There once was a girl who knew she could abound in anything she wanted to in life. She had a husband, two children, and big plans for the future of her family. With her husband, they would build a business that would get them financially free. A legacy they could leave for their children. A life that would supply anything that they desired especially their passion to help those in need. This endeavor was not about getting rich, but was about helping people, influence, and the opportunities they would have to bring people to the knowledge of the truth. Everything was going as planned. The business was growing. They were being so successful and were connecting with so many people to share God’s word.
At the same time, this girl was a few years into homeschooling her children. She knew she would push her children to excellence not only in their schoolwork but through all of the future extra curricular activities they would be involved in. She was free to run and play with them at any time. She had the energy and the clear mind to do whatever they needed and wanted from her. She could be the mother she had always imagined.
Each morning she would wake up, read a chapter in the bible, pray, and listen to some motivating speech or book while she ran on the treadmill. Her appetite was nourished with healthy foods, though she did have some underlying digestive problems. Her days revolved around activities that were planned specific to what would advance her vision for the future.
So many hopes, so many dreams, so many plans, so much to do in God’s kingdom; such joy in controlling her life’s destiny…
…until one day, her body went into a frenzy and all that changed.
Listen to her heart. Listen to her mind as she suffers the grief of this loss.
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
Anxious? I am flooded with anxiety. What is going on? One day I was fine, and now I can barely get out of bed. There are so many sensations going on in my body that I can barely describe them. Eating just makes me feel worse. I have a family to take care of and a business to run. There are people who are dependent on me. I don’t have time for this. It needs to go away right now but it’s not. All the doctors visits and tests tell me that I’m fine. There’s been suggestions that this is all in my head. I question whether that is true, but I know deep down that it is not just mental even though I realize that the distress is making it worse. I am having panic attacks. I wish I could be anxious for nothing, but I just don’t see how I can when everything is so chaotic.
Prayer? I try to pray. I believe that is what I need to do, but I can’t think straight. Even when I can pray, I only get brief instances of comfort and then the rest of it just feels empty. Many times I don’t want to pray because it makes me think about my troubles even more. I just want all of this gone so I can move on with my life, but I will keep trying to pray because God says to and that He hears me.
Thanksgiving? I don’t want to be thankful right now. I want to wallow in the misery that I feel from not being able to do the things that I enjoy. I know there are things I can be thankful for, but my mind does not want to go there. I’m not motivated to seek anything positive until I get my life back and move forward with my plans. That is what will make me thankful, but deep down I know that this perspective is horribly flawed.
Requests? I ask to be healed, not particularly for my own sake, but to continue the work of reaching out to others with the gospel and taking care of my family. I promise God that if He will take all of this away, then I will work harder for Him. Surely, God can see that my intentions are good, and I know that He can heal me at any time of His choosing.
Peace? With everything I’m experiencing and feeling right now, peace feels so far away from me. How can I find peace from God when I’m so angry at Him. Why would God allow this to happen? If He desires others to be saved, why would he hinder my efforts? Why would He allow my family to suffer? You know what, I won’t allow this. I don’t accept this. We nor I have done anything to deserve this. This is not fair, but no matter how much I try to deny it, it won’t go away.
Understanding? Yes, understanding why all of this is happening will make everything better, right? I research and read anything that will give me answers, but I just find more confusion. I see doctor after doctor, have test upon test, try diet after diet, and therapy upon therapy, but there are no solid answers and very little help.
Guard? I need a guard for my heart and mind. Something to protect me from all these trials. I don’t want to live anxious or depressed, but this is the road I see myself going down. I want to trust in God, be thankful, and have peace in spite of this suffering and even if I don’t understand why. God says it’s all done through Christ, but how?
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8
Meditate? I know this has to do with my thinking and I also know that my thinking is in direct correlation with my mind and heart. I realize that I may not be able to change what I am suffering physically, but I can work consistently to change my mental anguish. The words in this verse will help me identify the right focus.
God’s word is true and I believe it. He sent his noble Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem a sinful world. Although God will be just in His judgment of the hearts of men, He demonstrates His grace and pure love for mankind by providing a way for redemption through Christ. The fact that Jesus died as a sacrifice for man’s sins is a lovely story, and my good report is that I have died with Him to have redemption for heaven. As Jesus’ disciple, He is my example of virtue so I will learn to suffer with the same endurance and trust in the Father that He had. No matter what happens to me physically, I know that I am protected spiritually through Christ, and this is what I find praiseworthy in spite of my agony.
