HOPE WHEN IT HURTS

Over the past several months, since I started my long-term medication for Lyme Disease, my emotions have been entangled like a pretzel. Some days hope wins. Other times, the hurt takes over. Life has become increasingly difficult, more so than I’m sometimes able to articulate. Even thought I knew this treatment had the potential to be challenging, it still caught me a little off guard.

Lyme is an invisible illness. Unless they are aware, most people won’t see the struggle. But it’s real. Every day is different and yet the same. Unpredictable but hard. And Chronic Lyme is as controversial as it is complicated. The whole thing is politicized and, let’s be real, we have enough political drama on Facebook to last a lifetime. So, the thought of explaining the complexities of both this illness and “the system” makes me more exhausted than I already am. And since I have to conserve the ounces of energy that I may have, I refrain from diving into explanations or conversations or people that I think might be draining. It’s crazy how my decision-making process has shifted.

I’ve noticed that every attempt at doing anything “extra” (aka normal life) is a risk because it has the potential to make the next day more difficult. For awhile I told myself that it could be so much worse (which is true, it could be much worse), but that truth doesn’t negate how hard it is right now. It’s as though every one and every thing around me race by full speed but I’m in slow motion. And yet, the fast pace of life remains. Bills to pay, errands to run, and assignments to somehow complete. Because work pays the bills, work wins, and that’s where all my energy ends up. In order to make it through week after work without using all my sick days, I don’t do much outside of work. Rest and recovery mode are my reality from the time I leave work on Friday at 4:30pm until the moment I return on Monday morning at 8:00am. The inability to function at my old capacity is tough and triggers many emotions…

A few weeks ago, in utter frustration, I asked God for something new devotionally in this season because focusing on anything has been a challenge (yes, that includes reading the Bible). Within 24 hours of my vent to God, I “randomly” came across a blog post called God Has A Purpose for My Lyme Disease, which quickly grabbed my attention. I identified with the writer’s words and wanted more. Thankfully, I didn’t need to look far. At the bottom of that page was a promo video with info about a book she wrote with another woman with Lyme. Tears streamed down my face as I listened to slivers of their stories. I knew God was in the mix and had answered my venting prayer of the day.

Within days (Amazon Prime for the win!), I began reading Hope When it Hurts. The book is made up of 30 short chapters of biblical reflections to help others grasp God’s purpose in suffering, with 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 woven through from start to finish. Just enough for me to grasp in one sitting, written by women whose reality is so similar to mine. Reading through a few pages each night with the corresponding scriptures helps me to end each day with the right focus. It doesn’t take away the pain or the frustration of this chronic illness or the treatment side effects but it helps in shifting the focus off of myself and my circumstances to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith. At the end of the day, I know and trust that He’s written my story and has marked out a specific race for me. One that currently includes Lyme. And in order to run (or what feels like a crawl) with perseverance, I must fix my eyes on Him.

“You will run the race marked out for you if you fix your eyes on Jesus rather than on the route.” (Hope When It Hurts, p. 67)

When I focus solely on myself and what I’m going through, God begins to appear small. But when I fix my eyes on Jesus, the struggle shrinks. Hardships don’t magically disappear, but looking intently to the Lord puts things into perspective. I wholeheartedly believe God divinely orchestrated all of the events leading up to my treatment (a story for another day after this semester ends). But whether my treatment works according to plan and I feel better in the next several months or this ends up as my everyday battle, this life is temporary. It’s a necessary, eternal perspective for every season, no matter how good or bad. I needed that reminder.

I am also reminded how much there is to be thankful for. I certainly don’t do this well, but when I’m intentional about pausing to pen my gratitude, I recognize how blessed I am. I can rejoice that I belong to the Lord and that His promises are true and that I’ll be with Him forever. I can praise God for a core group of loved ones who pray me through and check in on me regularly, a compassionate and encouraging life group who look out for me and love me well, supportive and understanding coworkers who are gracious to me in my rollercoaster of symptoms, and the list goes on. And, wow… If my parents had not moved to Texas… God only knows. I highly doubt I would’ve bothered to stay in Dallas or stick with seminary. But God knew about this season before they even considered leaving New York. I am more grateful for them than words can describe. God is at work in all of our lives and has written our stories. This is just a chapter.

What does life look like for you right now? What chapter are you in? Suffering is inevitable for all of us. Lyme may not be what hurts you. It may be loss, rejection, financial difficulty, or grief. My prayer is that, wherever you find yourself, you will experience the peace, comfort, and hope in your suffering that comes from Christ.

In my current chapter, a unique season where most Sunday services are live streamed, most invitations are declined, and most weekends are spent in bed, I am thankful for the necessary reminder that, in this season and always, there is hope where it hurts.

Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:49-50)

 

Thank you Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell f0r your labor of love, for the sacrifice in your own struggle, and for timely words of encouragement and truth.