Jesus Will Carry Us Both

“When you’re tired, I will carry you. When I’m tired, Jesus will carry us both.”

Those are the words you said to me early in our relationship. I knew I loved you then and I love you more now. You said those same words to me in your vows on our wedding day and again when we danced to the song that has become ours, Hold You Up, by Matthew West. In this moment so shortly after we married, we had no idea how real that song would become to our life together. Our world was truly about to become a war that never ended.

You have given up so much in your life, things that need not be mentioned because you and I both know what they are, but the loss has cut deeply. You have always said that it’s all okay because you have me and that’s enough. You have held me up so beautifully through almost six years of marriage. You have clung to hope when I lost mine. You have had faith for both of us. But I know it has taken a toll. And when we finally allowed ourselves to believe that one of the reasons I might not be getting better is because you are bringing illnesses home to me that my exhausted body can’t fight off, I watched the last of the light fade from your eyes. It shattered my heart once again. I know you have tried so hard. Life is just. so. hard.

I’ve been fairly certain for quite some time that I have given you Lyme. Most people don’t realize that it’s not uncommon or difficult for it to pass through entire families. We didn’t know that until it was too late. But guilt is a powerful thing, isn’t it? One of Satan’s favorite tools. Just as you wish you could stop bringing illnesses to me, the knowledge that I brought Lyme to you has the potential to curl me into a fetal position until there are no tears left. I am so sorry. Sometimes I can hardly breathe with the weight. How my heart hurts. Our hearts hurt together.

But here is what I want us both to know, dear husband…

  1. We did not do this to each other. We may have been ignorant of the consequences of certain aspects of our life together but I wouldn’t change them. Lyme and all the other evils floating around in our bodies entered the world with sin and, as hard has it is for us to lay down our guilt, we have to do it every second of every day for the rest of our lives. Otherwise, we let Satan have too much power. There is no condemnation. God said it. That means it’s true. We are not guilty.
  2. God did not do this. During those moments we’re able to believe that we are not guilty, it will be tempting to blame God. Just as no one could tell me otherwise when I was angry with God, I know that my telling you won’t help you believe, but I’m going to tell you anyway. I want so badly to pull your heart quickly past all the looming darkness but I know I have to let you go through it. You held my hand as we walked through my darkness together and I will hold your hand wherever we go from here. God loves us both so much and he loves our marriage. I will never stop thanking Him for the gift that you are to me. And I will never stop praying for Him to pursue you through the thick fog just as He never stopped pursuing me. What a gracious God. I promise that if we cling to Him, our relationship with Him will be unbelievably more beautiful on the other side.
  3. We have not failed. When I look back at our lives together I see a constant fight to keep me alive. We have done everything we know to do and it is tempting to think that we failed. We have not failed. Maybe we need to stop trying so hard. God fought for me and He will fight for you. We both need to let go and allow Him to do so.
  4. The fight for your health will not be easy but, in my experience, nothing of value ever is. You know how difficult this illness has been for me but if you asked me if I would go back and not have to go through it, I would say no. I’d love for it to be over right about now but that’s not up to me. The beauty I have gained and the lasting impact of what truly matters is far too precious to give up. If my illness never existed, many aspects of my life that have eternal value would never exist either. This will not be easy for you and it will be agony for me watching you go through it. Fixers such as you and me could be tied in constant knots if we’re not careful. I don’t know how you’ve handled my illness thus far without giving up but I can’t thank you enough for hanging on. Your strength means more to me than I can put into words. I promise that I will never leave your side as long as I live. What you go through, I go through. Let me hold your hand.
  5. You don’t have to carry me anymore. Thank you, my love. Thank you for the many ways you have carried me over the past six years. Your burden has been unbearable. I cannot imagine. I’ve prayed countless times for God to be your strength and I know that He has. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have been able to shoulder the weight. But you don’t have to anymore and, honestly, that may be the hardest thing for you to give up. But it’s time for you to let Jesus carry us both. His shoulders are stronger. You can rest now.
  6. You are worth the effort it takes to heal. Neither one of us have ever thought very highly of ourselves. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of this, it’s that God’s opinion of me matters so much more than anyone else’s opinion, including my own. Do you know how much He loves you? No really, do you KNOW how VERY MUCH He LOVES you? I pray He shows you in the most beautiful of ways- through the comfort of His arms at the most unexpected times, through a word you needed to hear spoken by one of His people, through an acute awareness of the strength of the Holy Spirit living inside of you. He loves you enough to choose you, to carry you, to live in you, to delight in you. And if He says you are worthy of healing, it is the truest thing I could say at this moment. The grueling effort of taking care of ourselves even when we find it nearly impossible is so worth it. Your health is worth it. Your future is worth it. You are worth it. We are worth it. I pray you open your heart to believe it.
  7. As our dear friend told me while she hugged me tight: Satan does not win. He doesn’t. Period. God already won and the work is already finished. This trial may not feel good or finished but God has promised that He will never stop working in our lives. He will never leave us. Satan has been defeated and he knows it so he works extra hard to pull us away from God, sabotage our ministry, and kill our self-worth. But he has already lost the war. Don’t let him win the battles. I’m fighting with you and God is fighting for you.

