Monday, February 27, 2017

It Is Well With My Soul

I saw this in the clearance section at the store today.  It came home with me.

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful, blessed man.  He had a wife named Anna, 4 daughters, 1 son, and owned a business.  In the space of 2 years, much of his business burned down in the Chicago Fire, his son died from pneumonia, and his 4 daughters drowned when their ship collided with another ship while crossing the Atlantic.  His wife, who was also on the ship, was rescued.  Here is a man who has literally lost everything except his wife.  He had 2 really, really awful years.

Any normal man would rail at God and ask, Why?  Why did You take away everything?  Any normal woman would rail at God and say the same thing.  Yet, somehow, Horatio and Anna were different.  As Anna waited for Horatio to cross the Atlantic to comfort her in her grief, she clung to God's unfailing goodness.  Another of the ship's survivors, Pastor Weiss, later recalled Anna saying, "God gave me four daughters.  Now they have been taken from me.  Someday I will understand why."

As Horatio journeyed across the Atlantic to be at his wife's side, he wrote the words to the hymn,

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul

Thou Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

For the past week I have been meditating on the words of this hymn.  As my body hurts and my energy fades, it is well with my soul.  As I look around at my messy house, it is well with my soul.  As I have a bunch of things to get done today, it is well with my soul.

Why can I, as a Christian, say with absolute certainty that it is well with my soul regardless of my circumstances?  Because I know that my body, this life, my troubles, and afflictions are all temporary.  The only thing that matters is that my sin is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more.  Today I cannot understand why God has allowed me to walk through the journey of chronic pain.  But I know that one day I will understand why.  And I can rest secure in knowing that in Christ, whatever my lot, it is well with my soul.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

He Will Give You Immeasurably More Than You Ask

Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more, 
far over and above all that we dark ask or think 
[infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams] ---
To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus 
throughout all generations forever and ever.  Amen.
~Ephesians 3:20-21 
(blended NIV and AMP version)

My kids had their mid-winter break this past weekend, so no school on Friday and Monday.  The Hubby was at a men's retreat for the weekend.  So of course my first thought was that I had to take the kids to the lake house.  I asked the in-laws if we could use it, but someone else had already reserved it.  The kids and I were bummed.  We all love the lake house (though if you asked David, he would say he'd rather stay home because he's lame, so we never ask for his opinion on trips up north).

As luck would have it, my sister and brother-in-law were going on a marriage retreat the same weekend, so my mom agreed to watch their kids.  So I knew that my kids would at least have some cousin time to look forward to.

Now, let's talk about Michigan weather for a few minutes.  I grew up learning that my part of Michigan is the third cloudiest area in the country.  The month of January we actually ended up being the cloudiest area on earth.  I glimpsed the sun for about 15 minutes one day in January.  I'm not sure if you live in a place where all you see is gloom and dreary skies for days on end.  But by the end of the eternal gloom, my household was starting to go bonkers.

Enter mid-winter break weekend.  Where the SUN came out and it was WARM--the temperature was in the 60s all break long.  A real mid-February miracle.

It started with a sleepover for Joy and the 3 girls in her class (that's right, she is in a class with 12 boys and 4 girls).  Joy and her friends had been begging for a sleepover for months.  I finally agreed that they could come over Thursday after school and stay through dinner time Friday (since the parents all work).  My girls (because Lizzy had to get in on the fun) had a blast!  Friday the weather was gorgeous.  SUNNY and WARM and DRY!  The kids were in and out of the house all day long playing.

Watching the Meerkats

Friday night the cousins arrived.  Saturday we all went to the zoo, along with friends and more family, and it was like a major holiday weekend at the zoo it was so crowded.  Everyone wanted to be outside.  After dinner my kids and the cousins were outside playing flashlight tag.  I heard a lot of yelling, laughing, and fun going on.  Sunday was more of the same except the kids played hide-and-seek outside.  Monday, friends came over while Joy went sledding with her church girls' group.  Those girls were SO excited to go sledding in t-shirts and snow pants in 60 degree weather!  (The park makes their own snow)

I told the Hubby that it must have been a fantastic weekend because my kitchen floor was a muddy mess from all the kids running in-and-out.  I happily washed the floor and vacuumed the rugs because it meant that everyone was enjoying the unusual sun and heat.

Tuesday morning I was reflecting on the weekend and how it was one of the funnest long weekends we've had in ages.  I entered the break disappointed about not being able to go up north, but God had immeasurably more than I asked for or imagined.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Even If You Don't My Hope Is You Alone

The first glimpse of the sun after a month of gloomy skies

It's easy to sing
When there's nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I'm held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't my hope is You alone
~Even If by MercyMe

Last month I realized that I was mad at God.  I contracted lyme disease this past July, and ever since I have been in physical pain about eighty percent of the time.  I have a few good days where my pain is minimal and I can get things done.  And then the rest of the time my muscles feel like I ran a marathon in my sleep.  It is a deep ache that doesn't go away.  My joints hurt, but it shifts around what joints bother me.  Some days I limp around because my foot hurts.  Other days I can barely grasp my hair brush or a pencil because my hands are so sore.  Some times it's hard for me to bend down or stand up for any length of time because my back is so stiff and sore.

I have been to the doctor numerous times.  I have seen a specialist.  I have two more appointments on the schedule with two different specialists.  I have had blood tests, ultrasounds, nerve and muscle conduction tests.  More blood tests that I requested the doctor run.  My doctor joked that I was like a person with a quiver full of arrows that I am shooting into the air hoping that one will find its target.

I have prayed.  I have been prayed for.  Prayed over.  Prayed some more.  And after months of nothing changing, I started to sympathize with the people you read about who just give up on life because the pain is too much, the struggle is too hard.  How could I live like this for the rest of my life if this is what it is going to be like for the rest of my life?  This isn't living.  This sucks!  So I stopped praying.  I set my Bible on a shelf.  And on the rare day when I did try praying, it was empty and fruitless.  One night I laid in bed next to Hubby and confessed that I no longer had hope for a healing.  It was time for me to accept that and learn to live life with my new normal.

Last week I had this overwhelming desire to ask Hubby to pray for me.  Once again, I laid down in the bed next to Hubby (all our deep discussions seem to happen there for some reason) and told him that I needed him to put on his pastoral hat and help me.  I confessed that I was mad at God for not healing me.  That I was starting to wonder if He was even real.  That all my attempts to pray felt empty and left me feeling even worse off than when I started.  I told him that I didn't need him to fix me, I just needed him to pray for me.  So he did.

Quite honestly, I didn't expect anything to change.  My hope was pretty much in the toilet.  The next day I came across a blog post that was like a complete slap to the face.  It is titled Even if He Doesn't.  Even if God doesn't rescue me, He is still good.  He is still able.  Even if I never live another pain-free day in my life, God is still able to heal me.  He is still good.  My hope must be in Him alone.  No matter what.  A little spark lit up in me.

A new song just started playing on the radio.  Even If by MercyMe.  I have been playing it on repeat.  Because my soul needs to hear it.  Over and over.  Even if You don't (heal me, rescue me, save me) My hope is You alone.  It is well with my soul.

I dusted off my Bible and started praying again.  God must have broken through a wall because praying no longer feels empty but is life-giving.  I'm not healed.  I'm actually sitting here with aching legs because it's an aching muscle sort of day.  God hasn't changed my physical body at all.  So it is a good thing that my hope is once again in God-for Who He Is-and not only in what He will do for me.