I was scrolling through Instagram this past weekend when I saw a post/video from novelist Nadine Brandes. She was talking about acne she had dealt with after a virus during college. It was all across her face and she said many people would offer unsolicited advice or make awful assumptions about it. She eventually developed a deep depression over it because nothing worked to remove it — not medications or creams or expensive medication. All those things did was make her sick.
She said that one day she started to cover the mirrors in her house and began to focus on Jesus and her relationship with him. She stopped trying to take care of the problem herself. She wrote under the short video she posted that she never actually figured out what the source of the acne was, but one day, she began to notice it was fading, and then it was gone. She wrote, “All I can say is Jesus. Jesus removed the stress, the anxiety, and the shame. I think peace affects our bodies just as much (if not more) as creams.”
I could relate to her story, not because I have ever had her acne, or even because of the frustrating health issues I do deal with, but because I have found myself focusing too much on situations, people, and my perceived failures and not enough on Jesus many times.
Most recently this focus has come in the form of trying to figure out how to build a following for my books so I can earn a little extra cash to help my family financially, but also because I enjoy sharing my stories. I started checking off all these steps that “experts” insist you must do to be noticed on social media. I created an author page and group on Facebook. I searched for ways to increase interactions and followings on Instagram. I tried to do everything that was being suggested without totally driving myself crazy since I had walked that road before and ended up with a near mental breakdown.
I’ve learned there is nothing wrong with building a following, either to help promote your work so you can support your family or to get the word out about something you’re passionate about (like your faith in Christ), but if it is replacing your relationship with Christ then it will bring you more misery than you were prepared to handle.
Nadine’s post was a reminder to me to step back again, lay it all in Jesus’ hands and not worry so much about followers or sales or anything other than my relationship with him.
He’s the ultimate provider and all my hard work means nothing if I don’t lean into him and let him lead.
This is something I will have to remind myself of over and over again because so many of us know how it should be and we do fine for a while but then life — argh! Life gets crazy or scary or crazy scary again and we lose our way.
We forget to trust.
We lose focus.
We get distracted. It is in those moments of distraction that we have to be reminded of what we had committed to in the past, which was focusing on Christ and letting him take care of all that weighs us down.
Doing anything other than that will not only frustrate us but make us sick, mentally, spiritually and even physically.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Before I start this post, I want to explain that it is not a woe-is-me-post. It is not a “my life is worse than others” post. This is a “you’re not alone” post if you also face chronic health issues, big or small. This is also a post pondering why some receive God’s healing and others do not.
My issues are nothing compared to those who have struggled with chronic pain for much of their life. I’m also not claiming an illness. This is simply what’s happening in my life now. And what is happening now is I am dealing with a bladder issue off and on that often keeps me up at night, as well as pain in my sciatica nerve and lower back. Both of these issues have recently been improving and seem to go through spurts of being there and not being there.
This issue, along with several others involving muscle aches and extreme fatigue, has been happening off and on for over a decade now. In the midst of all of this, I have seen some other health issues I’ve dealt with for years improve some. So, it’s not all doom and gloom in my world, thankfully.
I was diagnosed with reoccurring Urinary Tract Infections as a child. I was placed on antibiotics even if the test showed I didn’t have an infection. I had two exploratory procedures to see what was happening and why I had so many infections and discomfort. No official diagnosis was ever made, other than one doctor saying my bladder was small and had never fully developed.
In my mid-20s I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which means my thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone, which leads to all kinds of “fun” medical symptoms. The thyroid issue was not addressed until I was in my early 30s because I was told by an endocrinologist I wasn’t really hypothyroid. Instead, I was a woman, newly married, and had anxiety. The thyroid condition was then masked for a few years by antidepressants. Once I took myself off the antidepressants, after gaining more than 50 pounds, and all my energy, I began to have massive panic attacks and was finally told (again, by a new GP) that my thyroid was off and I should be on medication. My original GP was correct all along. Some of this may explain why I have a healthy distrust of doctors and the medical profession as a whole.
All of this rambling is to explain that I have prayed for healing from various symptoms stemming from these medical issues for years. My mom has prayed for healing for me as well. My mom also suffers from some near debilitating health issues, and I may have inherited some of that, though my issues are nowhere as severe as hers. We have also prayed for complete healing for her as we did for my grandmother, whose issues were even worse than ours.
