Monday, March 25, 2013

God's Purpose in Our Suffering

In God's providence, on Sunday, in the Sunday school class we teach, we talked about God's purposes in suffering. On Friday, I read this quote from the book "A Place for Weakness" by Michael Horton -- "The last thing at least some believers need in their trials is the added burden of trying to figure out why it is all happening. And the good news here is that nowhere in scripture are we expected to do that. God’s secrets remain just that. We must try to avoid two extremes: one, suggesting that God’s secret purposes in our lives and in providence generally are available to us; and the other, usually in reaction, concluding that God does not actually have purpose for all of the details of our lives, from the smallest to the greatest." 

Since this topic is on my mind, I thought I'd combine the two ideas. The quote above really hit home for me, mostly because I hear both of those thoughts on a regular basis. Not always, but generally, if I hear either of those thoughts from people it tends to be Christians that will "encourage" me that I am to learn something in my trial; whereas non-Christians tend to point out the unfortunate "fact" that suffering has no purpose and it is  such a shame. Most assuredly their is a purpose in our sufferings and trials. God is not helpless to prevent these trials, and He allows them in our lives for His purposes. I do not believe we are always to learn something from them. While there may very well be something we are to learn, the thought that we somehow have to figure that out to make the trial stop, or that we are even able to discern God's purposes in every trial is simply not true. No where in God's Word (as the quote reminds us) do we have a mandate to figure out the reason for our trials. 

I do realize that people say things to be encouraging. I have spent many a night trying to figure out what I am supposed to be learning. I have been convinced in the past, that I must be the worst student ever. I clearly have not learned what I was supposed to be learning, or so I thought. I spent so much energy and was stressed out over trying to find God's lesson in my struggles, that I missed the greater blessing. How wonderful it is to be able to rest in Him, trusting Him to show me anything I should learn, but not striving in my own strength to come up with some specific answer to a question I didn't even know. I have learned so much about God and myself in the midst of my suffering. Not all has been pleasant, for instance, I have learned that I am independent and stubborn, neither of which are great character traits!

Our Sunday school lesson was an overview of Paul's teaching about suffering from 2 Corinthians.We learned a few thing about trials. Instead of driving ourselves crazy trying to figure out some hidden meaning in our suffering, we can know a few things that suffering can and should do in our lives. This is by no mean a complete list of the reasons we endure trials, but just a couple of things that I have been reminded of this week.

First, the apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that it is God "who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble." Going through trials helps us to become more compassionate. We are able to comfort others in their suffering because we ourselves have been comforted.

Also, as Paul is dealing with his "thorn in the flesh" he is told by God that "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9) Trials are a display of the God's strength and power in our lives. We are able to point to others to Him in the midst of our sufferings as our only source of strength.

We know that God works all things "together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). This is important to remember as sufferings are not random and purposeless in our lives. Instead verse 29 goes on to tell us that "He also predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of His Son." Trials are definitely one way God conforms us to his image, as he shows us the sin in our hearts as we walk this difficult road. Trials should turn our hearts and minds to God, and make us aware of our own sinfulness and weakness. May it be that we all would suffer well and be able to point to God as the sole source of our strength. May He be your refuge in times of trouble!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Howdy Stranger!

So it has been a long 10 days since I last posted. The prednisone side effects have been overwhelming. Today I am at the 4 week mark, with just 2 weeks left to go. I am starting to get a bit more sleep, which I am very thankful for, but am still very tired. The stomach upset is currently the worst of the problems from the medication.

Still no relief from any of the neurological issues, and no word from Mayo Clinic either. I am learning to be patient and wait. Then wait some more. I am hopeful that I will hear from them soon regarding an appointment. In the meantime, my doctors at RIC in Chicago have suggested less walking and more biking or the possibility of getting a wheelchair that is used for "racing". I will be going there a couple days a week for now to try out different options that are available. Unfortunately, these types of chairs used for sports (this kind of wheelchair would be the type used for "running") are never covered by insurance and are expensive. Chad has been running and is in training for the Tough Mudder race in May. Please pray that I could find an alternative to walking that would enable me to "run" with Chad, working my upper body and getting outside to exercise. Pray that funding might present itself if we are able to find what would best work for me as well. I have always enjoyed going for walks and don't want to give it up! Between my left knee/leg issues and the concerns about me ruining it further, and the nerve issue in both legs causing me to have numbness, weakness and being unsteady on my feet, I think my days of walking are over.

