I’m a firstborn people-pleaser. I love approval. I’m always wounded by a critical opinion, the disapproval of even a minority, or a whispered criticism. This is a weakness, a soft spot.
I long to live only for Jesus, seeking His approval, having a heart that values His view above all others. I want more of Him. I want Eden and His smiling face.
But for now I’m isolated with a chronic illness. I have the opportunity to draw near to Him, but not having all of Him yet makes this so difficult. My chronic illness brings me to the end of myself, and I realize more than ever what I lack.
- I lack a constant awareness of Him, enabling me to recognize that He is with me at all times, watching me always. The Lord is near!
- I lack the ability to detect when my self-reliance prompts me to forget Him and to act independently.
Years of my own attempts at growth reveal that even when I’m devoid of all strength and ability, I still try to perfect myself. I still feel like my growth depends solely upon me, rather than on God. I forget Him.
A typical example: Frustration gnawed at me today. I awakened to see fellow authors doing all the work required to get their novels seen. When I wasn’t sick, that was me. But now, all my energy goes toward caring for my soul and my body. I can still write a small amount each day, but marketing now flattens me.
Digging around inside my heart, I discover I’m mad at God about this, envious of the authors with the strength to work, and frustrated that I can’t propel my work forward as must be done in this market.
And then I realize I haven’t asked God for help.
I haven’t prayed. I haven’t been talking to Him about how I feel, which you already know if you’ve been reading my latest blogs.
Here I am, a child of the King of the universe, sitting under the proverbial worm-chewed vine cursing my illness, which so clearly teaches me more about God’s goodness and mercy, and I haven’t even beseeched the God who hovers near, longingly awaiting my plea for help.
Rather, Jonah-like, I bemoan my situation. Have you ever done this?
This illness is good for my soul. God uses it to grow me to completion. He does this work within me. Gently and patiently, He rekindles my awareness of Him and my desire to turn to Him, for one day I must give a verbal account to the One who judges both the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:5-7). I must ‘splain my stubborn self.
When I was healthy I struggled repeatedly to rely on Jesus. Out I went, hard at work, getting things done, mostly in my own strength. I only asked for His help after I’d exhausted my own resources.
Now that my strength is gone you would think I’d automatically turn to Him, the Lover of my soul. But no. Here I sit hardening slowly, because nothing is happening and I can’t do it. And here sits God patiently waiting for me to turn to Him and ask for His help. He is a patient Lover. It’s a good thing!
These habits of self-reliance are deeply rooted and rock hard. We’re down to the plow-pan, the depth at which the plow can reach where a hard layer of rock-like soil has been compressed. The rocky soil must be broken up.
A good farmer has tools that cut the plow-pan, lifting it, separating it, gouging it open, so the water can go through and the roots can grow deep. God is doing this work on me. He’s the best Farmer, so he’s tearing up my plow pan.
This is deep and essential suffering. This seems to be where all of my best growth takes place. When my strength has been surpassed, when the situation is beyond me, when I reach my limit, then I recognize how much I need Him. Then I turn to Him first.
I’m grateful that God loves me enough to put me in this place repeatedly because He wants me.
Learning to live for the audience of One is the hardest work I’ve ever done. I like the accolades that come with doing things well and in a sparkling, joyful public way. Yet here, alone in my sickroom, this internal work affects my eternity and results in the deepest and most fulfilling joy.
“So whether we are at home (in the body) or away, we make it our aim to please him. FOR we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10-11).
Lord, I surrender. Restore, repair, and bind my wandering heart to Thee.