It can be hard when we pray for healing from issues and that healing doesn’t come.
It can be hard to watch other people receive healing when we don’t. We may be happy for the other person, but we wonder where our healing is. Or maybe it isn’t our healing we are praying for but the healing of a loved one.
I can’t say I’ve ever felt jealous of someone who has received healing when I haven’t. I suppose I have figured that this chronic health stuff of mine is simply normal for me. It’s what I was born with and it’s what I just have to deal with.
Still, there are days I ask God, “Why me?”
Why do I have to be the one who looks like I’m afraid of life when really a health symptom is holding me back from some things?
Why am I the one Christians scold for not having enough faith, for not simply “picking up my mat and walking in healing (John 5:1-18 ), for not rebuking Satan enough, for claiming sickness when I should be rejecting it?
Why am I the person who was told by a well-liked Christian in our community that I like being sick, that being sick means I get out of responsibilities so I hold on to the symptoms and talk about them to bring attention to myself. Apparently, she didn’t understand that I don’t want attention, especially when that attention comes from people shaking their heads at me in pity or looking at me like I am a sad, lonely, pathetic person whose whole life revolves around my “made-up” chronic illness.
I should mention this same Christian also said my mother and grandmother wanted to be sick and enjoyed the attention. Trust me, my mother and grandmother do not and did not enjoy being in excruciating pain from fibromyalgia and if they could have simply said, “I don’t want this, thank you very much” and it would have been gone, they would have.
I have heard about and known many people who have been healed of their afflictions — mental, spiritual, and physical afflictions. Then I have seen others who were prayed over by people all around the world who were never healed and passed away, crushing the faith of many in the process.
What was the difference between those who were healed and those who were not? I have no idea.
All I know is that it happens for some, and it doesn’t for others.
In my own journey, full healing has not come, but there have been small moments of triumph and victory. There have been days, after nights where bladder spasms or back pain has caused me to wake up every hour or 90 minutes, that I have still felt good and been able to accomplish what I needed to accomplish, and then some.
While I once spent most of my days shaking and feeling weak all over, I’ve had more and more days where I don’t have that weak feeling and go all day without feeling light-headed or without fighting brain fog. If you don’t know what brain fog is, it’s when your whole head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton (literally) and your thoughts are battling to push their way through that cotton.
When I do have some of those symptoms, I know how to manage them better than I once did. I have a litany of natural supplements or solutions that get me through the days when the symptoms flare.
There are days, even with the victories, I still cry out to God and ask Him, “Where is my healing? Where is it? Where is my miracle like the man by the pool in Bethesda? Why can’t I have it? What am I doing wrong? Which sin is blocking me?” More than wondering about my own healing, though, I often want to know why the healing hasn’t come for my mom. She’s suffered for more than 25 years, maybe even longer. And why didn’t it come for her mother who I clearly remember leaning over a couch in her 70s sobbing and crying out in pain and asking God what he had abandoned her?
If I am asking this question, I can just imagine the anger and frustration someone like Joni Tada Erickson has felt over the years. For those who don’t know who Joni is, she is a Christian speaker who was paralyzed at the age of 17 when she jumped into a shallow lake. She has spent almost 50 years without the use of her arms or legs and also battled cancer twice, but she has also spent 50 years preaching, painting, writing, and encouraging people to focus on the small things of life when the big things seem too much to bear.
I read a blog post from her recently where she pondered the conundrum of why some are not healed by God and others are. She was writing to Christian doctors and dentists, encouraging them so they could encourage patients who don’t find healing.
After asking for healing for years, and even attending a service specifically for healing, Joni cried out to God for answers.
“Finally, one night in desperation, I cried out to the Lord, “Oh, God, I can’t live this way! Please, if I’m not going to die, show me how to live!” It was a simple plea, but at least my heart was turning God-ward, rather than inward. I felt a glimmer of hope.”
She says she began reading her Bible more, seeking a closeness with God she might have before the accident.