The doctor wants me to be more active and suggested setting a goal. So, I have talked Chad and my daughter, Katherine, into doing the Morris Triathlon on our anniversary in September. It is a 2 mile kayak, 11 mile bike ride and 5k run (hoping to have an armbike or racing chair by then). It is a family event, so I don't intend to be competitive, but hoping just to finish it! Anyone interested in joining us? (more info here)

Sorry for my lack of inspiration lately. Thank you all so much for your prayers. I am excited to keep moving forward. I praise God whom has been so amazing faithful to provide good friends who support me and pray for me. Each of you is so very much appreciated! "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you" Philippians 1:3

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Denial...It Ain't Just a River in Egypt!

I should have known. I could have seen it coming. Maybe if I were being honest, I would have prepared better. But I didn't. I didn't want to think about it; didn't want it to be true. I tried ignoring it and making excuses, but it caught up with me.

The past few weeks as the numbness in my legs has gotten worse, there have been some changes. Little things started showing up that I knew weren't normal. Occasionally I would take a step sideways when I intended to go forward. Seems my brain and legs aren't on the same page always. Lately, there have been a few times when my "good" leg seems weak and rubbery and wants to give out. I have caught myself and brushed it off to the shoes I was wearing or because I got up too fast or because I wasn't really paying attention while I was walking. The truth is I haven't been too steady on my feet. I have thought many times that it is time to use my cane again to help steady myself, but then I think that I will be fine and I've come to far to go back.

There have been other, more concerning neurological symptoms that let me know things aren't working properly. (no details here!) All of these "little" details should not have been overlooked, I know. The truth is that it is scary and painful to realize that I am losing some abilities that would normally be taken for granted. I don't want to admit that it is possible to need help walking, or worse yet, that I may not be able to continue to do so at all some day.

Last night, it caught up to me. The rubbery legs, numb feet and lack of coordination resulting in a fall on the way to the bathroom at 1:30 am. Reality check--heard: loud and clear. I am very thankful that besides a sore hip and a swollen big toe, I suffered no major injury...except to my ability to remain in denial. Time to fess up. Things aren't so rosy and I need to be more careful and take precautions to prevent the falling before I really do get hurt.

I don't know what the future holds. None of us do. I may be totally healthy in 5 years and this could all be a distant memory. One of you reading this right now could be unable to walk and in a wheelchair. I find strength and comfort in Christ, but I also find loving arms to melt into and just grieve. Grieve some lost hopes and dreams, just for a little while.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Where is God When...

I have seen quite a few different books with titles starting with “Where is God When….I’m scared, I’m hurting, I’m alone, etc.”  

I think the better question is: Where am I when…I’m scared, hurting, lonely, etc.

Am I spending time with God? Am I sitting in front of a TV all day watching “reality” TV? Where is my heart? What is going on in my thought life? Am I daily reading my Bible, seeking godly counsel, and praying?

God has not left me; He has not changed, so if I am struggling with something, I should not question where God is, but question where I am.

Our natural tendency is to want to blame someone or something for our misfortune, unhappiness, or pain. The truth is it should cause us to reflect on all of God's mercies and our utter need to continually cling to the cross. The next time you are going through tough times, stop and evaluate where you are at. I am confident you will find that God is right there beside you.

As a personal note-
I would like to thank all of my family and friends (both new and old) that have been faithfully reading my daily blog. I am struggling with such bad side effects right now, the chief of which is lack of sleep. I am tired and not feeling all that creative right now (my brain is seriously foggy averaging about 5 hours of sleep per night). I will not be posting every day for right now. I do not want to force myself to write something just to have a blog post. I would prefer to write something meaningful and helpful, and worth the time you spend reading it. I plan to keep writing and will keep you all updated on the prayer requests, trip to mayo, health issues and all the rest of my life, a couple of days a week or more, but not daily. Have a great day! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Living Like There is No Tomorrow

Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” It is very easy to get overwhelmed thinking about what next year will bring, or five years. Just listening to a nightly news broadcast about the state of the economy is enough to make you shutter at what your life will look like in 20 years when retirement approaches.

