Recently, I came across a list I wrote in my journal right after I turned 30 entitled, “Things I Want to Do in My Next 30”:
Re-purpose piano Refresh Spanish skills Lose 20 lbs Write at least one song per year Write more, in general Sing Learn about essential oils Get off medication Send birthday cards on time Study the Bible consistently Pray for my patients Service projects Surprise Jason often Vacation in the mountains Go to the beach
I was pleasantly surprised to have already made progress on some of these goals without remembering that I had compiled this list. But trust me, the manner in which I lost 20 (ahem… almost 50) pounds was not what I had in mind! It was a surprise that my illness has actually led me, and even helped me, to do some of the things on the list. I definitely write more now. I have learned more about essential oils and I am finished with almost all synthetic medications. I have been studying the Bible in search of a deeper understanding of my life and the world in general. Other things on the list have been quite impossible, like re-purposing the piano, service projects, and vacationing. But hey, I’ve got 28 more years left before my next 30 is up so I’d say this list is looking pretty good!
Isn’t it interesting that we are always searching for the next thing? – “I cannot wait until my vacation!”, “TGIF!”, “Looking forward to cooler weather”, etc, etc, etc. Setting goals is not necessarily a bad thing, unless it means that we are always searching for the greener grass instead of learning to see the beauty in our present circumstances. Along with Paul, we should be able to say:
"I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." - Philippians 4:12b (NIV)
It has been interesting to me to discover that I keep pinning my hopes on the next big thing in a several areas of my life. One of these areas is my career. I have gone down every avenue I can think of over the past nearly seven months of unemployment and I have hit closed doors at every turn. I’ve applied for several work-at-home jobs but I am always either not ‘techy’ enough, or don’t have the right certifications, equipment or internet speed for the job. I have thought about trying to work part-time outside the home, but every time I think that, I get really sick again, or the car breaks down. I start desperately trying to find work online and our computer goes on the fritz again. I am getting a very clear message that God wants me to focus on taking care of myself. It’s not easy to trust our financial situation to God, but there’s nothing else for me to do but wait on him. It’s actually freeing and scary all at the same time. God is teaching me to trust more and more each day and I cannot wait to see what he does in our lives.
Like I said before, I was reviewing some of my old journaling just to see how far God has brought me. Part of the ‘joy’ of brain fog is that I truly do not remember writing some of these things and it is staggering to see how God has been working in my life. I was STUNNED when I read something I wrote on February 4, 2015. I was sick but still working, freshly married (a year and four months is still fresh, right?) with a great little life. But here is what I wrote about my Social Work career after what I can only assume must have been a particularly draining time:
Sometimes I feel like I need to do something that doesn't matter so much. But is that really what I'm meant to do? That seems so lazy. I just don't feel like my emotional state can handle much more humanity. Come, Lord Jesus. I'm not sure what my passion is anymore. I want to be passionate about the things that Jesus was passionate about but it hurts so much to take on that kind of burden. But maybe that's what he wants from me - totally broken so I can depend on him for strength.
Did I say I was stunned? STUNNED. When I asked God for a reason for all of these struggles, he used ME to show ME at least part of that reason. He told me, IN MY OWN WORDS, the reason for my suffering. What?! I might have laughed and cried at the same time when I read it! How ironic and weird and cool and crazy is that?! God has such a great sense of humor! I love it. He already knew what was coming and he was already working back then to get me through the right now. I’m so amazed by my God!
With regard to my health, I’m always looking for the ‘next thing’ to be my cure, to get me back to normal. I’ve tried everything, and each ‘next thing’ is always supposed to be the real deal. I’m not going to lie. Every ‘next thing’ that turns out not to be THE thing is heartbreaking. For awhile, the well-meaning people who told me I was going to eventually get better, or eventually go back to work, left a bitter taste in my mouth because I was too broken to get my hopes up again. Hoping hurt too much. For awhile I said I didn’t want to hope anymore. But something didn’t sit right with me about that attitude. I’ve slowly learned that I was hoping for the wrong things. So I started studying all of the Scriptures that mention hope and I was blown away by how numerous they are! Apparently there is a godly way to hope and I was doing it wrong.
"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my savior and my God." - Psalm 42:5 (NIV)
"His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love." - Psalm 147:10-11 (NIV)
"Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." - Isaiah 40:30-31 (NIV)
"And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." -Romans 5:2b-5 (NIV)
"We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you." - Psalm 33:20-22 (NIV)
"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." - Lamentations 3:21-22 (NIV)
I was putting a substantial amount of hope in my own doing, my “legs of a man”, if you will. And when God took that away from me, my soul was downcast. I got so tired while living life with God just kind of hanging out with me while I persevered on my own strength. I believe that during this illness I am supposed to be hoping in God, who will renew my strength (HIS strength in me). During the dark days, when I decided I didn’t want to hope anymore, I was struck with the verse that says, “hope does not disappoint us.” My first inclination was to become angry because, oh, how disappointed I had been! But during this painful hope, which is reflective of a longing for things that are not of this world, his love and faithfulness rest upon us. We will not be disappointed when we learn the big, beautiful picture. My wish is for the above verses to give you as much godly hope as they give me.
What if my ‘next big thing’, whatever it may be, is where I find my healing? Not necessarily physical healing, but healing in hope. What if I added ‘hope’, ‘contentment’, and ‘carrying out God’s plan’ to the list of things I want to do in my next 30? Maybe the next thing is God’s way of taking over, teaching me, and helping me find my true purpose. I am now beginning to see my illness as a starting point for my deeply-authentic, soul-filled life, for letting go and becoming fully reliant on God, for discovering myself (the good, bad and ugly), for discovering and having time for new passions, for opening to emotions I had buried in a sea of busy-ness, and for cultivating the deepest relationship with God I have had in a very long time. What if I could fully embrace the next thing, even if it is not physical healing? What a truly hopeful life I could begin to lead!
It’s difficult for me to say this but I mean it in all sincerity. I want this illness as long as God wants me to have it, to accomplish HIS purpose in it. He has torn down MY life so that he can re-build HIS life out of the rubble. What a beautiful gift my God is giving me.
Blessings of godly HOPE to all of you,