Thursday, December 29, 2016

Real Life ... Finding Hope in Suffering

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
–Romans 8:28

I feel like sometimes when circumstances aren't going “our way” it is easy to feel like we are missing God's "Plan A" for our lives ...

After returning from a mission trip to Tanzania, Africa near the end of November 2015, my body was a wreck and years of chronic pain in my back had taken their toll. I fought to come back again, to get stronger, and from December through March I worked to get healthy. I was even able to go to Nicaragua on a mission trip during that time and not have too much pain ... "Maybe this is the time I can get healthy and stay there," I thought.

Shortly after returning from overseas, in the course of about a week, it all came to a halt. I went from training almost daily to excruciating pain, without really even being too sure what I did... again.

From the beginning of April until I got in to see the hip doctor in September the pain grew increasingly worse to the point that I had never been in as much pain in all my life. Starting near the end of August I also became increasingly nauseous, dizzy, and short of breath, and it took a couple months for doctors to figure out I had some things very wrong with my thyroid as well ...

Amidst this time, I was only able to teach the first three days of the school year and then had to go on leave …

"Really, Lord? You have called me to take the gospel to the nations and I can hardly make it out of bed?" ... I would like to say those thoughts never crossed my mind. That would be a lie ...

Wow, did I have a lot to learn… about God’s sovereignty, and goodness, and what it means to be still and rest in Him… He is faithful to use adversity to root out sin in our hearts, whether it be pride, or self-sufficiency or arrogance as we think we know better than He what circumstances will bring Him the most glory … I was brought to repentance in that, and more than anything through this season, I saw His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways, but that He is worthy of trust and all our praise in every season, and that the promises He gives in Scripture are the firm foundation on which to stand…

~That God does work all things to the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28)
~That it is possible to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds (James 1:2-4)
~That He never leaves or forsakes us and nothing can separate us from His love (Deut. 31:6, Rom. 8:38-39)
~That we can come boldly to His throne of grace and find grace and mercy to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
~That in His presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11)
~That in this world we will have trouble, but we can take heart, for He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

I have seen God's hand of faithfulness and am rest assured that this past year wasn't His "Plan B" or "second best" ... but the very best of what He had conform me more into the image of His Son and to draw me into a deeper relationship with Him.

I saw His faithfulness in countless ways, especially through those who were the hands and feet of Jesus in so many ways in how they loved and served – through praying and bringing meals and giving rides and offering a place to stay and sending encouragement and dropping by and sending emails and texts and calling and coming alongside and continually pointing me back to Him.

I had hip surgery November 30 and thyroid surgery December 14. The pathology results from thyroid surgery were benign (thankful), but I found out my thyroid was more atrophied and inflamed than anything the pathologist had encountered before. The surgeon found it stuck to my trachea during surgery and it was hindering my ability to breathe due to the inflammation, answering many of the questions as to why I was so dizzy and short of breath for much of the fall … very thankful it came out when it did!

Recovery from hip surgery that repaired a torn labrum, the bursa, cartilage damage, and where the ball and socket overlapped too much is also coming along. There are still months and months of PT ahead (six months of PT will put me at May 30) but it sure does feel nice to be on the road to recovery. The hope is that this will also greatly help the pain I have experienced in my back for years and years.

I was reminded through this season that our circumstances need not define us... or we will be blown and tossed by the winds of adversity. It is our identity in Christ that matters. He is wise. He is kind. He is faithful. He loves us beyond what we can ever imagine. In Him alone is where we find joy. He has a purpose for our lives.

Do you know what your purpose is? Where is your hope in suffering? ... there is a God who created you, who loves you and wants a personal relationship with you so you can live for Him and bring Him glory ... apart from that, what's the point? ... without Christ, our suffering would be meaningless and there would be no hope ... but with Him it is absolutely meaningful and in Him is all the hope in the world! God is not far off, but one who draws near and can identify with our suffering... we are deserving of death because of our sin, but He has chosen to offer us life through Christ's death and resurrection ...  I pray each of you may find that hope.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:8

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." -John 14:6

Thank you to all of you who have walked alongside in this journey. Know your prayers and support mean so much. He is faithful!

"With friends by your side, no road seems too long." So thankful.

Getting up in the surgery center after having hip operated on.
Thankful for brothers and sisters in Christ.

Blessed :)

Riding around Wally World on the scooter after surgery... #LifeGoals :)

Praying for the nations... that all may come to know Him as Savior!