The Unseen Battle Within

There are somethings in life that cannot be prepared for. A sudden death. A medical emergency. An unexpected phone call. The loss of a job.

We casually say that we trust God and that we know He is faithful and will always be with us. We talk about His love and mercy. It doesn’t become real until it has to become real.

Bill has known since he was small that some day he would have to find out if he had the same genetic disorder as his father and great uncles, a problem in the brain stem that causes strokes and aneurysms. We were not sure if we even wanted to know. Bill’s father passed away this spring and everything crashed. He has been through so much and time and time again he proved that he was tougher than we could have believed him to be. It was so expected and sudden at the same time. We miss him very much.

Shortly after, we decided that we should pursue testing for Bill. We had tried before but our doctor at the time suggested we just wait until he started having symptoms (i.e. having a stroke…). We switched doctors but things became so busy that it was pushed to the back burner. This fall we had to get check ups done in order to finish our licencing for foster care and Bill told his doctor about the disorder. The doctor was very concerned and set up an MRI for the next week. We were suddenly faced with a decision.

We were going to find out definitively if there was something wrong. We had spent years praying about it, praying that Bill would be healed from it, praying that his headaches were not a symptom, praying that it would not get passed onto William and Eden.

When we are in situations like that , it becomes easy to pray that God will heal and that he will protect. That he will prevent us from suffering and guard us from difficulty. We pray for the surgeons hands and wisdom for the doctors and that tests will come out negative. We pray these things, and that is not wrong, but is that all?

What if God says no?  What if the answer is a positive test result, an emergency, a loss? Is God wrong? Were we wrong? What if our prayers were misplaced? What if God’s plans are completely different than ours? Can we still trust Him?

We prayed and prayed but it became apparent to us that we were asking for something that perhaps God was not going to give us. We know that God can heal, and we assumed that he would heal Bill. We had prayed for healing for his father, and I think the Lord answered our prayers, at least on some level, because there were many times that he pulled through when he shouldn’t have.  God does heal, but not always and not always in the way that fits into our plan. We are not God, but we think we know Him and His plan as if we can control every aspect of our lives. As if we were autonomous.

We started praying differently, we started praying that instead of healing, that God would be present with us no matter the outcome of the test. We started praying that we would have the courage to face whatever would be coming down the line. We prayed for God’s peace to fill us so that we would not worry.

That is when it hit us. We spend a lot of time praying for the ‘mountain’ in front of us, sickness, unemployment, death, tragedy. The results of this test could have very real and serious ramifications in our lives. It became clear that the real ‘mountain’ that we were facing was that of trusting God, without knowing the results. It was putting our trust in Him, even if He chose to allow us to go through this situation. It was believing to the depths of our being that He was sovereign, that He knew what was going to happen, and that He was going to be with us every moment. Even if that meant calling Bill home. Even if that meant that I would have to care for him for the rest of our lives. Even if it meant that he would not be able to preach any more.

benched blog photo

The real battle was not going to be after we got the results, the real battle was happening before we even knew what we were going to fight. We did not see it at first because all we could see what the mountain of the unknown looming ahead of us.

The night before his MRI we sat together and talked. We talked about what could happen. We talked about how we would move forward if the worse case scenario were true. We talked about who to call if he had to go to emergency surgery the next day. At some point, these conversations happen to everyone and they are not fun.

We talked about how both of us were at peace. 

We were not nervous. We knew our lives could be turned upside down. We were not worried. We were not anxious. The Lord had filled our hearts with a sense of calm and assurance that we could face tomorrow, not because we were brave or strong, but because He was strong. He was not going to leave. It was enough, how could we ask for more?

The MRI went without a hitch, and admittedly, the days following while we waited for the results were long. Every time the phone rang we jumped. Finally the results came back. Negative. We let out a huge sigh of relief. We smiled. He was safe and our children were safe. We will face other things, but we would not have to face this. God is good. I believe we could only say that, with all sincerity, because we know that He is good even if the answer were different.

We know that there will be more times in our life when we are faced with difficult circumstances, more difficult that this. We may focus on the problem itself and the ‘what ifs’. I pray that we will remember this time and that we will stand firm when the world tells us to worry. That we will trust God when our spirits are crying for justice, or peace, or comfort, or answers. I pray that we will look back at this time and say, Praise God. He was with us then, He is with us now, He will be with us forevermore. No matter what the doctors say, or the government, or our employers. God is sovereign. God is good. God is faithful. We will choose to praise Him even when it hurts.