Just as we have always done, we will walk through this together. As we near our sixth anniversary, it’s hard to believe but I am more in love with you now than I was on our wedding day. My illness has brought us closer and I pray that yours will do the same. We meant what we said, “in sickness and in health.” While I often wish we didn’t have to mean that so literally, I have to believe in the depths of my heart that we will look back on our lives with gratitude for the ways God sustained us. Yes, there will be times we fall to the ground in exhaustion, choking on the “why”, but I pray that in those times we will open our eyes to the ways God is moving. There will be many moments we beg God for respite, a break for our weary bodies and hearts. But I know sometimes it’s better to have breakthroughs and deeper healing than it is to have breaks. God knows what He is doing far better than we do so I hope and pray that we will never stop clinging to Him. Our hearts are broken together and I believe they will heal together. I love you, my beloved. You will always be my miracle.

Hold You Up – Matthew West
“Love is the blessing
Love is the vow,
Love is the reason we’re standing here now.
The future before us,
Tomorrow’s untold.
But love is the promise that whatever it holds

I will hold you
I will hold you up
I will hold you
I will hold you up

So give me your bad days
Give me your fear
Bring all of your burdens
And just lay ’em down here
‘Cause I’m not gonna leave you
When your world becomes a war
I’m staying in the trenches
‘Cause you’re worth fighting for

Yes, I will hold you
I will hold you up
I will hold you
I will hold you up

And I will hold you up in victory
Watch your light outshine the stars
When you’re breaking down and weary
Just be weary in my arms

There will be trials
There will be tests
As hard as I’m trying for you
I’m human at best
But baby don’t worry
If you should start to fall
Just cling to the One Love
That’s bigger than us all

He will hold you
He will hold you up
I know that He will hold you
He will hold you
He will hold you up
And He will hold you
I know, I know, I know
He will hold you up”

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Joy is Not a Four-Letter Word

Joy has been like a curse word to me for the last few years. While typing that sentence I realized that curse words have probably left my tongue more easily than the word joy. Wow, that’s sad.

I’ve tried to understand joy. I really have. One of the definitions people spout is that happiness is based on circumstances while joy has no dependence on circumstances. I just haven’t been able to buy that. Merriam-Webster’s definition of both concepts is pretty much the same. So, I just don’t get it. Yes, I realize Merriam-Webster is not God, but I’ve studied joy in the Bible too and I still don’t get it.

