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.
Tag Archives: Joy
I often question whether or not I should be so open and vulnerable about my spiritual struggles. It seems like the things that I write are so dismal and depressing. And yet I always feel compelled to say out loud the Scriptures that have moved me – that have literally shaken me – back into the light of our Savior. Which leads me to this next post.
For the last few months, I have been fighting to believe that God is good at all times. I am facing a drastic change in my living situation. I will still be in a facility but it might be a different facility and it will definitely mean living in a double room with someone I do not know. These changes terrify me.
I have been in such a dark place for almost 3 months now. I don’t know if it is the approaching of my two year anniversary as a quadriplegic or if I’m just being tested. It seems like everything is weighing down on me all at once.
My biggest frustration has been uncertainty. There’s been turnover with my caretakers so I’ve had a lot of temporary caretakers in the interim. What this means is that there are miscellaneous strangers bathing me and taking care of the intimate details of my personal care on a daily basis. It’s felt so humiliating to have so many different people seeing me in such a vulnerable way. Some days I feel like a sack of flour being flipped back and forth on the bed. It’s as if I’m just some inanimate object without feelings. I find myself asking God, am I really going to have to live here the rest of my life? All of these life experiences are too big for me. I can’t take this another day. I’m drowning!
I want to beat myself up for not being strong. I feel like I should be in a different place emotionally. I should be out in the community doing inspirational talks and inspiring the masses. I should have written a book by now. I should be something more than what I am. And what I am feels like not much of anything. A little pile of dust in the corner waiting to be blown away by the simplest movement of air.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9
As much as it pains me to write this, there is something perfect about my life circumstances. There is something to be learned. There is something for me to share with others. In the midst of the madness that I feel from day to day (and I can assure you that I feel on the edge of my sanity quite often), there is something valuable. A jewel.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. — 2 Corinthians 4:7
I know I am not the only one that suffers. I have had so many friends share with me the hardships of their lives and it helps me to remember that in the midst of all these painful struggles, when we feel the worst about ourselves, we are perfect in God’s eyes. We are all being made holy. When life feels so dark and unfamiliar, there is power in the most unlikely places. Thanks be to God. For I will not be broken in the midst of my pain.
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.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2 – 4 (NIV)
Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds. My favorite word in this passage is pure. We are not just talking about regular old joy, here. We’re not talking about the kind of giddy joy that comes from situational events such as getting an A+ on a paper, getting a good review at work, or becoming infatuated with someone new. We are talking about joy that has been refined by fire and is completely unblemished. Joy that comes from going through difficult trials and yet still praises God. This is the joy that’s not watered-down or tarnished by any outside influences. This is joy that is unshakable. Joy that is cemented to the soul. Joy that clings to the heart despite the raging negative life experiences that swirl around like a hurricane. Joy that stays intact even when the flaming arrows of Satan infiltrate our minds telling us we are failures; we’re ugly; we are not worthy of a pure, faithful relationship; we are not loved and cared for; we are not worth the ground that we walk on…
This pure joy stays intact when we are facing trials of many kinds. This pure joy doesn’t grow and build when life is going perfectly and we are getting all of our prayers answered. Don’t get me wrong, I love those times and they can be euphoric and produce much joy. But this purified joy sinks its roots deep into the ground when the pink slip comes at work; when the teenager becomes rebellious; when depression seems to surround us; when the cancer diagnosis comes; when a child dies in a car accident; and when a woman faints in her kitchen and breaks her neck. If we can persevere, keep our faith, and mature through these life circumstances, we can develop the purest type of joy: a deep-seated contentment and acceptance of God’s will.
I am not there yet with this pure joy idea but I’m beginning to gain perspective. Something deep inside of me is shifting and moving me to a point of clarity about pure joy. I don’t understand why my life events have played out the way they have, but I’m beginning to understand that devastating events don’t have to be viewed as a negative events.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28 (NLT)
Since my injury occurred a year and a half ago, I’ve developed fears which have resulted in deep-seated anxiety. I fear that as a disabled person I’m an easy target to be taken advantage of. I currently have a dispute with my last facility about overbilling. Unfortunately, I can’t walk through their doors in a power suit, armed with paperwork, and give them a piece of my mind. So instead I get worked up and frustrated to the point that I can’t think straight, all the while laying awake at night.
I also fear going to sleep at night. I’m afraid something will happen to me while I’m sleeping and I won’t know that it’s happening. It may sound outrageous to some but it feels like a real possibility to me. I’ve laid awake entire nights worrying and watching my door.
All of this anxiety boils down to two things: lack of power and lack of control. I truly have no physical power as a paralyzed person, but I do have the full armor of God which doesn’t require strong arms, legs, and hands to put on; it only requires control of a few simple things.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. – Ephesians 6:10
I first have to recognize who really has the power. This Scripture teaches me that God has mighty power. The devil wants to use these anxiety–producing thoughts to make me lose my faith in the mighty power of God.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:14 – 17
The Belt Of Truth – the Bible says in Proverbs 3:5 that I can trust God with all of my heart (and with all of my situations) and he will make my paths straight. It doesn’t say the paths will be smooth and easy, but God will lead me straight to him. The Bible also says in 1 Peter 5:7 that I can cast my anxieties on God because he cares for me.
The Breastplate of Righteousness – righteousness is what I strive for every day. I’m not perfect but it’s my goal.
The Shield of Faith – do I believe in a powerful God that is sovereign, loving, and protecting? Yes! This faith is what extinguishes the flaming arrows/negative thoughts. I sometimes recite Scriptures out loud to reinforce my shield (probably to the chagrin of my neighbors).
The Helmet of Salvation and Sword of the Spirit – which is the word of God. I stay in the word of God every day as much as possible. Even when I was able-bodied and didn’t make time the way I should have, I read at least one Scripture to hold in my heart.
God’s armor is not heavy. It actually makes the world much lighter. I’m thankful that God has a plan for all situations and his directions for steering clear of the evil one are concrete.
NOTE TO READERS: I also understand that sometimes counseling and medical advice is needed. I thank God for that as well.