Please Stop Telling Me I Will Get Better

"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!' 
Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.' 
Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.'" - Matthew 16:21-25

Please hear this from a place of love and hurt, not anger. Perhaps I’ll regret this post on a day when hope is bigger, but this is how I feel today, so I’m writing it. I reserve the right to a retraction later. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s a leap to compare our suffering with this snapshot of Jesus and Peter. It probably is, but hear me out for just a few moments.

My feelings on this are similar to my beef with those who tell single people, “someone is out there waiting for you”, that I described many posts ago. You can’t possibly know that, so stop saying it. It’s not an encouragement. You don’t know if God has called that person to be unmarried. And you don’t know if I’m going to get better. You don’t know if we will find a house. You don’t know if our circumstances will ever improve in this lifetime… so please stop saying it. There’s a huge difference between, “I know you will be healed” and “I hope you will be healed.” Maybe I have to “suffer many things” in order to bring about the greater good, a good I could never imagine. Peter couldn’t imagine how a suffering and dying Christ could ever be good. But it was the greatest good. It was hard enough for Jesus to stand strong through suffering without Satan jabbing him in the ear with the thought that it shouldn’t have to be this way. And sufferers everywhere have a hard enough time remembering that God’s plan is good. We don’t need any ear-jabbing, reinforcing our own questions of how a good God can allow suffering to happen. Get behind us, Satan.

As a society, maybe even especially as Christians, we are SO uncomfortable with suffering. I get it. I’m uncomfortable too. We don’t want to imagine that bad things could happen to us that we won’t be able to fix. So we try to convince ourselves and the suffering person that he/she isn’t doing enough because, if so, there would be complete healing by now. We have to believe sufferers will get better because we don’t want to sit in the pain with them for the rest of this life, if at all. We have no idea how to reconcile within our hearts a good God with deep and long-lasting suffering. But until we can come to terms with this, we will never be able to truly accept the cross, the deepest and greatest suffering there ever was.

We are stumbling blocks to each other, with our minds on this world rather than the glory of God. There’s no doubt we mean well. I’m sure Peter did too. But instead of being a rock of support that sufferers can rest on, we are a stumbling block to them, tripping them up over whether or not they have enough faith to change their circumstances. Isn’t saying, “I must get better” throwing down my cross instead of taking it up? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Hear me on this. I don’t believe God actually wants us to suffer. Suffering entered at the fall of humankind. But I do believe God has been working good through suffering ever since. I have hope that I will get better in this life, waning hope, but hope nonetheless. But I am not God. I refuse to believe that I WILL get better. I will hope and pray for miracles but I will look forward to what I KNOW will come – my heavenly home.

My life is not my own. I will lose everything for the sake of Christ if that is what will bring Him the most glory. But I have to stop trying to save myself. And you have to stop trying to save me by rationalizing and empty words. Hope with me, yes. But don’t speak for God. It’s not my intention to seem harsh. Trust me, I am just as guilty of trying to explain away suffering because I HATE seeing it in those I love. But, it doesn’t help. It just hurts. And I humbly apologize for my role in hurting any sufferers in this way. I pray God continues to remove from me this spirit of judgement and fear when it comes to the suffering of others. I’m encouraged that the same Peter Jesus scolded for being a stumbling block was the rock on which He built His church. We can be good rocks once we lay down our tendency to be tripping rocks.

Striving has only caused me to lose my life even more. I do my best every day, every hour, to lay down my life at the feet of Jesus. I ask you to lay it down too. Be my support block, not my stumbling block. I stumble over myself enough as it is. If you can’t support, silence is golden. I have lost much in my life. I’m hoping that if I can stay faithful in that loss without rebuking God for not healing me, I will find my life in abundance one day in heaven. My Savior said it. Therefore, it is true. Amen. Let it be so.

