Grief, Joy, and Faith

Today I declare that God is good.

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I’m scheduled for surgery a week from tomorrow, so I went for a run this morning. I ran this morning as an act of faith.

It’s been tempting for the last 5 weeks (since calling to schedule my surgery for my endometriosis) to give in to hopelessness. So often I thought, “I’m not in good shape right now, and I’m having surgery soon, so why bother to exercise?” For me, I choosing to run anyways was a prophetic act. It was my way of declaring, even though I’m facing a surgery that has the potential to end in a full hysterectomy, leaving me unable to have kids while still unmarried and in my 20s, that God is good. More than that, I believe that God will/has healed me and I will not need surgery, so there’s no reason to wait to get into shape. But most of all, my choice to run is a declaration that I can and should continue to prepare for the future because, whatever happens, it will be good.

My journey with endometriosis has deepened my faith in incredible ways. It has taught me how to face the facts and still declare that my God is bigger than any circumstance. I believe God, through healing, will make it so that I do not need surgery, and yet if my test tomorrow shows that I do still need surgery, that does not change my faith. It is easier to live only in facts, or only in blind faith; learning how to live in the tension of both facts and faith has shaped me in beautiful ways.

As I have faced the reality that I may need to grieve my ability to have biological children, God has been teaching me how to face grief with joy. The potential for grief is not the same as walking through current grief, so please don’t hear me equating the two. However this journey has helped me in other areas of my life where I am walking through current grief, though that’s more than I can go into in this post. As I’ve approached surgery, I have been tempted to buy into the lie that if I think about how much itĀ could hurt, I’ll be prepared. That’s a lie. These past few years, but especially this past month, God has been teaching me that the only way to ‘prepare’ for potential grief is to practice joy. Joy will not take away the pain of grief, but it will keep us from actively making it worse. I don’t understand how it works; perhaps it’s simply supernatural. What I do know is that joy has allowed me to grieve more deeply and fully in areas of current grief without losing sight of the goodness of God, and the goodness of God always brings peace. Somehow, with God, facing grief has brought me joy.

I will likely know tomorrow whether or not I can cancel the surgery, and so today I ran. Today I declare that God is good. That tomorrow and next week there will be joy whatever the circumstances. God is good, and that is more than enough.

Destiny

Jesus displayed perfect love, yet it wasn’t by focusing on those around him, but by focusing on the Father and doing only what he saw his Father doing.

Not only am I a millennial myself, but I am currently researching young adults for my thesis, and I keep coming across something that I believe resonates with many people: a search for their destiny. Millennials tend to be more outspoken about this search than previous generations claim to have been (I wasn’t there, so I can’t speak to that šŸ˜‰) but I think it’s something every heart desires. As a Christian, I have often wondered what a godly understanding of destiny is, or if God even cares about such things.

This morning I had to apologize to a friend because as I have been wrestling with this, I felt like what I told her several weeks ago was wrong. I had told her that I thought walking in our gifts and abilities was a response of worship to God’s love. I’m no longer sure that’s true. Hear me, I absolutely think that we should be living for other people, that when we are healthy our focus will be on others and not on ourselves, but that isn’t worship. Worship only happens when we focus on God and who God is. I realized that I was once again falling into the trap of striving, of a works based faith. I thought it was okay because it was joyfully done out of the joy and love I had received from God. The bottom line, though, is that I was taking what God had given me and then taking my eyes off of him in order to give it to others. Giving God’s love to others is a good thing, right? Yes, but only when we do so without taking our eyes off of God. Jesus displayed perfect love, yet it wasn’t by focusing on those around him, but by focusing on the Father and doing only what he saw his Father doing.

So what does this have to do with our destiny? First, I think that our understanding of destiny will always be diseased as long as it’s focus is on others, and even more so if the focus is on ourselves. Our destiny is found in God alone, and it is only out of the overflow of that that our mission comesā€”a person’s mission is the shape of how the overflow of our focus on God will impact those around us. The classic confession from the Westminster Shorter Catechism is that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” As I have been praying and reflecting over the past few months (and have been reading the Passion Translation of the Bible) I came to this, which is basically a rephrasing of the catechism above:

Our destiny is the extravagance that overflows from being the lovesick beloved of God.

Clotheslined by Life

The weekend was more dramatic than I had expected or preferred. Saturday I was on a mountaintop; I could feel I was crossing that ever-so-difficult threshold of getting into a self-sustaining cycle of eating healthy and exercising regularly, and I spent most of the day relaxing, journalling, and praying, and God provided a major emotional/spiritual breakthrough. It was a mountaintop of mountaintops. Everything seemed to be on an upward trajectory.

