I should probably begin by saying that not every blog entry of mine will have a title that ends in "Thoughts." That would be tiresome. I like to come up with apt and clever titles when I can. Last week's title, "Wedding Day Thoughts," was apt, but certainly not clever. Too bad. Had it been clever, today's would have been too, but alas. I say that because today's entry, as the companion to last week's, needs a similar title. So, consider "Day Thoughts" the surname of this particular couple.
As I was writing my last post, it occurred to me that someone could read it and think that God's love is only expressed through the good things in life. Unfortunately, there are people who believe this. I say "unfortunately" for three reasons: 1) it would lead one to question God's love every time something bad happened, 2) to a person who believes this, bad things in life could only be bad, never a means to redemption, and 3) it's not true. To those who believe this I say, your god is small.
I've been sick for just shy of three years now, though I've for sure had chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS, ME, CFIDS - there are too many names, probably because no one knows for sure what it is) for about two and a half years. Just writing "three years" pains my heart, though it's hard to explain why. Maybe it's because, even after three years, I feel as though I've barely begun to learn how to manage it and how to deal with it emotionally and mentally. Maybe it's because, on the terrible days, it feels like a prison sentence and I torture myself thinking about what joys in life might be impossible or challenging for me because of my illness. Maybe it's because it's so easy to lack faith, to believe that God has forgotten me and has no purpose for me, when I'm stuck lying on a couch in the quiet darkness because some days that's the only way to feel even slightly okay. Maybe.
Things have been so difficult for me physically lately. I had a bit of a meltdown the day I wrote my last post. Fatigue plus insomnia plus a recipe that turned out disastrously equaled emotional fallout. Sweet encourager that he is, Ethan reminded me that God has a plan for me still, that I'm not going to miss out on His purpose for my life because I'm sick. His purpose is fulfilled in this. Ethan said that I'm going through this because He loves me.
Immediately, that phrase "because He loves you" made me think of, not only my last entry, but of standing up in front of my Campus Crusade for Christ group at UCI on Seniors Night with a microphone in my hand, just before graduating. I was telling them all about God's grace in my life: I spent the first three years of college struggling with depression before God freed me; I got to my senior year excited, ready to do amazing things for Jesus and finish well, only to spend that entire year, except for the first three weeks, sick; but God grew me and walked with me through all of that; I came to know Him more and that made it more than worth it. How encouraging it is to remember that.
I've said it before and I'll say it again right now, as much as I hate being sick, as much heartache as it brings me, I wouldn't trade it. Don't get me wrong, if God miraculously healed me right now or gave some doctor enough knowledge and wisdom to hand me a cure, I'd be ecstatic. However, I wouldn't trade what I've gone through. I've seen God's love in it. He has used it to free me from crippling pride, among other things. I have known Him and will know Him more because of it. In my weakness and fatigue, I'll always be stronger than I was when I had physical strength because His grace is sufficient for me and power is perfected in weakness. His strength is stronger than mine ever could be, and now that I am physically weak, I'm much more willing to embrace it. I could never have been adequate on my own in any way and now I know it; now He can be my adequacy. If I could just walk in that and believe that every day!
Ethan reminded me, also, of Jeremiah 29:11-14: "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you.'" That passage strikes me for so many reasons, but one thing that often gets overlooked is that God spoke these words to people who were exiles and captives. Their home had been destroyed and loved ones killed. Calamity had already happened because they refused to listen to God's prophets, who begged them to turn from evil and back to God (in fact, they murdered God's prophets); He brought ruin so that some would be saved rather than let all destroy themselves and earn eternal condemnation. Calamity was a means of redemption, just as it was when Jesus died on the cross. Just as God says in the book of Hosea, "Then I will give her...the valley of Achor [meaning "Trouble"] as a door of hope." Calamity had come to these people, but God was saying that that was not what He had wanted for them and it's not what He had planned for their future. The point is, they never could've gotten to this point, they never could've had a calamity-less future and a hope without the calamity that God had brought in the first place. God's redemption came through calamity.
God said, "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you." The best thing He can do for us is give us Himself, and He is always seeking our hearts, our whole hearts. In prosperity, it's so easy for us to forget Him as Israel and Judah did; we forget our need for Him, forget that He provides everything for us, and we make gods of His gifts, whether they be money, a relationship, health, or a job. Sometimes, when we grip those idols with all our might, He brings hardship to break us free, to empty our hands and fill them with Himself. And He's worth it. He is what I want above all, even above a healthy body.
God uses this frail body to keep my wandering heart fixed on Him and to keep me humble. His grace and love, even coming in so difficult a form, deserves my gratitude. The Valley of Trouble is a door of hope, not a wall of despair. I did it because I love you - I must remember that that is true in this too.
"And with new eyes to see This is your mercy
Don't stop with Your love
Don't stop the madness
Don't stop the chaos
Don't stop the pain inside of me
Do whatever it takes to give me Your heart
And bring me down to my knees, Lord"
– Don't Stop The Madness by Tenth Avenue North