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The Gift of Grace

When I was younger I thought that if I didn’t take communion one week and then I died, I might not go to heaven. Good grief, what would younger me think of older me with food sensitivities who only took half-communion for a year… that I was only half-saved? I’m not exactly sure of the ‘logic’ but maybe I thought that the further away from my communion with God, the more unforgivable and full of sin I became. I cringe at the ways I create to make life more difficult. Even after I realized the communion thing was a false belief, I still thought that if I sinned and died before I repented of that sin, I wouldn’t go to heaven. I’ve heard this exact statement from friends even today and I want to scream, “Please let me introduce you to my loving Jesus!” But I have to put myself in check, remembering that I am a recovering perfectionist who has lived in fear and works-based salvation for most of my life. No one could have changed my mind back then so I know my words won’t convince my dear ones, but perhaps they will at least plant a seed that I pray God will grow into greater understanding of His unconditional love and the gift of grace.

Grace is not emphasized enough in our lives and teaching. As a result, so many of us grow up in fear and burn ourselves out from striving to be perfect. Did you know that when you asked Jesus into your heart, God started seeing Jesus when He looks at you? I honestly didn’t know that until a couple years ago, and it took me even longer to accept and believe it. This journey toward grace takes some serious unlearning of what we have always believed to be true but, I promise you, it is worth it. Jesus has already taken the punishment for our sins. We don’t have to live in fear anymore. We are free. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). Hallelujah! Why do we live as if this were not true? Why do we live as though Jesus never died for us and we have to save ourselves over and over again? Aren’t you exhausted? I am!

So let’s crawl our exhausted selves right up into God’s lap and let Him tell us the truth about grace. Grace is “the free and unmerited favor of God.” Look at that. Grace is free! We don’t have to pay for it because Jesus already did. We don’t have to keep working to try and earn it. Please hear me. WE CAN’T EARN SOMETHING WE ALREADY HAVE. And grace is unmerited or, undeserved. I think this was my biggest hangup. I knew I didn’t deserve grace so I had trouble accepting it. But, God knows it’s undeserved, and He gives it anyway. If we deserved it, it wouldn’t be a gift. It would mean that we could work for our own salvation and forgiveness when God clearly says that we are saved by faith, not works. Grace means freedom from a works-based life, freedom from striving, freedom from perfectionism, and even freedom from the fear of imperfection. How often have we heard that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works? Why don’t we believe it? I think Satan has a field-day with our fears. He is the accuser and knows that if he can get us to believe that Jesus’ gift was not enough to save our terrible selves, we will be stripped of all peace and joy, and our striving will hinder our ministry and make us much less fruitful. Stomping on Satan’s lies over and over again (because he is super-persistent) is life-giving work; life-freeing for ourselves and life-saving for those we are supposed to point toward freedom in Christ. We can’t be used by God to free others when we aren’t living free ourselves. We need to ask God to help us throw off those chains! He’s already broken them but, for whatever reason, we won’t let them go. He wants so badly for us to let go!

Sometimes it’s difficult to see that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament because He seemed so punishing and severe back then. But we have to remember that at the end of Old Testament times, He sent His Son to take care of all the punishment for good… for ALWAYS. Not just until the next time we sin. I pray this most precious truth sinks down deep into our beings. We can never work hard enough to earn forgiveness. It’s a lost and hopeless cause. But, because God already did the work for us and forgave us, we can have hope. I’ve been wanting to talk about grace for awhile now but I couldn’t find the words and then we talked about it in our small group this week and this beautiful passage came up in my reading today:

“‘So there is hope for your future,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:17)
“‘You disciplined me like an unruly calf, and I have been disciplined. Restore me and I will return, because you are the Lord my God. After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’
‘Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,’ declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:18-20).

Even here we see God in the Old Testament, showing His character of grace and the love of a parent. His people were unbelievably rebellious (kind of like us). They turned away from Him and toward idols. They didn’t understand His love. But look at what God says about them. I could just weep. He calls them dear. He yearns for them. He delights in them! He DELIGHTS in His rebellious, straying children. His grace melts my heart. When God’s people realized what they had done and how they had strayed, like so many of us, they groveled in shame and humiliation. I was the queen of this kind of torturing, self-flagellating remorse for many years. I beat myself up in shame even though I knew Jesus had already died for me. I was ashamed that He paid the ultimate sacrifice so I thought if I beat myself up, maybe I could have some of the punishment that I deserved and He wouldn’t have to take so much. But the truth is, He already took it. It’s already done. Nothing I could ever do could somehow make the best thing that ever happened to the world any better. I can’t take away His suffering and give it to myself, so I must learn to accept it. I must pray every single day that God helps me accept it. No matter how often I stray from Him, God still delights in me and holds me dear. He restores me over and over again.

