Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pain to Teach Me That My Strength is Not My Own

I sometimes forget that I deal with chronic pain. I know that sounds hard to believe when migraines often hit half the days out of a month. But somehow it does. From day to day, they don’t plague my existence. The pain doesn’t define who I am. I am in graduate school, studying to be a librarian. I like to cook and bake, bike along the lake, take close-up digital photos of things outdoors. 

But the days when I am experiencing the most intense pain are the days I would not be sitting down to write about these things. These are the days I would be hunched on the couch in front of a Netflix marathon or driving frantically around the northwestern Chicago suburbs in search of my pain-killer prescription from Costco.

My pain shouldn’t define who I am. But recently I went to see a neurologist and was prescribed a new medication--one that might hopefully prevent my migraines from happening in the first place. Instead of jumping at the opportunity, I was wary. The list of side-effects was long and scary. Things I already battle with, and things I often fear. Yet, I knew I needed to take a step of faith, a step in any direction.

It’s only been a few days, but the side-effects are true to their word. I am dizzy and weak, ill-at-ease, and on top of all that, dealing with regular-old-headaches from the transition. I am told these will lessen in a week as my body adjusts, and I am praying this is true.

This is certainly one of those thorns Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians 12. But it has reminded me of a very valuable truth: my strength needs to come 100% from Jesus. And not just a “fill-’er-up” in the morning kind of strength, but every single moment throughout my day.

Isn’t it odd, that it takes pain to teach me that my strength is not my own?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Silence Makes Us Knock"

It is not easy for me to take time off for myself. But this week, I am on a solo vacation in a quite little town in Michigan. It has been a great time to gain perspective and get some much needed rest. I wonder if this is why the Israelites were often called away into the desert to worship the Lord. Stepping aside from the daily grind can do wonders. But it also makes one think.

And recently I’ve been thinking about God’s timing. I am one year into my newest educational endeavor (something I thought would never happen!) and loving the things I am learning. When I was doing my first round of graduate school, I loved the topic, but didn’t engage with that I was learning. Looking back though all the course work and subsequent job searching, it turned out to not be the right fit anyway. This often makes me wonder why God allowed me to go through that program (and spend all that money), when four years later I would be drawn to something different and seemingly more fulfilling.

In thinking about all this (for probably the millionth time), I stumbled upon an article entitled “When God Seems Silent” on the Desiring God website. It’s probably the best piece, and most clarifying perspective, I’ve ever read about “waiting for God.” The author put it this way:

There is a pattern in the design of deprivation: Deprivation draws out desire. Absence heightens desire. And the more heightened the desire, the greater its satisfaction will be. It is the mourning that will know the joy of comfort (Matthew 5:4). It is the hungry and thirsty that will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6). Longing makes us ask, emptiness makes us seek, silence makes us knock (Luke 11:9).
We may complain about God’s timing for a multitude of different reasons, but the fact is, it is the process that God has designed for us to walk through. Unfortunately, we are often blind to this. It is as though we are walking through a dark tunnel, just trying to get to the other side. But the beauty of God’s timing is looking back and seeing how He has led, what He has led us through, and the impact His faithfulness has had—not only on our own selves, but the lives of those around us.

When I stop and take the time to think about it, I am amazed at the masterful interweaving of people, time, and space that God has used throughout history to fulfill His purposes. I am reading a great book about this right now—Catherine Marshall’s A Man Called Peter. In it she recounts her late husband’s story of faith, in which he once imagined God saying, “I have all the circumstances planned and all my helpers designated, to make sure that my plan does not go awry.” Peter Marshall was no stranger to challenges and obstacles, and he soon learned that the Hand that firmly shut one door was God’s, not mans. And more importantly, it was God who would be the one to open another.

There’s a quote floating around Pinterest that goes something like this: “If you’re waiting for God to open the door, praise Him in the hallway.” It sounds a little too easy and cliche. But we do so often neglect to have thankfulness in all things. Let us remember to praise Him for His perfect plan, for His faultless  timing, and for the “longing which makes us ask, the emptiness that makes us seek, and the silence that makes us knock.”

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Looking Up

This evening as I was walking towards the beach, I held a steady pace behind a man who was walking confidently with his nose in a book. He paused after a while and turned towards the gate in front of him, as if he was heading home. He looked up from his book and with a surprised expression exclaimed, “I’m on the wrong street!”

I almost laughed. I would have, if I hadn’t taken his exclamation so seriously.

My roommate and I are in the midst of searching for a new apartment. And while this man’s story could be an analogy for our house-hunt, it is a picture of something a little bigger. His actions struck me because, while I have been scouring the internet and re-tracing my steps through the neighborhood in search of a new place to call home, I have neglected to look Up.

I’m sure I am not alone. It’s not like we try to whole-heartedly focus on the ground beneath our feet or the book below our noses. Yet somewhere along the way (often within the span of a few minutes), our pride takes over and we forget to look up and see the One we should fix our eyes on.

This might seem like an ordinary observation, nothing like a epiphany, but in reality it is a daily struggle. And it should be. Not the struggle part, but the day-in-and-day-out. On this side of heaven, walking by faith is not meant to be easy. We will never get it “right.” It is a process.

The author of Hebrews describes it as a race. I am not a fan of running, but when I walk (walk by faith) I am reminded that I cannot do it full of pride and self-certainty. This is why he instructs, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Only through Him. It has been painful remembering this. But maybe next time it won’t take me so long to look up.
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