In light of my recent medical issues again, I find myself wondering if I will be able to walk ten years from now. Then I stop myself. The thing is, I can walk today, and that is what matters. Today is the day I have been given to serve God. So for today I will do all I can to bring glory to God in this failing body and let tomorrow worry about itself.

The truth is that tomorrow promised to no one. We only have this day. Do we live each day to the fullest? Is it possible to live each day as our last?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Time for Mayo

Well, tomorrow marks the two week mark since starting on the prednisone. So far there has been no improvement of symptoms, but there have been lots of side effects. I am so exhausted from not sleeping. My stomach is very bloated and upset, and the meds make you feel hungry constantly. So much fun!

I spoke with the doctor about how long it might take to get the feeling back in my legs, and unfortunately, I wasn't thrilled with the answer. He says that the goal of treatment is not to reverse the symptoms, although it could happen, the goal is just simply to slow the progression of the disease. Not exactly what I had been hoping for.

He also says that the insurance will most likely not pay for the IVIG treatment due to the fact it would be an off-label use and is very expensive. This leaves one other treatment option, an anti-rejection medicine called Cellcept. After reading through the possible side effects (death, cancer, life-threatening infections), I am thinking that the remote possibility of partial or even complete paralysis years down the road seems like the better option. I have a bunch of difficult decisions facing me in the near future.

Today, I had my regular appointment with my family doctor, who said he thinks that it is time to go to Mayo Clinic. He is going to send a referral and we will wait and see if they take my case. I was not convinced that this was necessary, but he said if I were his wife, Mayo would be their next stop. He thinks due to the rare nature of the disease and the fact that the doctor at University of Chicago have not treated many patients with this problem, it would be best to go to Mayo where the a group of doctors has been researching this disease process.

So, in the meantime, I would appreciate your prayers! Please pray for Chad and I to have wisdom to make tough decisions. Pray that if it be God's will, Mayo might be able to accept my case in a timely manner. Pray also for the details of travel, work, expenses, etc. that would be involved if we have to go to Minnesota as well.

Have a great day! Thank you all for your prayers!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Heart of Man

Russian writer Turgenov once said, “I do not know the heart of a bad man, but I know the heart of a good man—and it is terrible!”

God’s Word says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Our words and actions constantly reveal our depraved state and our need of the Gospel and of Christ. All one has to do is watch a few minutes of an evening news broadcast to recognize this truth, and yet most people I meet seem so shocked that people are capable of evil. I am sure you have heard the “people are basically good” reasoning from many people as well. This wrong thinking about the heart of man is why some many people think that God will let them into heaven because they aren’t that bad.

The Bible, however, is clear that man is sinful, and God is holy. And because He is holy, He cannot overlook our sins. His justice demands that sins be punished. If we have been made alive in Christ, believed and repented, and placed our faith in Him, THEN the punishment for our sins has been paid-by Christ’s sacrifice. If we die apart from Christ, we are not a “basically good person” who can hope to get into heaven despite our sins; rather it is wrath and justice we will receive.

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Do you find it hard to believe that man’s heart is desperately wicked? Our hearts are deceitful, convincing even ourselves that we can manage our lives on our own; we know best. Pray that your eyes may be opened to God’s truth, you are in need of the forgiveness that is only available through Christ Jesus.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Blast from the Past

I had a post all written up for today, which you can read tomorrow, but I have decided to share something old. Last year a local newspaper wrote a good article about my struggles, including my quotes about my faith in God, and about a grant I received to buy a adaptive bike for myself.

I pray always that God would be glorified in me and through me, and I hope that this article points people to Him, my true strength. He is truly good and merciful and I am filled with awe as I look back on the road I have traveled, knowing I was never alone. He has brought me through so much and strengthened me each step of the way. I am forever His.

Romans 8:38-39
"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Read the article here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Potpourri Friday- John Piper free eBook

I recently ran across a short (and free) booklet from John Piper called “Don’t Waste Your Cancer.”
I know how difficult it can be to suffer, and how I pray that I might suffer well; bringing glory to God.

This was written by John Piper on the evening of his cancer surgery. This short devotional style book is a quick and easy read to encourage you or someone you know that is facing cancer. It would also be good for anyone dealing with terminal illness or chronic disease of any kind.

Download it free as a PDF file from Piper’s website (here).