Struggling with Hope and Dealing with Chronic Illness

“Just another day in paradise,” are the words of my youngest son when I asked how his school day went. The honest words of a boy and his sarcastic view on an activity he did not like to do. Today, that was how I felt as I laid my head down on my pillow at bed time. Instead of paradise, I replaced it with misery. Today was another endless day of struggles with chronic illness. One or two days in a row I can handle and keep my head above water. Things don’t look too bad and hope is in the air. When I get to day 5 and 6 of endless pain and fatigue, my mind takes a turn for the deep end of the pool. I can feel myself slowly sinking. As I take a step forward, and no answers or relief is in sight, my head starts to go under. My thinking becomes foggy and unclear. My focus is stuck in a whirlpool of emotions and thoughts that become heavy. Before I know it, the heaviness is leading me down into a darker place and I am only able to conjure up the energy to do the basic survival skills. Treading water in the midst of the fogginess takes up everything I have and it takes all my energy not to sink any deeper. Sometimes I look up to see if anyone is coming to rescue me. I see the faces of my friends and family standing on the side of the pool. Their faces are in anguish as they struggle to come up with any idea that can help pull me back to the shallow end. The longer I stay under the more helpless I feel. The more helpless they feel. We become distant with each other as the pool I am sinking in becomes lonely. Sometimes I wonder, “Why don’t they just jump in.” If they would just jump in maybe I could grab ahold of their foot and pull myself up. The realization comes to me, that if they jump in and I pull on them they will sink too. The foggy water can be consuming the longer they stay in it as well. The truth is, there is only one that can get in the water with me and not sink. That person is Jesus. That person alone has the power and ability to pull me out, but as I continue to pray, it becomes evident that God the Father wants me to swim to the surface on my own. Jesus will be with me every step of the way. He will never leave me nor forsake me, but sometimes God says, “Today my child, instead of me allowing Jesus to pull you from the depths, today I want you to learn how you can swim to the top. My power lies within you, you just got to dig down deep into your thoughts and in your soul and find that one thing that is making you sink. Jesus can deliver you instantly and it will be good for a day, but you can dig down deep and learn what it is that is pulling you down and you can be free for much longer. Jesus will hold you, give you the air you need, and the strength to tread water for as long as you need. You have my promise you will not sink too deep because you are mine and I am yours.” As I hold onto that promise I start to dig deep and find that one thing that is missing. That one thought, that one lifeline of hope. Then I realize that hope is what is missing. The thoughts of being alone, the thoughts of were my pain and suffering can lead me to, the being stuck without medical answers has left me with no hope. So how do I gain my hope back? Well, I start in the place that has answers. The bible.

I started reading about David this morning when he was stuck in the cave hiding from Saul, and when the philistines overtook him in Gath. The constant theme is trust. David is in the midst of his enemies and he is trusting God in all of it. Myself, I struggle with the calamity at hand (my anxiety and worries) as it overwhelms my thoughts and emotions to the point that trust is a distant emotion. For David trust gives hope. Trust is the lifesaving ring floating at the top of the pool. When I can grab that trust, then hope is attainable. Yet, how do I get trust close to me? How can I trust anything, when I am so consumed with the problem at hand?

As I sit and ponder and continue to read about David, the realization comes to me that being consumed with thoughts of the problem is the problem. I need a break from the problem. I can keep busy today doing housework, or projects; but lets me honest here, that in itself can be kind of depressing and bring on its own set worries and negative emotions. Who really finds great joy in cleaning all day? The end result can bring me joy. Looking back on all the work I was able to accomplish and how neat and tidy everything is can give me a sense of accomplishment. Yet, accomplishment is not the goal. The goal today is to get a little bit closer to trusting God in the midst of the anguish. Well, if anyone can tell us how we can get a little closer to trust it will be David. So, what does David do in the midst of his anguish? We see a pattern over and over again in the psalms of David as he cries out to God in prayer and in song to God.

Psalm 56:1-12

 Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High. What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul. Shall they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God. Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me. In God will I praise his word: in the Lord will I praise his word. In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee.

  1. David cries out for mercy to the one he recognizes as the most powerful, most living, most high. He does this while acknowledging his dilemma. He is honest. Honest about his struggle, honest about how tired and oppressed he is with fighting his enemy. Honest about who the enemy is.
  2. He states what he believes in. This is a strategic move on David’s part. Not just for God to know where his heart lies, but for Satan to know whose army he is a solider of.
  3. Next, He gives more detail about his struggle. He opens up to God and bares his heart to him. He voices his inner most fears and deepest struggle of the fight he is in. He does not walk in denial of it, or in the shame of it. He owns the struggles by not placing blame on others, but stating the facts of how the enemy is pushing his buttons.
  4. Then he asks God questions. Oh Yes! He questions God. A conversation is a two-way street. We engage in conversation with questions. It is not a one-sided conversation for David to have with God, but he engages God to speak back to him. God speaks back through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has the ability to open up his mind and his perspective and give him a sense of peace and understanding. The Spirit can shower him with confidence in his position in Gods army. The spirit does this by reminding David of Gods promises. The promises that God cares enough to put his tears in a bottle, and the promise that when he cries to God his enemies will retreat.
  5. Lastly, David states again where his confidence lies. He does it for God, for the enemy, and for himself.

The more we repeat something, the more we will believe it. We will find in David’s writings and songs that he is constantly going back and forth from stating his dilemma and the facts of it followed up by his belief and promises of God. I think this is key in moving forward in the battle we are facing. We tend to get so lost in the struggle and sink from the heaviness of the pain. We meditate on the pain looking for answers, we talk about it to others. It becomes our focus that we are consumed with it and the negativity it brings. What we are missing is the balance. The balance of stating our dilemma while also focusing on the truth of what we can trust in. Facts that we can hold onto. Facts about out God, and facts about our situation that are not heavy.

David had hope and trust because he did not let the struggle consume all of him and his thoughts. He had a balance of verbalizing his struggle followed with verbalizing what his God can do with that struggle and the positive facts that are within that struggle. So today, I am going to focus on the balance. In my conversations with others, with my prayers to God, and with my thoughts as I go throughout my day. I will change my “but” statements to an “and” statement.

I will state the struggle, and follow with Gods love for me.

I will be honest about how much I dislike God’s strategy to let me flounder to the top of the pool and not rescue me, and I will state the promises of growth he says will come from gaining that balance to float to the top.

I will be honest about the facts of my enemy and how it makes me feel, and I will verbalize the power my God has to help me overcome the enemy and all the grief that surrounds me.

I will ask God for a clear mind, honest perspective, and tell my enemy whose child I am; and I will praise God in worship, in song, and remember where I was and what he has already brought me through.

Before long, I trust that I am going to believe even deeper and stronger in the promises of God and trust in his plan and have hope within my circumstance. The more you repeat something the more your soul with believe it. We can rise in the midst of anguish. I can find peace in the current of suffering. I can’t control my illness, but I can control the thoughts about it and how I choose to deal with it. It will be hard. It will take time and effort I feel I don’t have. But God, will give me the strength to do this and the wisdom to grab hold of thoughts and beliefs that are firm and I can believe in. So, lets do this!

P.S. Are you struggling with Chronic Health issues and feel like no one understands? Share this with those that are close to you. Help give them some insight to what you are going through.

Do you have a friend that suffers? Share this with them so they know they are not alone and you are trying to understand!

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