty Ethiopian Christian men who were beheaded and shot by ISIS this past Sunday for refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus. They are facing persecution like no other for the sake of Christ. Pray that they too remember the hope they have in their Resurrected Savior as they are suffering persecution because of their faith in Him. That they would take heart, for this is not how the story ends. One day, He will make all things new and all suffering and death will finally die.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’…” Revelation 21:1-5
No matter what happens, we have hope. Though we suffer, we know that we are not forgotten. Though we suffer, we are not alone. Though we suffer, we have hope no matter what…and it is Because He Lives. This is enough to encourage us to fight on, whatever our battles may be! Let us never forget to remind each other of these truths. Let us never forget to remind each other of the living hope that is ours in Jesus; and let us spur each other on to live accordingly.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”