So many people struggle with problems that have lasted a long time.
Often they hang on by focusing on the hope that things will get better in the near future, then if things don’t get better they can become bitter. Meanwhile they are waiting till things get better before grabbing ahold of life.
Joni Erickson Tada spent a while focused on getting cured of her quadriplegia but then accepted God’s sovereignty on the issue and became a powerful tool in God’s hands to help other permanently handicapped people. I know of another young athlete who broke his back on a trampoline and became permanently paralyzed. He was saved as a result and developed a ministry for God but was still focused on healing in this life and eventually lost his impact.
I wonder what is the most difficult chronic situation to walk in submission with God through? Chronic depression or anxiety; Chronic pain, fibro, TMJ, back pain, ulcerative colitis; or paralysis; or PTSD; or brain injury; or perhaps a job we can’t quit but is always stressful; having a missing loved one; or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.
With depression, I hear lots of lectures on one more technique that might finally bring relief to the sufferer, but never lectures on how to get started living with depression now while I am still trying to find answers, so that, if the depression never leaves, then at least I am living and serving God. I remember one lady with long term depression who cried out to God, ” If I can’t be fixed, at least use me to bless others!” That week she led two people to the Lord and talked a friend out of divorcing but goinging to counseling instead. She called me up asking, ” Does this mean God has decided to not fix me till I get to heaven?” I told her that I did not have the answer but at least she was wonderfully used by God.
God being sovereign means that he doesn’t have to fix me but also means that, if he doesn’t, he will walk the situation with me. I know that by comparison, my bout with claustrophobia was not a big deal but it sure felt aweful at the time. I remember practicing what I preach and letting God know that he did not have to fix me but that there was no way I could function, as I had in the past, with all my energy drained by the anxiety. He chose to take it away. Sovereignty means that he may treat one servant one way and another differently and I don’t get to whine if I am the one left with the problem while the other person gets fixed.
Do be careful listening to Christian radio where we seldom hear testimonies about how “I am still miserable but finding grace, praise the Lord”. No we hear someone who WAS miserable but is fine now. This , of course, feeds the feeling that God always has to heal so there must be something wrong with my faith if the problem doesn’t go away.
Perhaps one that is overlooked is living with a family member or spouse who JUST WON’T CHANGE. The nonchangers that trouble me most are the ones who are always quoting verses and going to church. For example, I know of a lady who’s father molested her and when she finally confronted the sunday school teaching/church attending man about what had happened; he made vague excuses and in church that Sunday talked about how even when one is a perfect father still our children don’t always turn out well. I think that the fact that they always COULD change keeps hope alive forever in us. However, just as in any chronic pain, I need to get on with my life, inviting the loved one to change but not waiting till they do before I start living. I must ask the question, “How can I live an abundant life, even if they NEVER change?”
Now I know that with Christ all things are possible. I know that the rabid Christian killer Saul of Tarsus became a passionate church builder, but how often does God go out of his way to knock them off of their high horses? Even when God brings severe consequences into their lives they still learn nothing. Revelation 9 20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plaques yet repented not.
I’ve seen a lot of depression worsen when someone stays stubborn to the end and never repents or changes. Their loved ones cling to the hope of change and then they are gone.
When I am struggling with a painful chronic relationship, if I turn to others for advice I am told, either, “You made your bed so lay in it!” or “Just dump the person and move on.
God often calls me to a third approach where I pray for them and hope to the end. Invite them to change. Minister to them when appropriate and set limits when appropriate. Learn from their painful example that I need to be tender to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and I need to: take the reality of the chronic situation, thank God for his intention in allowing it, ask for the grace to walk in it and always remember This Too Will Pass but maybe not till I see Christ.