(image credit http://thypolarlife.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/a-light-in-the-darkness/)
The last few months have been pretty rough for me, I’ve had some major health issues that put the brakes on life in general for a number of weeks, and of course this didn’t affect just me, but the kids and my friends and family around me.
Long story short, at Easter I had a flare up of the arthritis I’ve been dealing with for nearly 3 years, which landed me in the hospital for a night and rendered me unable to walk very well for about 6 weeks. Because it’s an auto-immune inflammatory disease, the effects are systemic, so the pain wasn’t localised to the main joints that were affected, my whole body was affected – pain, fatigue, swelling, inflammation, nausea.
Sleep was a fantasy, moving without pain a seemingly far-off dream, and the nausea made me all but lose my appetite completely, eating became a chore. The worst part though, was the sense of utter hopelessness and at times despair I felt. I have been dealing with this disease for nearly 3 years, and whilst it had flared up and down over that time, it had never been as bad as it was at that point. The medications I was taking weren’t managing the symptoms, yet I didn’t qualify for the ‘heavy-duty’ medication that was incredibly expensive, yet was most likely to be the most effective. I had had a doctor tell me that I would very likely get worse before I got better, I had no idea how much worse I had to get.
The blessing of this experience was that my symptoms did qualify me for the miracle medication, and within a few weeks I was injecting myself once a week with what I was hoping was going to kick this awful disease into submission.
You would think that throughout this time, I would have been turning to God and letting myself fall completely into His arms to take care of me, as I had no capacity to take care of myself.
During this time, I turned within myself and shut the world out as much as I could, aside from the necessary (you know – work, kids, parental responsibilities, minor details like that!), and all but withdrew from God. Except I couldn’t completely.
The only prayer I could manage consistently was ‘Thank-you, Jesus’. Exactly what I was thanking Him for, I don’t really know. In the middle of the night, laying in the dark, my body screaming in pain, ‘Thank-you, Jesus’, was all I could pray.
Even in the state I was in, I knew my healing had been completed on the Cross when He bore my illness and disease, the struggle lay in trying to understand why I wasn’t seeing and experiencing the healing. Was my faith not strong enough? Did I not really believe that I had been healed? Was I not good enough, not worthy? Is there something I was still not ‘getting’, that was ‘blocking’ me from being relieved of the symptoms?
Was God really enough?
Did He really love me?
I know now that all that was a lie, a deception the enemy used to try to convince me that God had deserted me, that I had to deal with everything on my own, that I wasn’t worthy of being a whole, pain free person. As I wrote yesterday, the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, and he will take every single opportunity He can to do that, he knows our weaknesses and knows how to exploit them.
But he’s no match for the power of God’s love and grace.
The new medication has worked, and for the first time in a very long time, I’m pain free. More importantly, my heart is being healed, and God has used this experience to show me just how much He truly loves me, something I haven’t fully allowed myself to believe before. Oh, I’ve never doubted that He loves me, but I haven’t allowed myself to fully embrace His love. My experience of receiving love has been one that comes with conditions and strings attached (because as human beings that’s what we do, we’re not capable of loving someone unconditionally), and I had never realised that I had put God in that same category, that same box, had the same expectation.
It took my body and spirit being nearly completely broken for me to allow myself to start to believe that God loves me simply because He loves me, not because of who I am, what I do, how I think, how many good works I do. He loves me because He loves me, nothing more, nothing less. He is enough – more than enough – and there is nothing more powerful than His love.
A few days ago a song seemingly randomly popped into my head, ‘Coming Out Of The Dark’ by Gloria Estefan. As I read the lyrics, I felt like what I've been experiencing had been put into words, and that coming out of the darkness is exactly how I feel now, as if I've been wandering aimlessly with the lights dimmed.
His light is bright and beautiful, and I'm drinking it in.