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Philippians 4:11-12
The girl had to learn to build a new life for her and her family. She could no longer build the business of their dreams, run and play with her children, or plan her days just how she wanted them. There was very little control on what state her body would be in each day. Eventually, three long awaited diagnosis helped identify her issues: Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, and bile reflux. With these three issues together, there was not much to be found to help except following a very strict diet, limiting her physical activity, and resting when she needed to.
The girl learned a lot about her own heart. Being brought down to such a low point in her life, she saw her arrogance. She took so much pride in her healthy lifestyle and presumed that would protect her from illness. If, by chance, she ever did get chronically sick with anything, she expected to be able to cure it on her own by natural means and that everyone else should have the willpower to do the same. After unsuccessfully trying so many things to get better, the resulting humility gave her a deep compassion for the suffering of others.
She saw her arrogance in doing God’s work. All this time she had believed that God needed her to do His work how she thought it should be done. She finally learned to humble herself before God, depend on Him, and see Him for the mighty God that He is. God knew that she was willing and able so she came to trust that if there was something significant that God wanted her to do, He would give her the health and opportunity to do it, but if she wasn’t well enough to do it, than what she thought was so important wasn’t as important to God. This taught her to believe in the providence of God while she patiently waited in prayer for His will, understanding that He is all knowing and sees all things that are unforseen to her. She now grasps that He uses her in different ways that she never would have chosen for herself.
All this learning brought her to a place of contentment. By accepting her lot and trusting in the power and wisdom of God, she learned that she could be content in whatever state her body was in each day. She had once lived a life of abundant health and now joyfully accepts suffering as a part of her days. This doesn’t mean she has given up. On the contrary, letting go of so much control at this level of contentment is what the peace of God is all about.
Listen to her heart. Listen to her mind as she rejoices in her newfound life.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
I thought I knew what I was supposed to do in my life. I had it all planned out, but now my life is taken one moment at a time with the strength that Christ provides. It is my continuance in devout prayers, exclamations of thanks, and focus on Christ’s life and sacrifice that strengthens me every day. He takes me from anxiety to comfort, anger to peace, misery to rejoicing, confusion to clarity, and weakness to strength by guarding my heart and mind with His grace. It was one thing to read about what Christ’s grace could do for me, but experiencing what I can do by His grace that strengthens me is an awesome feat. Looking back, if given the choice, I would never have taken any of my woes away because my newfound life and the person I am today, as a result of handling grief through grace, is so much better than what it used to be.
The girl shares her story with you as she understands now that suffering is part of life. She wants you to read this and be inspired to hope in better things to come. If you are grieving right now, she wants you to know it’s okay to grieve. This life wouldn’t be worth living if we didn’t have things so precious to us that we grieve about when they are gone. The danger comes when we allow ourselves to stay there and don’t fight to get out. She doesn’t know how long it will take you to feel true, genuine joy again, but just know that you will have it if you seek it as she did through Christ. Believe that you will have it and put your focus on obtaining it even when you don’t feel like it. Although she has had joyful moments throughout the years, it took her five years of dealing with a chronic illness to sincerely find contentment and take pleasure in it as she started seeing the fruits of her infirmities in the wisdom gained and the love she was able to give back to others as a result. None of this would’ve been possible without the grace that God gives through Christ.
When you are pleading with God to take away your distress, be consoled by Jesus’ answer to Paul’s suffering and let Him speak to you saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
With this confidence in Christ, there will come a day when you will “take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.”
With His grace, you will find contentment and be able to do all things through Christ, just like the girl. With this assurance and firm belief in your mind and your heart you will proclaim, “For when I am weak, then I am strong!”
2 Cor. 12:9-10
Gracious Father, I accept that suffering is a part of life and find peace through it all with the grace You provide through Christ. I know my trials are nothing comparable to those of Jesus or your apostles, but I am grateful to have their examples of endurance in mighty persecutions to inspire me in my own distress. Please be patient with me through my times of grief as I continue to devote myself in prayer and meditation in thanksgiving of the richness of Your love and mercy to find joy again. I love You for giving me such hope in life. In Christ, Amen.
Truth in love,