Saturday night I had a stomach ache, so I took some meds and went to bed. Sunday morning I woke up early from worsening pain that was reaching the top of the pain scale, and it quickly became clear the pain was not about to go away on it’s own. I spent the next 28 hours in the hospital as they ran tests and pumped me full of morphine. Worried about my appendix, I was tentatively scheduled to have my appendix removed in the morning following a night of observation.

By morning, the pain was nearly gone and getting better by the hour, so surgery was canceled, I was allowed to eat again after about 36 hours of medical fasting, and by 10am I was headed home with no pain, but also no diagnosis and more questions than answers. Don’t get me wrong, I amĀ thrilled I did not need surgery. I already have multiple systems of the body with chronic issues, some diagnosed, some not, that could potentially require surgery, and I don’t need to add an appendectomy to that list.

The main question I wrestle with as I sit on my porch, enjoying an unplanned day off, drinking Gatorade and eating soup and pudding as my body continues to heal from whatever happened, is “how do I make sense of these seemingly disparate parts of my life?” I believe God has given me a personal promise that I will not need surgery of any kind; that through whatever means my health will be maintained or healed such that surgery is not needed for my Endometriosis, my undiagnosed, chronic GI symptoms, nor anything else that may come up, such as an appendectomy.

It is tempting to give into fear, to give into the lie (and it is a bold-facedĀ lie) that when anything good happens, something bad is just around the corner. This isn’t a new lie for me, and this weekend could easily be explained by that life perspective. So how do I hold onto both the promises of God, and the fact that this was my second trip to the ER in a month? What does faith look like when I get clotheslined by life, walking along fine one minute, then flat on my back the next?

Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” and again in Romans 8:24-25, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Faith says “I can believe in the truth and power of God’s promises, even in the midsts of circumstances that the world sees as contradictory.” Faith says that I will choose to write the story of my weekend in way that holds to the truth of the promises of God while still acknowledging the facts.

SoĀ I will begin again, and share the story of my weekend:

This past weekend was a testament of God’s faithfulness. Saturday I was on a mountaintop; I could feel I was crossing that ever-so-difficult threshold of getting into a self-sustaining cycle of eating healthy and exercising regularly, and I spent most of the day relaxing, journalling, and praying, and God provided a major emotional/spiritual breakthrough. It was a mountaintop of mountaintops. Everything seemed to be on an upward trajectory.

Sunday, my weekend took a sudden turn when I needed to go to the ED due to severe abdominal pain. Throughout the day, from the moment I left home for the hospital, I was loved, supported and prayed for, both in person and through texts. As I leaned into the breakthroughs from the day before and shared my need with more people and more clearly than I ever have in the past, I was wrapped in not just the Father’s love, but the tangible support of my friends and family.

By evening, there were still no answers and I was being admitted for observation overnight with a possible appendectomy in the morning. I don’t tend to share much on social media, however when it became clear this was potentially more serious than most of my visits to the ED in the past (which have typically resolved so that I could go home after 4-6 hours) I shared my need on facebook. A multitude of love, support, and prayers began pouring in, with many people offering to help in any and every way I could possibly need.

By faith, I don’t see it as an accident that it was around that time that my pain began to decrease. By the time I had been transferred upstairs to a room in the surgery unit, I was turning down the nurse’s offer for pain medication. I slept through the night, and by morning my pain was mostly gone and still improving by the hour. Surgery was canceled. God’s promise to me stood tall this morningā€“in the face of no answers and pain that had done nothing but increase for almost 24 hours, my pain was gone and, as God promised, I did not need surgery.

It’s hard to not have answers. My endometriosis is still there (that was confirmed yesterday amid the testing) and my doctor remains at a loss of how to proceed. I have no diagnosis for my chronic GI trouble, though the symptoms appear at least partly improved over the past few months. Medically, surgery in the coming year is still a likely option. However, I will choose to stand on God’s faithfulness; I will choose to believe that what this weekend shows is that God kept his promise and healed me so that I would not need surgery.

God is faithful. God is good and only good. This is the truth that I choose to live by. When I am clotheslined by life and suddenly find myself on the ground, wondering what hit me, I pray that I will have the courage to continue to retell my story until it agrees with who God is, to believe that God only moves us from glory to glory. To rest in the goodness of God that is more true than any circumstance.