Saturday, May 7, 2016

Even In This: Thinking about Marley’s Chains

In order to feel my best on my wedding day (and for the honeymoon) my doc and I have been shifting my infusion (my IV meds) to make sure I get my meds fairly close to the wedding date. I usually feel my best during week 2 and 3 after an infusion. In order to do this, I am waiting 5 weeks between infusions instead of the normal 4 weeks. I have done this in past with various success – sometimes I am perfectly fine and get surprised when I see that my infusion is the next day because I feel good and don’t “feel” I need it. Other times I have counted down the hours until that needle goes in.

My infusion in April was VERY much the latter case. With wedding planning and some very stressful work weeks, I had been running a fever close to 100 for almost two weeks. My entire body ached and I had severe fatigue…I had to get into bed when I got home to relieve my aching joints and went to sleep even earlier than I normally did.

Surprisingly, I actually felt worse after my April infusion for a few days, beyond the usual side effects. After having to leave early from what was supposed to have been an all day class for my biblical counseling training because I was hurting so bad and needed to sleep, I was feeling pretty frustrated and discouraged at this thing called autoimmune disease.

As I lay on the couch, amazed at how tired I felt (my limbs even felt heavy!), for some reason, the picture of Marley, from Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” appeared in my mine. I realized that I likened lupus to Marley’s chains. Marley thumped and bumped and clanged around with his chains. Mine hold me back, hold me down, prevent me from doing what I want to do (fun stuff) and even what I need to do (housecleaning, work responsibilities, etc). These chains limit me.

I lay there for a few minutes, enjoying my dark sense of humor and relishing a little self-pity (I’m not proud of that, but it happens so it’s good to fess up J ). And then I (by God’s grace) stopped thinking about myself and thought about Him and wondered what He would think of my negative image of ‘ol Marley and my lupus. “There’s got to be a better image I can replace this with…”

I think this image is still in work, but I’ll let you in on where I am currently and for my own personal record to reflect back on: I thought of Paul and the “thorn” in his flesh that he refers to. This thorn is never revealed – lots of people speculate that maybe it was a physical illness or a speech impediment. We don’t know. What we do know, what the Bible tells us, is how Paul viewed it.

            “…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me, But He said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I (Paul) will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong”
                                                                        2 Corinthians 12: 7b-10

There are a few things that stand out to me in this passage:

1) "To keep me from becoming conceited"
I can be OH SO prideful in what I can accomplish. I love to do lists, I love controlling those to do lists. I truly believe that having lupus MAKES me turn those lists over to God. To say “what do YOU want me to accomplish today?” rather than “What should I accomplish today. I find that when I am the most frustrated at my disease it is when I am not asking God what He wants me to do in it.

2)  “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it would be removed” – I’ve pleaded, begged, I’ve said “enough! Don’t I deserve such-and-such!?” He always answers, but not in the way I think He will and honestly, not always in the way I think He should. His ways are not my ways and I do not have His mind (Rom 11:33, Isaiah 55:8). Oh but to have His mind! To put my own thoughts and desires and wants aside and want what He wants more than what I want! And to see that His way is indeed better.

3) “But He said to me…” Oh that lovely “but.” God doesn’t leave us without an answer. He may leave us without the answer we wanted. The silence or inaction that I perceive is often a wonderful and great display of His love for me. Because He knows, He knows what I need more than I do. He knows that this trial, this hardship, is going to grow me in ways I cannot yet see, it is going to show me more of Him than comfort or ease would. What encouragement! God always has a “but” for us, we just have to learn, by His grace, to see/hear it.

So the questions I have to ask myself, and, if you’re going through a prolonged period of trial/hardship/suffering and you’re wondering why, or you’re so past wearisome, just thinking about it makes you burst into tears, I hope you ask yourself these questions along with me. Be specific and write down your answers. Spend some time reflecting on and review them. Have someone help you answer them if you can’t come up with an answer yourself. God puts amazing people into our lives, both people who share or don’t share our beliefs, to help us.
  •  Am I thinking more of God in this trial than I am of myself?
  • How is God using this trial to grow me in my relationship and knowledge of Him?
  • What can I be thankful for during this trial?
  • When was the last time I shared with someone what God is doing in my life through this trial?
  • Where is my hope? Is it in this trial finally ending or in that God is working EVEN in this trial?
I am amazed at how quickly I can forget the truths that I read, the prayers I pray when I hit a rough patch of disease symptoms. I am thankful that I feel I more quickly go to Him and think on His words than I used to, but man, oh man, how often do I have to remind myself, yes Melissa, EVEN IN THIS, He is working all things for His glory and your good. EVEN IN THIS.

So EVEN IN THIS, even being frustrated that I often can’t do what I want to do, I often can’t finish my to-do lists, or visit with the people that I want, or attend the class I want, or serve in the way I want, EVEN IN THIS, He is working. He is giving me new areas to focus on, ample time to pray and lift up people to Him, teaching me to ask for help and admit my weaknesses.

Here’s to being more aware of Him and His blessings instead of me and what I call my limitations.