There was a time I would have understood it better. Then life stomped my joy to a pulp and has continued to do so for years. I think joy is not even allowed in my vocabulary because I truly believe that the second I let it back into my life, my heart will be crushed again with the next horror that awaits me. I’ve heard many people who start to climb out of chronic illness say the same thing. We are afraid to rejoice. We are afraid to get our hopes up. We. Are. So. Afraid. Goooood grief, this post is depressing. Speaking of, everything I’ve described above might be the actual picture of depression, which adds another depth of difficulty. How do we get past this? How do we let joy back into our lives without waiting for it to be crushed again?

The answer may have something to do with the verse below. It jumped off the page yesterday, piercing my heart, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head ever since. I know there’s a reason. I know God wants me to find joy again. I know this. I believe God wants me to be happy. I also believe life will never stop trying to suck the happiness away. How can these two beliefs exist so strongly in one person?

“…my joy in unrelenting pain- that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.” – Job 6:10b

I’m still not entirely sure, but maybe joy isn’t all feeling. Maybe it’s more related to faith than I ever knew. Through unrelenting pain, joy comes to us when we do not deny the promises of God. I have to face facts… and feelings. When I doubt God’s promise that His goodness follows me all the days of my life (Psalm 23), I have no joy. When I doubt that God will turn my pain into something beautiful and good (Romans 8:28), I only despair. When I doubt that God’s purpose in my life is the very best purpose there could ever be (Proverbs 19:21, Jeremiah 29:11), I live in the darkness of sorrow.

But when I believe that God is always, ALWAYS good, the sparks of joy appear. When I sing about His goodness following me, I can feel them ignite. When I let God love me through the pain, the tears turn to from sorrow to joy or maybe a mixture of the two. I’ve been seeing more of the sparks lately, though I stomp them out myself before life can do the honors. But maybe their fleeting existence means that one day I will be able to quit stomping and welcome the flame of joy with open arms. Maybe my eyes will become wet with joy, awe, wonder, and God more often than hurt. Looking forward to that day fills me simultaneously with excitement and terror. God, help me. Help all of us who are terrified to let joy back into our lives.

Living without joy is miserable. It is dark. It closes the door on any kind of happiness we may experience, rejects the gifts God wants to give us, and only lets Him love us with limits. I don’t want to limit God. I don’t want there to be any boundary at all between God’s love and me. I pray that He breaks this stronghold in my life, gives me strength to combat the lies I have believed, and loves me back into joy.

When I picture myself joyful, my shoulders physically relax a little, like a weight is being lifted off of them. So I have to ask myself, what is the weight? I think it can only be one thing: self-protection. God has been revealing this as the biggest issue that still entangles my life. I’m trying to fend off the sting of more crushing when that is not my job. It’s God’s job to protect me, not mine. That doesn’t mean He will protect me from bad things happening, but that He will protect me from being completely crushed when they do. He will love me through whatever heartbreak is in store for me. He will be my safe place to pour out my pain if I will only open up to His safety. If I attempt to block more pain from my life, I also block joy, love, peace, everything that is the fullness of God. I block God from the deepest parts of my life. He longs to enter into those deeper places and bring His light. Maybe that’s why I don’t understand joy – I haven’t let Him deep enough to explain it to me. I don’t want this anymore – this illusion of self protection. It’s too much. It’s too heavy a burden I was never meant to carry. God, help me lay it down. I don’t care anymore how it has to happen or how much it might hurt or how many tears I have to cry in front of how many people. I am done. I am tired. I want the fullness of God. I want the fullness of love and of joy.

The fact that I’m even willing to talk about this is a big deal. It says to me that God is making me ready for His healing in this area. It gives me hope that I am moving in the direction of joy. Thank You, God. May I along with my fellow fearers of joy break free from that fear that so hinders us and open our hearts to the joy of the Lord. We will not be disappointed, this I am sure. His goodness is His promise and when we hold that tighter than we hold our protection, we allow joy to show up and to thrive. Pour into us with the fullness of joy, Lord God. May we remove the blocks, embrace the sparks, fan the flames, and fuel the fire. Amen.

“You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11

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