I was angry at God for a long time. I hid that fact even from myself for awhile because I didn’t think I should be angry at Him. After awhile, I just had to allow the fire-hot honesty flow out of me. I can hardly stand to recall the picture of myself screaming terrible things at God, even that I hated Him. I accused Him of hurting me and taking pleasure in hurting me. I recoil at the memory, but that picture is an important part of my story. I was living in such darkness that I could not see the real picture. I was relying on my own understanding of God and He wanted to show me His understanding. I’ve fallen to my knees in repentance and acceptance of his mind-blowing grace each time the real picture becomes just a little bit more clear. The true picture is God’s extremely broken child, reeling in pain and hurt, trying to escape her Father’s comforting arms, lashing out at Him for not making it better… all the while being held by Him who, despite the blows and cutting words, still held her dear. Despite what she thought, He was not saying, “you’re getting what you deserve” or “I don’t care that you’re suffering”, but simply, “I know, beloved. I know. I’m here.” He so desperately longs for me to understand that He already ‘made it better’. He made it best. I just can’t see it yet.

He’s a God of unbelievable grace… but oh, how He longs for us to believe it. I suppose that just as addicts are always recovering addicts, I will always be a recovering perfectionist; a recovering striver, constantly learning the freedom that comes from resting in the grace of God. I see and feel this so deeply in my own life and pray it for yours: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). I know I can’t convince you but, once you feel the peace and joy that comes with that freedom, your heart will absolutely leap to share it with others. For that reason I pray fervently for all of you who still live in fear and striving. I pray that you ask God to tell you the truth about His grace and that you allow that truth to saturate you, to fill you to the point that there is no room for works-based and fear-based lies anymore. And if you’re like me and you don’t even want to ask God to show you the truth about grace because you don’t think you deserve it, there is no shame in asking Him to help you want to ask! My mouth almost hurt the first time I finally eked out that prayer, but God hears even our most hesitant prayers. The next time you pray, your mouth may form the words a little better. Then you may be able to ask louder and with more confidence. And once God gives you the desire, then you can ask Him to tell you the truth. And then you can ask Him to help you let the truth sink in. Once His truth finally sinks down into your heart, you will feel the blessed freedom that comes with God’s gift of grace. I will never stop praying this for us, God’s dear ones!

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No Pain, No Gain

January 3, 2019, mostly written in my journal:

I had a laser detox treatment yesterday and it has required me not to touch a phone, computer, remote, or my dog for 25 hours. I could explain the details and the whys but right now I just don’t have the strength. Detoxing is exhausting. Here’s a video if you’re interested. Without anything to distract me, I’ve had a lot of time to think.

Every disease has an emotional connection. Again, I don’t have the strength to explain this but you can follow the work of Trina Hammack, who has studied brain scans to determine the effects of different emotional traumas on the brain. The emotional connection with POTS is heartbreak. My heart has been broken and not yet healed. I’ve been talking to God about the heartbreak for months now, trying to figure out what it is. I honestly believe that one of the biggest unhealed heartbreaks is my illness itself. I didn’t have POTS until quite awhile after Lyme had already wreaked so much havoc. I wonder if that’s why so many people with Lyme have POTS. Lyme is so evil. There’s a hashtag going around: #lymeisloss. Lyme is loss. And why is it still unhealed? Because it’s a daily loss. The loss never ends. I think I’m doing everything right and then I have to cut something else out of my life. It’s so unfair, but I know that’s life. It’s hard for me to watch other people on social media doing whatever they want so this technology break is good for me. I can’t stop the twinge of jealousy or the tremendous worry and urge to tell them they need to stop doing what they’re doing or they’ll end up sick like me. I lay my jealousy, judgement, and fear at the feet of Jesus once more.

