The Long Walk

Since I was in high school I have suffered from cluster headaches. Fortunately, it has been several years since I have suffered an episode. However, for years I lived with persistent daily bouts of scathing pain for weeks and sometimes months at a time. One of the things I discovered from living with pain was that over time, your ability to cope with fairly minor pain tended to decrease. It was like dealing with excruciating pain took so much physical and mental energy that when more garden variety pain from something as simple as an upset stomach or a stubbed toe came along, you just didn’t have the mental reserves left to deal with it.

I have thought of this fact fairly often over the past couple of months. If you’ve read my blog at all in the last few weeks, you already know that my family has been going through a difficult time and I have not been dealing with it all that well. Which has surprised me. Although our situation is terrible and could potentially get much worse, I’ve handled situations just as bad or worse without diving into the sort of despair and bitterness which I have been struggling with for the last few weeks. I have found myself questioning the very existence of God as well as His faithfulness and His good heart. Which, given all that He has seen me through before and my well established relationship with Him is ridiculous. I think that part of what has thrown me so off balance this time is precisely that I’ve been down this road so many times before, I’ve shown my faithfulness, I’ve trusted in God in the middle of an evil place. So why am I finding myself back on this road again? Haven’t I already gone over this ground and been found faithful? There’s really nothing to be gained by going back over all of this again – can’t we move on now? Just like with my cluster headaches, the fact that I had been through worse before seemed to be making it harder for me to deal with a fresh bout of struggle, not easier.

Fortunately, I have a copy of The Ransomed Heart, which is a collection of readings from John Eldredge’s works in my bathroom and I have frequently thumbed through this book and found some little string to hold onto. One day it was a couple of paragraphs on how easy it is to forget that God is real and faithful. This is why God told the Israelites to remember over and over and had them set up memorials at the sight of significant encounters with God. Even Jesus, when instructing us to practice the Eucharist tells us to do it for remembrance of him, so we won’t forget.

Today, I picked up the book and found this:

One of the most poisonous of all Satan’s whispers is simply, “Things will never change.” That lie kills expectation, trapping our heart forever in the present. To keep desire alive and flourishing, we must renew our vision for what lies ahead. Things will not always be like this . . .Julia Gatta describes impatience, discouragement and despair as the “noonday demons” most apt to beset the seasoned traveler. As the road grows long we grow weary; impatience and discouragement tempt us to forsake the way for some easier path.” (The Sacred Romance)

Isn’t that the truth? I too have found that the lie of “things will never change” can be an ever present spiritual taunt in trying situations. (This seems to be a particular problem in marriage, I think. You have a fight and you think that your spouse’s anger or bad attitude towards you is going to be the new “normal”. But that’s a whole other conversation.)

As I have struggled, especially with how pointless this whole thing seems to be, the thought has popped into my mind, “maybe this isn’t about you. Maybe this is so you can be a demonstration of faith for others around you. One of those ‘so they will see your good works and glorify God’ times.” But the thought seems too arrogant, too presumptuous to actually adopt.  Then today I also read this in The Ransomed Heart:

We run our race, we travel our journey, in the words of Hebrews, before ‘a great cloud of witnesses’ (12:1). When we face a decision to fall back or press on, the whole universe holds its breath – angels, demons, our friends and foes, and the Trinity itself – watching with bated breath to see what we will do. . . The question that lingers from the fall of Satan and the fall of man remains: Will anyone trust the great heart of the Father, or will we shrink back in faithless fear? . . . The great struggles of our heart reveal to the world our true identity: We really are the sons and daughters of God.” (The Sacred Romance)

Hmmm . . . Personally, I keep coming back to the problem of hope. Hope can seem like a fool’s errand. What if it doesn’t work out? What if I end up not as an example of faithfulness in God’s good heart, but as an example of misplaced hope and optimism? Yet like many times before, I find myself repeating the words of Simon Peter to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

So I’ll just keep plugging along and hope that I will be found worthy and that some one, some where will glorify God because of me.

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10 thoughts on “The Long Walk

  1. I’m so sorry you and your family are going through such a rough time and I pray that God lifts your burdens soon.

    I’m reminded of what our pastor spoke of at service this morning. Our dreams, our faith, the seeds we plant, all need fertilizer – basically, manure. Only with a good amount of fertilizer, can seeds grow into fruit. The “manure” in our lives is what helps us to grow our dreams and though the manure is usually smelly and offensive, in the long run, it strengthens us to grow and produce good fruit. Cultivating the seeds with the manure is unpleasant, but we know it nourishes and causes the seeds to flourish.

    God is allowing you this “manure” in your life and because of it you are sowing seeds that will yield great, strong, beautiful fruit. Make no mistake, people are seeing this fruit grow. You are most definitely an example of faithfulness in God’s good heart. You have inspired me to keep trusting in God’s goodness and perfect timing.

    Be blessed,
    Paula

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  2. Have you ever heard the song “Hard to Get” by Rich Mullins? Your post brings it to my mind. You may wish to track it down somewhere and take a listen. It’s from his posthumously released album “The Jesus Record”. It just might speak to you where you are right now, I don’t know.