“With time, my perspective on healing began to change. I came to understand that God had a higher priority for my life than an instantaneous physical cure. When we look at healing in the Bible, we find that while it is true that Jesus took time to physically heal many people, He was most interested in their spiritual healing. In sending the 10 men with leprosy to the priests to be declared “clean,” He was also restoring them to fellowship with their community (Luke 17:11-14). Only after offering forgiveness of sins to the paralytic lowered through the roof did Jesus then offer physical healing (Mark 2:1-11). And most importantly, Jesus didn’t physically heal everyone. When it was time to move on, He did so, leaving behind multitudes unhealed (Mark 1:38).
His larger mission took priority—“to seek and to save the lost” and to bring spiritual healing to a broken humanity (Luke 19:10, ESV). It wasn’t that Jesus did not care about the problems among those He didn’t heal physically; it’s just He was more concerned about their spiritual welfare than their physical hardships. As Jesus famously pointed out, it would be better for a person to be maimed than to live in a state of sin and rebellion (Matthew 5:29-30).”
I believe God wants us to have healing, but maybe, as Joni suggests, that healing won’t always come as physical healing.
This post doesn’t mean I feel I have this issue wrapped up in my mind. It doesn’t mean that I think, “Welp, there’s that issue solved. There’s the answer to why I still suffer, and so-and-so doesn’t.” I don’t know if I will ever figure this question out until I am on the other side of heaven. What I hope this post does offer is the comfort that we all have questions like this and that there are times we will see the good even in the midst of the bad.
After scrolling through news and social media sites (for much less time than I once did) this week I felt nervous butterflies and a sick feeling. I wondered how next week’s election would change the lives of my family and myself.
Or would it? Very possibly no, no matter who won.
So I wondered to myself, ‘Why are you even worrying?’
And then as I felt the panic starting to rise and a thought struck me: Who are you trusting, Lisa? Are you trusting in politicians to make your life better?
I realized that yes, to a point, I was.
Let’s get honest with ourselves.
Really think about it.
Who is your trust in?
Are you trusting in men (as the term mankind) to sustain you?
Are you trusting in men to protect you?
Are you trusting in men to provide your security?
Are you trusting in men to provide your happiness?
Are you trusting in men to give you peace?
Because if you are, you are going to be very disappointed.
Mankind will always disappoint us.
They will always disappoint because they are not God.
Only God can provide us peace of mind.
Only God can provide us security and protection and joy.
It doesn’t matter who wins the election tomorrow.
It doesn’t matter if the candidate you voted for isn’t victorious because our victory is not in earthly situations but in heavenly proclamations.
I read a opinion piece this week that reminded Christians in this country that our hope is in Christ, not in presidential candidates.
“No matter what happens, God is sovereign,” Erick Erickson wrote. “The God who gave us Barack Obama and Donald Trump could choose Biden or Trump. God’s will be done. The God who brought bread from Heaven and water from rocks and raised you from the dust of the Earth and stitched you together in your mother’s womb is going to still be on His throne ruling the universe the day after the election. Too many of you are convinced the country is going to hell in a handbasket if your guy does not win. Well, I have read the end of the book, and I don’t mean this to be a spoiler alert, but everybody is going to hell without a handbasket, except for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, not a politician or a political party. So, calm down.”
Like Erick says: “Calm down”
All of us need to calm down and look to the one who is in control. If the candidate you voted for does not win, trust that God already knew what was going to happen and he ordained it.
Tough times could face our nation, but God is there in the tough times the same as he is in the good times.
John 13:7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
I miss the garden even though it didn’t yield much in the way of produce. Our backyard seems so barren and drab now with the garden dead and the left over plants brown and brittle and crushed under the weight of the snow and frost.
For awhile this Fall we had unseasonably warm weather. That warm weather meant the grass was greener longer, which was welcome, but not normal and I don’t like when things are abnormal when it comes to my routine and environment.
The days became shorter, nights and mornings cooler and I knew soon there would be less sun. Because things had been so weird in the world the past several months, I was actually yearning for the normalcy of warm weather fading into cool weather and cool weather slipping into cold weather. I wanted, in some ways even, for it to get darker earlier, though it meant less sunlight and time to play outside with the kids. Yet, even as I yearned for the normal cold of winter, in the pit of my stomach I felt dread because weird things seem to happen in my world when the days are shorter and the sunlight is less. Most years it’s is depression that sets in and invades everything in my life.
