"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God." ~ Psalm 42:11
"This is too much for one person to deal with! How is one person expected to deal alone with all of these challenges that are never-ending?" I told my mom about a week ago after an upsetting phone call from one of my doctors regarding an MRI report. 2020 has been a year of many storms and little sunshine. Between political upheaval in the US, a global pandemic that has caused more division than coming together among folks, and a lot of personal struggles and serious health challenges, the sunshine moments have been sparse. Don't get me wrong, the moments of sunshine have been glorious, but it's been a game of anticipating when, not if, the next storm would roll in, how long it would last, and how severe it would be. I'm going to hesitantly be quite vulnerable here with my struggles in hopes that someone may be able to relate and I can connect with you and offer some encouragement. Someone quite wise recently told me that sharing your personal story and testimony can often greatly encourage someone else and provide a much needed avenue of connection in ways no one else could, so here goes...
In March, I went into a lonely quarantine at home away from friends and work for nine weeks as I was considered extremely high risk to the coronavirus as a person with cystic fibrosis. Finally, I was granted permission by my medical team to return to work in May, and I have never been more delighted. I told my boss it was better than Christmas getting to come back, which for me speaks volumes, as I am a bit of a Christmas-aholic. However, the sunshine was short lived as a few short weeks later in June, I suddenly developed severe gastrointestinal issues and was unable to eat or drink much of anything without throwing up and getting horrendous abdominal pain. I was admitted to the hospital for what I thought might be brief two to three day long stay, but it turned into twelve long days without being permitted to have my family or friends visit due to COVID-19, I was put on IV nutrition and hydration without any actual food for twelve days, and I endured five painful procedures and abdominal surgery. Ever since then, I've been using my g-tube (a tube in my stomach) for 24/7 nutrition and hydration, and it's been a struggle to deal with wearing a backpack with a pump and formula inside it about twelve hours of the day. I can now eat a few things and manage most of my symptoms with a cocktail of meds, but still deal with pain and sickness afterwards due to my body's inability to properly digest and process food. My body gained some strength, and in July, I had a major reconstructive sinus surgery, which unexpectedly left my lungs in a weak and fragile state that has yet to bounce back, making every activity a great challenge. As if that's not enough, pain management has been a nightmare as there are many medications I am unable to take due to my digestive issues, yet am subjected to chronic and severe back pain as a result of spinal deformities and broken vertebrae. Another major surgery is most likely on the horizon, and I have yet to resolve the current issues of my respiratory issues, I just found out the the sinus surgery I had was a failure in correcting the problem, and I am still working to navigate several health problems and find solutions. I have felt my dreams and goals slip away and vanish almost overnight due to the severity of health issues. Everything seemed to have hit at once in a domino effect. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I'm completely and thoroughly drained and bankrupt. It has felt like drowning in a rushing river where staying afloat is impossible, and I've been seeking any bit of shore to climb onto and cling to for reprieve, but the bit of shore has been swept away just as soon after it was found. Anyone else ever feel this way in seasons of life?
I have been stuck reading the book of Psalms for quite awhile now, and I have heavily related to the psalmist David's cries of desperation to the Lord and feelings that he unveiled in this book in the Bible. Just as David demanded the Lord's ear of listening and begged for the Lord's mercy, so have I literally cried out to the Lord and asked if He even hears me anymore. Just as David wept, so I have I spent hours sobbing. Just as David's sleep was greatly disturbed, so my nights are no longer reserved for rest and refreshment, but for pain and a mind that refuses to shut off. He was exhausted and weary. Frequent turmoil, anguish, and anxiety reigned over his life, and I feel this way quite often. My purpose in life seems lost. Many times, David did not experience the Lord's presence or hear the Lord attend to his cry for help, and many times as of late, the Lord has seemed silent to me. For David (and myself and anyone else struggling in life), where does one go from this state, and how does one find reason to persevere in life despite such deep and continuous trials?
" How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide your face from me?" ~ Psalm 13:1
Here is where the tables turn for the reader of the book of Psalms. Most Psalms that begin with David in distress surprisingly end with him thanking the Lord for His steadfast love and faithfulness, admiration of His works, gratitude for His salvation, trust in Him, acknowledgement of God being a stronghold to whom he can run, and vowing to never stop praising the Lord. How does a man in such agony and affliction still praise His Lord? At the end of the day when all is said and done, and though hearts are still broken, spirits crushed, and minds drained, we have a reason for praise and rejoicing and hope: the love and salvation from our precious Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately, His purpose prevails (Proverbs 19:21), His love conquers all sin, and because of the gift of salvation we were granted as He paid a price of redemption we could never afford, we never have to face the penalty of death's sting or view this world as our eternal home. We can and must turn away from our earthly challenges, even if only for a moment, and worship the Lord because He is good, loving, gracious, compassionate, gentle, seeks justice on our behalf, faithful, and never forsakes us. Will we do the same as David to praise and worship Jesus despite our circumstances looming around us?
My struggles have been numerous this year, and I recently strongly considered ceasing medical treatments as I am so fatigued by them. I recently asked myself, "Why can't things in life just be easy for once?!" An immediate answer was provided, "If things were easy, then you wouldn't have any need for trust and faith in God." The Holy Spirit has done a wonderful, and sometimes annoying, job at prodding my heart to keep on persevering and fighting. While I still believe I need to know my purpose in life and while I am still feeling incredibly overwhelmed with pain, frustration, and brokenness, it would be irresponsible of me to not strive to fulfill God’s commands of loving others and glorifying Him. It's okay to lament this broken earthly life, but don't let lamenting overshadow hope in Christ and worship offered to Him. I pray that this earthly fight will all be worth it if it may bring any amount of glory to Christ in some way, and I pray that at the end of the day, I will still always remember the reasons to worship Him. We don't need to have our lives all together for God. He wants us to come to Him in honest brokenness and pain, and yet still find reason to worship Him.
"But I will sing of Your strength; I will sing aloud of Your steadfast love in the morning. For You have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress." ~ Psalm 59:16
From both my quiet observation and knowledge, I am certain that many of you are wrestling with deep challenges and issues in life. Perhaps they are overwhelming, you feel lost, you are broken to the core, you don't understand the reasoning, maybe you feel that you have no purpose in life and are ready to succumb to drowning in the struggles life hurls endlessly at you. Sorrow and pain is a part of humanity. We strive to run from it, but sometimes there is no retreat from brokenness and heartbreak, and we don't know how to process this pain. Our anguished question of "why?" may not be provided with an answer that satisfies us or an answer at all. Nevertheless, will we still lift our weary hearts and place our hope in God and praise Him yet again, even amidst overwhelmingly dark trials? Will we still recognize that He is our true salvation, and our hope in Him and worship to Him is not circumstantially dependent?
"When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all." ~ Psalm 34:17-19