I do not say this as if it was easy. As if there were no tears shed. We recognize that there are much more difficult things to go through in this life and this by no means is to trivialize struggle and pain. It is written to give hope. Real hope. Not pie-in-the-sky faith based on feelings. God answers prayers, in this situation he gave us what we asked for- rest in Him. He did heal Bill, and for that we are eternally grateful, but He did something more important. He moved our hearts closer to His own. He gave us more of Himself. We received healing from worry and fear. That is the miracle and that is His grace.

I can say, it is well with my soul. If you have not read the story behind this song, please do. It is worth it. He is worth it.

How has the Lord shown His faithfulness to you in unexpected ways? What is your unseen battle? Fear? Loss? Loneliness? Grief?  Where is your hope?

I Don’t care Sundays…

Sundays are hard around here.

Sundays are hard for most pastors.

One Sunday, after service, someone asked us what we were doing for lunch and we quickly responded ‘We are going out to eat, it’s an ‘I don’t care Sunday’. They thought it was funny. We were serious. This mindset had been building for some time and it soon became more of a necessity than a luxury. Most people go out to eat on Sunday. It is a time of fellowship. It is a time to relax instead of cooking. Restaurants are busy and waiters and waitresses are hoping for good tips.

We normally do not eat out, it just isn’t in the budget, but we found our selves racing to the nearest fast food place or pizza, or our favorite local diner for patty melts (Reuben for me) and soup and blowing our eating out budget in the first week of the month. It had become a coping mechanism. We were in survival mode and this was a way to make it through the afternoon.

Sundays for us are hard. We are exhausted. We are overwhelmed. We are at the end of our work week and most weeks we have not had a time to rest. Sundays are not a day of rest for us as they are for most people. We got to the point where we needed an escape that eating out was it.

In and of itself, eating out is not a bad thing, but for us it had become something that was an indication of a deeper problem. We build ourselves up every week for Sunday, that is what we are working towards with sermon prepping, praying, reading, and all the rest. By the time Sunday afternoon comes around we, Bill especially,are completely drained emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We started relying on food for comfort during the couple hours off that Bill has on Sunday afternoons before he goes to teach the youth at another church.blog image food, bowl

The root of the problem is that we do not  feel refreshed. We ‘work’ on Sundays and worship looks different for us than for most people. It is wonderful, but we are often drained. We discovered that eating out, most of the time, truly was a life saver. We just could not seem to manage cooking after everything was said and done.

Our bodies were hungry and our souls were hungrier. We worship the Lord at church, but we cannot completely allow ourselves to rest in His presence because there are so many distractions that come in the way. We must learn to let go and let God fill us while we are at service, while we are at ‘work’. We cannot control every aspect of service, nor do we want to, and the more we submit to Christ, the more we are filled with His grace.

A secondary problem is pride. I mean, we have put all of this time and effort into the sermon and children’s church and people, we need a break and we should just get something to eat because we deserve it, right? We don’t deserve it.

We don’t deserve anything.

We have done nothing more than obey the Lord and He has supplied what we needed for that time. We complain and grumble at the Lord, while we rely on our own strength to get us through. We do need breaks, and rest, and refreshment. We do not need it because we deserve it. We have a problem when we get to the point that we say, ‘I do not care’, because we should care and because God cares that we rely on His grace and His grace is sufficient.

Perhaps we should work on our language. Perhaps, instead of ‘I don’t care Sundays’ it should be, ‘I do care Sundays’. Perhaps, in our exhaustion, we should thank the Lord for using us and for sustaining us and ask that He help us to hold on a little longer. Perhaps we should rest in His faithfulness. Perhaps we should be prepared with comfort food ready in the crock pot, so we can eat and rest without eating out. Perhaps we should enforce and guard a mandatory rest time, even if brief, in the afternoon.

Perhaps we should occasionally order a sandwich and take a small nap and feed our bodies what it needs, and not feel guilty for that, but then feed our spirit the nourishment that it needs.

Sundays are hard and always will be, but we don’t need to stuff our faces and blow our budget to ‘cope’. Whether we chose to stay in or eat out should not be determined by our desire to cope, rather should be motivated by our thankfulness in the calling and provisions that we have been given.

The next time you hear us say, ”It is an ‘I don’t care Sunday”, tell us that we should care and thank the Lord with us that it is through His grace that we can be truly satisfied. Then you can offer to buy Bill a patty melt, I am sure he will not turn you down.