Last year it was depression but it was also sickness and the loss of our dog and then for three months straight I vibrated inside like I was sitting 24/7 on an engine.
No one could figure the vibrating out – not my family, not doctors. A couple blood tests were off but nothing pointed to a medical cause of what I could only describe as internal vibrating. Not being able to pinpoint a reason for it scared me and the more fear set in, the more I vibrated, night and day.
When it started I thought it was my ears. They had been stuffed and full all winter and my balance was off. No one else thought it was my ears. They thought it was all in my head. Soon I began to think the same thing and even now, I still wonder. The only people who could relate were two friends – one who had something slightly similar during panic attacks and another who said a friend who had recently lost her brother told her she had been vibrating inside for weeks and felt it was from extreme stress.
I hadn’t faced any trauma, though, so what was wrong with me, I wondered. Losing a pet who had been part of our family for 14 years wasn’t the same as losing a brother, even if the loss of the dog was intertwined with overwhelming guilt for me since I believed, and still believe, I could have reduced my little dog’s suffering if I’d only focused more on his needs and less on my own.
The vibrating wasn’t a symptom of any medical conditions, a doctor told me. It was much more likely my physical symptoms were stemming from mental anguish, anxiety and a complete loss of normalcy and security in my life, she said. In other words – I was suffering a near mental breakdown, or at least that’s how I understood what the doctor said.
In the next month heart palpitations and nighttime waking caused by feeling like I had stopped breathing kept me awake most nights. I felt like my body was turning on me, trying to kill me. I soon realized it wasn’t my body that was trying to kill me but my mind. And even more than my mind it was spiritual forces influencing my mind and driving me further into panic, fear and sheer terror.
Were my symptoms real?
Honestly, there are days I still wonder.
I stepped up my electrolytes and started to stretch muscles and do lymph node massages to try to drain the ears. I listened to sermons day and night about fear and rebuking evil. Slowly the vibrating stopped and one morning I woke up and it was gone completely.
Even now I can’t be sure what combination helped the most, or what was really going on, but I know prayer was the only thing that got me through.
Trusting Christ, using His words to fight a battle waging around me in the spiritual realm was what I needed most. This is not the first time I’ve found myself battling demons and knowing things were moving against me spiritually.
Before the battle was against the very fabric of my family. This time it was my health and like before I only saw the physical battle. Even more during this battle than the last, I was spun out of mental control. This battle told me I was going to die and leave my children alone. These thoughts didn’t just tell me my family would fall apart but I would lose Nmy life.
There are times I still feel the dread that it will all happen again but I know I now have weapons I didn’t quite understand how to access before. And I’m still learning.
A sermon by Joseph Prince about the battle for our mind is something I have listened to on repeat for almost a year now.
Prince talks about our mind being where the main battles are waged in our life. And those battles are launched in the spiritual realm, not the physical one.
The battles we often see as physical- the health concerns, the financial worries, the tension within our families- are being waged in the spiritual realms and we can’t fight them the way we would in the physical world. Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons and our main weapon is fervent, focused prayer.
“If I were your enemy, I’d magnify your fears, making them appear insurmountable, intimidating you with enough worries until avoiding them becomes your driving motivation. I would use anxiety to cripple you, to paralyze you, leaving you indecisive, clinging to safety and sameness, always on the defensive because of what might happen. When you hear the word faith, all I’d want you to hear is “unnecessary risk.”
And that is what happened to me – I was crippled mentally. I couldn’t fathom anything positive coming from what was happening to me and I lost interest in everything I loved. I clung to my house and my bed and yes, I felt having faith was a risk to me, to have my hopes and dreams shattered around me.
When I find my thoughts drifting back to last year, to the darkness and the fear, I try to remember what finally pulled me through – placing my focus not on my enemies of Fear and Dread and Infirmity but on Christ and my knowledge of Him wanting the best for us, even when we feel like our lives are totally out of control.
We may not always understand why we are in the midst of our trials but we always know who is the author of our story and He was there when our story began and He will be there when our story ends.