It took a disease for me to even begin to understand the parts of God’s word that have to do with resting in Him.
A disease, man. A really mean and ugly one, at that.
It is a thing so ugly, that it has turned my entire life upside down, made me feel like I am riding on a perpetual roller coaster (inside and out), and it LOVES to wreak havoc and create chaos at any time it pleases (grinning all the while). It even tricks me sometimes and makes me think it has left the building – for good, this time….only to return and do so with a vengeance. Ain’t nobody got time for that, but it still happens, yo. (bless my soul)
Yep. It took something that took over the wheel and took ME out of the driver’s seat. I’ll give it that much – it did do that. But that isn’t good either, because that is not who is supposed to be driving. So I looked for Him and asked Him to take over (finally).
To do that, it demanded that I fight for the right driver and part of that fight (most of it) comes in the form of surrender. That’s right – not to the disease, but to the Lord. That right there is a HUGE battle. We are at war, in case you haven’t noticed.
And guess what? I’m only just learning about this surrender thing, man. I’m only just now learning.
The other day in my morning devotions, as I was reading chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes, this verse hit me like a ton of bricks:
“One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.”
When you have fibromyalgia, you feel like you are chasing after the wind most of the time – as you grasp and strain for any sense of normalcy in the midst of the topsy-turvy-control-freak-show-evil-grinning-master-of-chaos that this disease is, you strain yourself all the more. The struggle is real, no doubt about it. So much so, it’s truly hard to do it justice by trying to put it into mere words.
But more than that, it has put into perspective that much of what I was doing in my “healthy” life before was only a prettier version of the same thing.
- All the striving…
- All the performing…
- All the reaching and coveting and the never-ending goal-setting and planning.
- All the good intentions I told myself I had as I worked hard and tried to always give everything my all.
My false idols weren’t ugly ones, my friends. They were very pretty, and that was really deceitful. I’m sure I have some more of them right now as I write that are hiding from me.
My false idols were veiled behind false beauty – very convincing, I might add! I wanted to do my best to please others and myself. I told myself God was part of that too, but you see – He wants all of me, not just the leftovers. Maybe a little bit for God was in there, but a whole lot of self was still the reigning factor in the equation, dudes. It still is a lot of the time – but I’m onto myself now. That’s not a fun one to face. But truth is a beautiful thing.
My desire for fitness was not just about being healthy (the good thing), but also about having control over something – being in charge – perpetuating an illusion that “I can still do this and do it well.” There’s good in that too, but it can quickly cross over the line from being a good thing to take care of our bodies, the temples of the Lord, to becoming a false idol and a control mechanism and in some way…taking His place.
We may reach our goals in whatever it is we are striving to do, but if we cross that line, we are chasing after the wind. I did that.
None of these “good things” apart from God are lasting in the face of eternity. Not one.
Struggling, though? WOW. When we struggle and it seems we can’t grab hold of a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g at all – that EVERYTHING is out of our reach? Like….
- The ability to even get a good night’s sleep…
- The possibility of predicting whether we will function even halfway well today…
- The knowledge that we have our situation or illness or circumstance at least under-control enough that we won’t have to give up our job, stop seeing friends, and be able to keep the disease from growing and taking everything else over and smothering us…
- Knowing if we can even walk well today, let alone go out and hike or jog!
In the face of that unknown and the inability to grab hold of anything and hang onto it, we end up with nothing but a feeling that we have nothing. But that nothingness – if we can begin to understand that God wants our all, even if a lot of stuff has been stripped away – we start to find out that’s what He wanted all along.
I tried before to give Him the me who also had it all. But stuff was clouding up the picture and now that I have turned into what seems like a big bag of mush, it feels like He is finally getting more of what’s left of me than what I ever offered before. Weird.
And hear this one, because it is true – when it comes to the things of this world, none of it is ours to claim anyway. Not a drop.