I’ve been alone here in bed, allowing the losses to linger so I can grieve for them. I’ve lost my career and, with that, my daily support system and social interaction. I’ve lost a whole lot of in-person contact and now, with my very limited internet time (decreasing EMF exposure), I’m becoming even more isolated. I’ve lost my freedom and independence. I’ve lost my dearest friend. We think I’m picking up some immune stressors (pesticides and parasites) from my dog so I was worried about losing her but, if I’m going to heal emotionally, separating me from my dog is probably not the way to do it. It’s been a challenging 25 hours keeping her out of this room. She’s very persistent! I’ve lost the people with whom I used to spend time. I’ve lost fun. I’ve lost exercise and hiking and being outside for long periods of time. It’s such a little thing but I’ve recently lost my favorite coffee. No more Tim Horton’s for me! I’ve lost the ability to put anything into my mouth or walk outside without fear that I will ingest or inhale something my body hates. Although I’ve been back a couple times recently, I still feel like I’ve lost my church. I don’t feel like I belong there anymore. I’ve lost music in the way I used to experience it. I’ve lost much of my confidence and my stability. We’ve lost financial security and the hope of ever getting out of debt. I’ve lost my perfectly clean house and even some of my looks. I’ve lost much enjoyment of food and, while I’ve come to terms with not eating when everyone else is eating, I can tell it makes other people uncomfortable. I’ve lost the ability to do things for others. For so long I lost my feelings of significance, joy, and hope. We’ve lost other things that I haven’t decided I’m ready to talk about with the world so, stay tuned. And every single day is a new experience of these losses as well as new ones. So, how? How can I possibly heal from the heartbreak when the breaking just keeps happening over and over?

I wonder if this is how. Because Lyme is not just loss. It is also gain. I talked about this in more detail in my previous post, It Was Because of An Illness, so I’d love for you to read it if you haven’t yet. I have gained an intuition with my body like you would not believe. I know what organ is struggling when and usually why. I have gained relationships with all of those who are guiding me toward health. I have gained time. Yes, I have lost time doing the things I used to love but I have gained time with God, which is a much better use of time anyway. I have gained an addiction to and love for Scripture and I have gained inspiration from those who write about their own experiences. I have gained introspection and a continued discovery of my weaknesses and the areas that need healed. I have gained a deeper prayer life. I have gained a voice and less fear of expressing my opinions. I have gained a greater longing for heaven. I have gained much better priorities. I have gained a story. I have gained honesty. I have gained an understanding of who I am in Christ. I have gained rest and peace while slowly releasing my spirit of striving. I have gained a better understanding of grace. I have gained the time for and realization of the importance of grieving and not stopping my grief even when I think, “I should really pull myself together now.” There is no “should” with grief. I have gained the gift of solitude to experience healing in all of these things.

I thought about all of this yesterday and how I would honestly rather experience physical pain than emotional pain, so it’s been hard for me to allow myself to feel and grieve these daily losses. But it’s so important and I thank God that He knows what I need, gives me time to experience it, and stays here with me through it. He is the only  One who sees me completely unglued and that is becoming more and more precious to me. This time is sacred and beautiful, as painful as it often is. #lymeisloss but, also, #lymeisgain. Through my loss, I gain more God. What a precious gift!

Now it is hour 23. I dozed off and woke up in AGONY! I was doubled-over in pain and Jason said he thought I was dying (do you think we both exaggerate a little? I did scare him, though). The pain was so excruciating that I told God, “Remember when I said yesterday that I’d rather experience physical pain than emotional pain? That wasn’t a suggestion!” I guess I was just experiencing the final detox purge. The pain has eased a bit now so I may decide to change my vow of “never doing this again” later. Isn’t that the way we so often are? When we experience pain, we vow never to do what caused that pain again, whether it be trust, or stepping out of our comfort zone, or a medical treatment. But maybe the saying really is true: “No pain, no gain.” We have to experience the pain to get to the healing. So I will continue to experience my losses, knowing that each one will be redeemed. I will continue to feel so that I can heal. I will let go of trying to control the way my  heart breaks, and just let it break. I will allow pain for the greater gain.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17

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