Tuesday, April 12, 2011


As I sit, looking from the window in my family room, I can see the kids down with their bikes.  My oldest is riding fearlessly down the street without training wheels, the look of triumph painted brightly on his face.  The twins are riding as well, up and down the street.  My youngest wants to get her training wheels off in the worst way.  I see my wife patiently showing her what to do, all the while my daughter ignores the instructions, with thoughts of riding free and on her own, the wind blowing wildly through her hair.

I stare down at my lap enmeshed in the thought that this represents a great triumph.  Just a year ago my oldest was worried that the other kids would make fun of him since he still had training wheels.  The twins were barely on the bikes, and mom was tasked with running them up and down the street one at a time.  Yes they had come a long way.

I look back up through the glass and realize its existence.  It is clear, letting light and images through, but it is solid at the same time keeping the outside and all it represents safely on the other side.

The outside represents pain in so many ways to me.  There is the driveway that seems to go straight up the side of the mountain, keeping me stranded at the top or bottom of it wondering how I will make the return trip.  There is the yard that is unkempt because of my three year imprisonment, and there is the weather.  In the winter it locks me in the house, unable to venture out for the fear of falling, and in the summer the blistering heat threatens to once again overpower my nervous system, sending me on another emergency trip to the hospital.

This isn't how it was supose to be.  I can see in my minds eye pictures of me running behind my son as he gains the courage to ride without support.  I see a game of catch, or freeze tag.  In the autum I am there raking the leaves as the kids run and jump happily messing up my days work.  But that is not my reality.

The pain out side is not merely the physical barriers in my life, but also the emotional.  In my reality I sit here on the couch watching the world go by.  Oh I function.  I can do the laundry, wash dishes, and cook meals.  I even have a great bedtime ritual with the kids saying prayers, that is of course when I am not too tired or in too much pain.

I look back down into my lap and all I can think is "pathetic".  I am so pathetic!  I am not the father I wanted to be. Nor am I the husband that I should be.  Writhing in self pity I can think of nothing good, nothing decent.  It is as though the life is being sucked from me one moment at a time.

Distructive thinking and destructive thoughts.  This is not what God wants for me.  He wants me to shine through the pain and barriers of my illness.  He wants me to show the world that not even the sickness of this fallen world can keep me from the will that God has in my life.

I slowly struggle to get up off the couch.  I grab my cane, and head out to tackle the mountain once again.  After a long and painful trip down the driveway, I embrace the success of the chalange I have just overcome.  My wife gets me a folding chair, and I sit down triumphantly.  Once again a part of the family.  Oh I might not be up pushing the kids bikes, and I may be in a great deal of pain, but this is where God wants me.

Feeling or acting pathetic is the sin that God weeded out of me today.  I now understand that those type of thoughts are not from Him, so I will reengage as I can, live as I might, and fight back any urge at self pitty.

You see I am not pathetic, for I am a fearfully and wonderfully made creation of God my Father, and he loves me no matter what I do.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Is God the Author or Publisher of My Suffering?

   ***This blog was originally posted on blogcritics.com April 3rd 2011****

What may seem an innocuous question to most, and likely irrelevant to those who do not believe in a sovereign God, was one that plagued me quite early on in my chronic illness.

To me there is no randomness in the universe, but rather a closely guided plan that is the divine will of God. While this faith is complete, and without question in my soul, it created an internal turmoil from many unanswered questions due to my recent pain and illness.

Having accepted that my illness was not just some random fluke of a fallen world, or from a disinterested God, I was forced to acknowledge that God had actually allowed me to go through years of pain, disability, frustration, and even doubt in Him.

In the process of coming to terms with my chronic illness, it became very important for me to know if God was actually afflicting me as a punishment, or allowing the affliction as a form of lesson.

Perhaps this is, as I said earlier, a trivial thing to most, but I doubt that there is anyone suffering from chronic pain and illness who has not asked "Why me?"

I started by trying to figure out what great sin I had committed that would cause God to be angry enough to strike me down with this illness. In hindsight, I admit that this was a futile effort, because there were so many wrongs I had committed in my past.

From my youth to my salvation at age 33, there wasn't one of God's commandments that was left standing in my life, and I was further pained to admit that my record as a Christian had not been much better. If I was to accept the salvation from Jesus Christ as a real event in my life, then I also had to assume that my true repentance for each of these new sins came with the same forgiveness as those that fell before my salvation.

This left me with the struggle of what lesson was I to learn from this illness. Was God honing me with fire? Was he trying to purge my own self-reliance? Was he trying to humble me?

The answer to all of these questions was probably yes. All of these goals were necessary for me to walk the road ahead of me with a body ravaged by a long-term illness. I would also later learn that these lessons were necessary for my sanity, and health. But the questions I still faced were: Would changing these things in me fix what was wrong both spiritually and physically? Could I put forth the effort in changing these things, such that I would please God, and He would, in turn, heal me?

Oh what futile thoughts, and what futile efforts! After some time, though, with the honing, humbling, and and final admission that I was helpless to do anything to change the circumstances of my life all accomplished, I was left without a direction or purpose to my pain.

I had confessed every sin, I had righted every wrong, changed all that I had perceived needed to be changed. Why was God leaving me in such misery? Why would He not heal me?

Perhaps it is at this point, when I had struggled without result, striven without healing, and prayed without answer, that I came to my lowest point. Driven into a deep depression, and without the hope of answers, or a cure to my physical illness, I surrendered all that I had to God. I told Him to take me from this world. I was no good to anyone, and if God thought He would create a mission in the miserable existence I had, well He was wrong! I could see no use to my suffering, and viewed myself as a hindrance to my family and friends. There was no meaning in this, it was just miserable suffering and pain without end.

On my knees and at my wits' end, I offered all of this up to God on His altar. This time I did not receive silence, but rather a very simple, powerful sentence. "There now you understand what I want," and I did.

God did not want me to ask why He had done this to me. He did not want me to confess my miserable life. He did not want me to seek a ministry in my pain. What he wanted me to understand was that each and every minute of my life required the support of God's powerful hand. I literally could not take a breath, or walk a step without Him.

Since that time, I have not healed. In fact my health has declined, and each new diagnosis brings me closer to my own mortality. I am, however, more able to deal with what each day brings. I do not struggle against God asking why, but rather work with God asking how.

I look back at that time of darkness in my life with some regret. I spent a lot of time spinning against God's will by trying to answer questions that were irrelevant. I will continue to struggle against God with my sinful nature. I will also require more lessons in life that will hone my walk as a Christian. But I am determined now more than ever to lean on Him for each answer.

Perhaps what I have gone through is something everyone with chronic illness will have to, but if I can save any of you the frustration of this journey, in these few words, then my time has not been wasted.

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them...yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me"

1 Corinthians 15:10


A Simple Christian