    Still holding your family in the Light of Christ. May you come to the end of this (section of the) road soon. ((Hugs))

    Stephanie

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  3. I am definitely praying for you. Just 6 weeks ago, my youngest son, age 2 and a half, was diagnosed with leukemia and we are going through the first part of his 3-year-long chemotherapy treatment. I too struggled with the question of where could God be in all this? But we have been blessed with friends and family members coming out of the woodwork to offer us meals, childcare for our two older sons (ages 9 and 6) and help around the house. We have many prayers. I have come to see the hand of God even in the midst of the terrible fear that our little baby boy might die. Fortunately his prognosis is excellent, but it is a long road ahead with many potential complications.

    We will offer up our suffering for your family as you struggle with your own tragedy. God bless and keep you.

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  4. Hello,
    I’m new here, but I just wanted to say that I will keep you in my prayers. I know about that terrible voice that whispers about hope being misplaced….if it’s any comfort, I have sometimes let that voice lead me down the wrong path for a while, until something in me got tired of the despair and once again realised that hope is really the only way forward, and God is always faithful to meet that hope, although perhaps in unexpected ways. So I pray that God will lift any fear from your heart and replace it with His peace that surpasses all understanding, bringing you the guidance, love and help that you need. God bless you!

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  5. I understand difficult times. I just don’t take them personal.

    I have a couple of tools I use for shoring up hope when it gets a little weak in the knees.

    One is I accept that it’s all about change, nothing is constant. Accepting change as constant inspires me to grab the moment close when it’s good and hold on tight because I know it won’t be here forever. Change is constant always gives me strength when the moment isn’t so good because I understand it won’t last forever.

    Another tool I find handy working on life is to put things into perspective. When the big picture is overwhelming I concentrate on the little things, working on little victories if you will. When the little things become unmanageable I step back and look a the big picture and see the little things for what they are.

    Invariably when times are hard the most difficult person to forgive for the difficulty is ourselves. I have two great tools for handling that. The first is my wife. I look at her and know she knows me as well as I know myself, and, she loves me. I can’t be that bad or she wouldn’t. The other tool is my friends. I stop and look at all those who care about me. Invariably I feel better because they’re good people and they wouldn’t care about me unless I was a good people too.

    I believe in believing even though I’m an atheist. One of the things about believing under duress even though we don’t have the same beliefs is we reach the same place even though we’re using different routes. The deists find consolation in the fact that it’s all in the hands of a higher power. That’s very similar to the peace an atheist can find in accepting it’s not personal and never about them.

    I wish you strength. But more than that I wish you an appreciation for the moment, it will be soon be gone. Not unlike when my daughter was eight and a half months pregnant and wishing to me that it was all over, now! I told her to embrace the moment because she’d never be closer to her son than she was right then.

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  6. (this is Erik from the Crunchycon forum)

    If you can accept the prayers of a pagan, I am praying for you and your situation.

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  7. The long walk of pain.

    I was recently diagnosed with Lyme disease and went for years with pain, numbness, lethargy, etc. No answers.

    I praise God everyday for the answer to that which ails me and a doctor who is diligently working with me towards a solution.

    I have decided that pain is different for all. It is mentally debilitating. It can be physically exhausting. It stretches your emotions to the breaking point. You have nothing left at all.

    In addition to all that, it seems as though you are having some issues outside of that too. Which just makes it harder.

    My advice? (Based on years of having to move with nearly no notice at all. Ahhh….the joyous life of the construction wife.)

    Have a big, fat pity party. Ok, I know it sounds crazy but hear me out. I found that if I tried to hold it all together and act like it wasn’t bothering me at all, all that garbage would come out at inappropriate times in response to things that normally wouldn’t bother me at all.

    So, I have a great big woe-is-me day. A real lamenting Psalm of a day. Have you forgotten me God? Do you love me at all? Pay attention to me please!!!!

    I found that if I would just do it. Get it all out. (God is really big enough to deal with it.) That by the end of the day, I was done. Then I was able to go on with life. Knowing that I wasn’t keeping that stiff upper lip. That I had laid it all out there with God and He had heard me.

    Pity party days are necessary to life. This is why the Jews would wear sackcloth and ashes. To mourn that which is lost. Mourning was not just for those who had died. It can be the loss of a dream, of a friendship, or a place that we loved to live in. We do not mourn enough. Without mourning there can be no healing.

    “The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

    So take a day. Put on the sackcloth. God is faithful. At the end of the day you may find that He has traded you beauty for ashes.

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  8. Thanks for blogging. This came to mind as I was reading: Rom 8:28 🙂 “and in all things God works for the good of those who loves him” It’s really helped me at times! xxx

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  9. Thank you so much to all of you! I have to tell you that it is especially encouraging that so many of you have said, “I’ve been there.” I come from a family where life just kind of moves along with relatively little upheaval and upset (at least on the surface), and I kind of feel like they think I’m just freakishly unlucky. Not a real comforting thought, so it’s nice to hear from others who have their own problems. Not that I’m glad that anyone else has had or continues to have problems, but you know what I mean 🙂

    What is funny is that this was my “hopeful” post. My husband read it and said, “that’s really edifying.” which probably says more about where we’ve been mentally over the last few weeks than anything. But we are starting to feel better and come out of our hole, spiritually anyways. Thank you all so much for your prayers, good thoughts, incense burnt or whatever you do to appeal to the divine (or not, harvey!) for a fellow traveler in this life.

    God bless!

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