We think we have all these rights – these rights to health, to happiness, to prosperity. But if we are followers after Christ, who are we to name it and claim it? Maybe it’s not ours to have! Sometimes He gives us seasons of prosperity, and there’s nothing wrong with that if it doesn’t take His place. But if not, I ask you – Why should anyone be better than our Lord and Savior, who suffered, even to the point of death for our sakes? Why?
If you are someone who has figured out how to do that – how to walk through life without some form of suffering ever happening to them, but still not allow it to become, in some way, a false idol, I’d love to know your secret.
Maybe it’s an Annie thing. Maybe I just haven’t learned yet how to be content in abundance or seasons of prosperity. Maybe that will be coming down the road. And maybe not. Because…Annie.
But the Lord IS teaching me a lot about contentment within my own form of lack. And let’s be honest – I still have much. I haven’t lost everything. But the lack and the hard that I am going through is real and He is using that to make me understand all the more about HIM. And for that, I am very grateful.
I don’t have this surrender and contentment thing mastered – like I said, I’m just starting to learn. Where I struggle the most is in the things that would seem easy – not the big stuff.
The big stuff?
- I have accepted that I have a disease and there is only so much I can do to make it easier to live with.
- I have accepted that God can work all things together for our good and often, He uses ugly things like this to do that very thing.
- I have accepted that God can heal me if He so chooses – in His timing – but that if He never does remove my thorn from my side, He has good reason.
I’ve accepted these big things.
But I struggle in the small and minute – the finer (edgier) details:
- Do I continue to allow things into my life that cause me to still strive? Or do I give up those things all together because….Annie, man!
- Do I continue to dream for things, or am I to ONLY set my eyes upon finding joy in the moment and dream big for eternity and that alone?
- Do I try this new treatment (again) or is that just chasing after the wind too?
I don’t know the big answers to these smaller questions in my life yet, but the Lord encourages me that His teachings are resonating with me as He reminds me that the fact that I’m okay with not knowing is a dang good start. Go figure!
I am learning friends – for the very first time in my life – the true VALUE of rest. Literal rest and what it means to rest in Him.
He is giving me something I have never been able to say I really had before – no, not ever! A semblance of contentment EVEN WHEN my circumstances cause distress – it’s about contentment in HIM. I will never find it in my circumstances.
- Finding joy in Him and who He is!
- Fixing my eyes upon eternity rather than the things of this world.
- Helping others who struggle with their own kind of hard.
- Learning how fragile life really is and that it’s not about how strong we can make ourselves appear, but how big and powerful HE is through our struggles and weaknesses.
And enjoyment of the little things in this earthly life while I’m still here – wow! Has that stuff ever come into full focus for me now!
Things like the joy of being able to hold a puppy or hug one of my young adult children or my husband, even though I feel like my body (and mind, at times) is about to crack all over the place like an egg. I can still do that! And that is GOOD!
I’m able to revel in the beauty now of what it looks like to just be….to be in the moment, even if I am covered in hot water bottles and blankets.
I now what it’s like to not be able to strive and in many ways, be okay with that!
- To not be able to go out and jog to release my anxiety bothers me, but it also gifts me the chance to putter around in my garden instead.
- To not be able to know if I can dream big without making that dream become a false idol. is actually a blessing in many ways.
- To not be able to know if I can even continue to work next month used to distress me, but now, I’m just going with it.
- To not be able to know if I can meet for coffee tomorrow has become something I’ve learned to accept instead of cry over.
- To not be able to know if I can go to the family reunion, the party on Friday, church services on Saturdays, the errand I need to run on Wednesday – all of that forces me to focus on what can happen today and makes me look for the beauty in the little things in front of me. It makes me seek His face instead of all of these other false certainties.
I GET to rest in Him and what I do know about Him all the while.
That is what I now hold in my hand – and it is FULL.
And better yet, He holds ME in His mighty hands. And He isn’t letting go.
And this I love.