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Soldier of the Cross

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As expected, I’ve had another traumatic hospital experience that’s prompted me to write this blog post. I wish that I wrote my best blog posts during times when I’m on the upswing in my faith and filled with overwhelming hope and good news; but if I’ve learned anything over the last four years as a quadriplegic, the hardest times have been the most fruitful times in terms of my spiritual growth.

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God is Good

Why does God allow difficult things to happen? I do not know the answer. Every time I read the news, look at Facebook, or talk to friends, I hear bad news. I often get sad and sometimes I get angry, but it bolsters my belief that I have to keep my mind set on things above and not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2). I do not know the purpose of me being paralyzed, but I do believe that suffering is part of our journey.

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Spiritual Rehydration

The idea of persevering wears me out. I get very scared that I’ll have to live in this body for several more years. I wonder if I can handle it. I know perseverance builds character, and character builds hope (Romans 5:3-4), but some days I just don’t feel like I have the energy to keep exercising my character muscles. I get so weary. Even as I began to write this post I felt so discouraged, but something told me to push through. I sat and looked at the screen wondering what I was going to say. Then Psalm 23 came to mind.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. — Psalm 23:1-2

It’s so easy for me to forget where my strength and peace comes from. In my flesh, I am incapable of dealing with the worries and troubles of this world. The weights that we all carry on our shoulders zap our strength and dehydrate us. Only God can refresh our soul.

Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. — Psalm 1:1-3

I have low blood pressure as a result of my injury. If I don’t stay hydrated, I can pass out sitting in my chair. It can be very dangerous. In the same way, if I don’t meditate on the right things, I experience a spiritual drought. There is no fruit in my life, my leaf withers, and I don’t prosper emotionally. It’s a bad place to be. I find myself in this drought when I am more focused on the troubles of this world and the worries about tomorrow. I find myself in this drought when I allow myself to be guided by negative emotions rather than by God’s strong arm. God is my only hope for contentment and peace. And for this reason I can persevere one more day.

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. — Psalm 73:24-27

The Beauty of Affliction

We all have a journey. I’ve been fighting mine as a paralyzed person because it’s felt so hard. I’ve been trying to tell God, this is too much for me. I kept thinking that he would make it easier because of my diligent prayers and the prayers of so many others in my life. And yet in many ways things just got harder. There were more visits to the ICU and more physical pain. There was more emotional turmoil and a deep depression. And I just couldn’t understand why he was allowing these things to occur.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. — Psalm 119: 71

Suffering and affliction can bring about a desperation for God. I’ve learned things when I’ve suffered that I never would’ve learned when things were going along nicely. It’s my most painful moments that make me desperate to hold on to Jesus and believe his words. I want to know him in a way I’ve never wanted to before. I thirst for a close relationship with him. When I feel the worst inside, I think about him grasping onto my arm as if I were hanging off the side of a cliff. It gives me comfort and peace.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. — John 16:33

There was a time in my life when I knew the truth about God but chose not to live according to it. I drank too much and got into dangerous relationships. Nothing could fill my empty soul. I finally reached out to a support group and was able to get sober for almost 3 years. That’s when I began to reach out to God once again and sought the fellowship of Christians in a bible-based church. And if you know my story, you know that I fasted one day, fainted in my kitchen, and woke up paralyzed.

I have often questioned why this happened to me when I was on my road to recovery. My road to reconnect with God and people. Why such a tragedy? Why now? It seems like when I was on my way to getting my life fixed, it suddenly became broken. Snapped like the C4 vertebrae in my neck. In a split second – the blink of an eye – everything changed.

I have contemplated this idea of my life being broken during my “upswing” for a little over two years. I have come to this conclusion: was my life really broken? Or am I being healed?

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. — Psalm 119:67-68

Just Breathe

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Some days I spend a lot of time taking deep breaths because I feel like I’m suffocating. This is one of those days. Lately I’ve been so unmotivated. I don’t want to stay in bed and yet I don’t want to get in my wheelchair. I hate feeling like this.

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” — Psalm 16:1-2

If I couldn’t pray I would certainly be insane. I have no props. I have no crutches. I can’t sleep this situation away. I can’t get drunk enough to put me out of my misery. I’m stuck in this paralyzed body.

And yet even when I was able-bodied, I felt stuck. Unfortunately, I had many props when I was able-bodied and I often relied on them to make myself feel better. I charged up a lot of credit cards and I drank a little too much wine. I spent a lot of time in the gym trying to look perfect. I spent too much time at work trying to get ahead. None of this ever solved anything.

Now I have no other choice but to pray, believe that the Scriptures are true, and let you know how I feel. This is a good thing and it reiterates Psalm 16: apart from God I have no good thing. For this reason, I can breathe.

Gentle Love

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I’ve had a rough few weeks. I have been battling God on the idea of whether or not I can handle this life journey as a paralyzed person. I have said repeatedly in my blogs that I believe my accident has a greater purpose. And yet each morning when I wake up I am frustrated when I open my eyes. I wonder how I can live through another 24 hours in this dead body. I get angry and I get afraid, but I look to God’s word for comfort. He always speaks to me gently.

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. — Psalm 139:1-4 (NIV)

Psalm 139 is a love story. It describes how intimately I am known and loved by God. He knows how I feel. He knows exactly what I can or can’t handle. He knows when I feel worthless. He knows when I am deeply discouraged. He knows when I rejoice. This Psalm teaches me I am not alone in my feelings.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. — Psalm 139:7-10 (NIV)

Not only does God know how I feel at all times, I can never escape him. On my worst day, God does not leave my side. I cannot out run him (nor does he want me to). Over the last year and a half, when I felt like he was punishing me or he had abandoned me, he was right by my side holding my hand. He was guiding me back to the truth about his loving and unchanging character.

I often question God’s decision making and what he’s allowed to occur in my life. I often get angry because I don’t want to endure it. Sometimes it feels like his love hurts. And yet he still stands by me through all of these emotions. He knows I am resisting. He knows I am weary. He knows I am mad. But none of this changes his perfect, unshakable, all-knowing love for me.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. — Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)

Power in Weakness

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… I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7 – 8 (NLT)

Sometimes I feel so lost. I wonder how I can add any value to this world in my current condition. As selfish as it sounds, I’ve laid in bed for two or three days at a time in the darkest funk wishing I were not part of this world. On those days I refuse to get in my wheelchair and go out of my room or even outside to get fresh air. At some point I will finally ask myself, how did I get here? And the answer is always the same: I’ve relied on my flesh to cope in my world and not on the Spirit of our mighty God.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. – Galatians 5:16 – 17 (NLT)

What does my flesh want? To feel sorry for myself. To be isolated and sit in the dark. To just give up. Even when I was able-bodied I felt these things. When I’m relying on myself (my flesh) I am doomed and enslaved by darkness. Through prayer and faith, I can be set free and live in the light.

Without God, I would never be able to endure my life circumstances. None of us would be able to endure our life circumstances, whatever they are! When I don’t take time to pray, look at Scripture, and spend time with my sisters in Christ who can challenge and encourage me, I am destined to fall into a deep depression and become bitter towards God. The reality is, I have no power and God has all power over all things. Why am I not relying on and trusting in him?

Today I felt weak. I slept very little last night and I didn’t want to get out of bed. But I’m sitting in my wheelchair and I’m talking to you about my weakness and God’s strength. Even as I started to write this blog, I got a bad headache and felt distracted and discouraged. But I prayed and I pushed through. I’m not trying to toot my own horn because we all have our own struggles. But today God’s power was made perfect in my weakness. In that I can boast.

So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9 – 10 (NLT)