My Cancer Survival Story

ribbon-1101997_1280I tell this story because it is the most bizarre tale of God’s divine grace!  It is with enormous thankfulness that I share how I became a cancer survivor before even my doctors knew I even HAD cancer!

So a few years ago, I was told that I had a HUGE fibroid tumor that took up my entire uterus.  My doctor said it wasn’t anything to be concerned about because they are never cancerous and would go away as soon as my hormone levels dropped enough to put me close to full menopause.  I was so close to menopause and I didn’t have any issues with it so I went along my merry way.

When I moved down to the Indy area, I got new doctors and my OBGYN insisted I go in for an ultrasound to confirm that the fibroid was no longer there.  We were all fairly certain it was gone or very nearly so I was a bit unclear why she wanted to search for it with all the modern technology at her disposal, but as luck would have it, the procedure was covered at my age so I went in and let them have a look around at my interior.  They seemed to be focusing in on my left side for an inordinate amount of time, but I just thought they were admiring my vintage upholstery.

The doctor called me in to go over my results. I was fully expecting her to say that it was gone and we could then move on to finding solutions to my several chronic issues where fatigue and pain had become a full-time job.  However, what she said was that the results revealed a rather sizable solid cyst on my left ovary.   She said it was the kind of cyst that could become cancerous so it needed to be removed as soon as possible.  Since I was 53 years young, I was no longer really using my ovaries so she said it was easier to remove the entire ovary and that she might want to take the Fallopian Tube as well just in case because “cancer likes to hide.”

Turns out she called an audible during the surgery and did remove the tube and sent everything to biopsy.  The surgery was much easier than I thought it would be and I was in very little pain that it didn’t necessitate ANY pain pills including Tylenol or Ibuprofen.  I was ecstatic thinking it was over and I got away just about scott free.

The doctor herself called me with the biopsy results.  That’s never a good sign. It’s usually some nurse or office gal who tells you everything is normal.  So when she used the word cancer, my brain kind of went tilt.  I had a hard time wrapping my head around that.  After all, there was no reason to believe I had cancer.  My blood work indicated levels of cancer antibodies below the limit indicating cancer was present.  Nothing they saw indicated any signs of a tumor or cyst or lump or anything they felt was something to worry about.  But the fact remained that I did have cancer cells in my tube and, since this type of cancer is aggressive, I was referred to a Gynecological Oncologist.

After the initial shock wore off (about two hours), I wasn’t really concerned.  I was told that he would probably want to remove my other ovary, tube, and lymph nodes just to make sure there was no more cancer in my reproductive system which was now laying dormant having retired some time ago.  I went into the appointment feeling pretty confident and actually kind of looking forward to having an end to my 17+ years of Peri!

When he first walked into the room, he asked me why I thought I was there.  He wanted to know just how much I understood.  I told him it really was a miracle.  They went in looking for a huge fibroid tumor that wasn’t there, found a solid ovarian cyst, and only found the microscopic cancer cells in my Fallopian Tube under the microscope after the biopsy.  My OBGYN said that it saved my life and he agreed with her.  They both said that the cancer would never have been found that early.  This type of cancer has no symptoms until it is too late and, since it’s an aggressive cancer, doctors wouldn’t have known it was there until it was too late and I would most likely have died.  So I’m a cancer survivor and I was a cancer survivor long before anyone (including the doctors) knew I even had cancer!

So what’s next?  Well, the Gynecological Oncologist has me scheduled for a total hysterectomy in October.  He wants to remove EVERYTHING reproductive, not just my other ovary and tube and lymph nodes…because they already found cancer and “cancer likes to hide.”  This is a much more involved surgery requiring a 2-3 day hospital stay.  If the biopsy finds no further cancer cells, I’m done!  Both with peri and with cancer.  If they do find more cancer, they’ll probably want to do chemotherapy. But he doesn’t think there is any reason to believe that they will find more cancer. So I’m hanging my hat on that for now.

UPDATE: Got my biopsy back and there is NO MORE CANCER or any other abnormalities anywhere.  I’m CANCER FREE!  

 

Step Four: Getting Out of Survival Mode

So far I’ve shared three steps for getting out of Survival Mode from my article, 18 Steps to Living Better with Chronic Illness.  Step 1: Be Flexible.  Step 2: Develop a Sense of Humor.  Step 3: Be Open to New Things.  And this week, Step 4: Don’t Discount the Silly Ideas.

Here’s what I wrote in my original article as it relates to chronic illness:

“4. Don’t discount the silly ideas

Those new things can sometimes come in the form of the ridiculous. How can some oil that smells like lavender make me feel better?  Does it make sense that drinking something to give you more stomach acid will help?  Well, yes.  What may sound silly or ridiculous to you, might just help you through something.  Lavender essential oil and other oils have actually helped me sleep better.  And my heartburn isn’t a result of too much acid, but too little such that I am not digesting my food. This causes other issues resulting in my heartburn.”

Some things sound downright silly. Some sound counter intuitive.  Yet others sound completely ridiculous!  I’m not saying you should try or even entertain every crackpot idea people throw your way, but I am suggesting that you look into every one of them a bit further to see if it might be something you should try.

Some things aren’t worth trying after you investigate them for one of several reasons.  They might be too expensive.  They might be something that clashes with your values or your body in the case of health issues.  They might present too great a risk for the benefit they profess.

However, some things, the more you look into them, might be worth a go.  Out of the unlikely places of the corners of the Twilight Zone sometimes emerges a helping hand.  Just because something sounds insane, doesn’t mean it is.  Just because you never heard of it before, doesn’t mean it may not be the answer to prayer.

Now, some things may seem to help or help only temporarily.  At the time I wrote my original article, I was sleeping a tiny bit better after trying essential oils. Unfortunately, it was very short-lived and may have been a fluke as I tried to repeat it night after night, I was unable to make any strides in my insomnia.  But it was definitely worth a try!  Many people report feeling better with essential oils, it had no chance of side effects, and smelled heavenly!

From the most unlikely of places sometimes comes a solution you’ve spent years searching for.  Here’s a small example of an answer to something that came from as unlikely a source as I could ever have imagined.  I’ve written a long post about my miracle story before, but the Reader’s Digest Version of it is this.

My doctor insisted I have a test to see if my fibroid was still there.  We were both sure it wasn’t as they tend to disappear after menopause and I was so close to the end after many years of peri.  I would never have agreed to have this test if I had to pay for it on my own, but I had insurance at the time so I consented.  While they found that it had, indeed, disappeared, they found a cyst on my left ovary.  It was the kind that can become cancerous so I had surgery to remove both the cyst and the ovary as they were difficult to separate.  During the surgery, my doctor decided to go the extra mile and remove the fallopian tube as well.  After the pathology report came back positive for cancer of the fallopian tube, I was scheduled to have a radical hysterectomy to remove EVERYTHING else.  Because the cancer I had was very rare and aggressive, they wanted to make sure it hadn’t spread.  It was so early in the diagnosis that I didn’t require chemo or radiation.  And it was very rare for a woman to survive this cancer because it is usually diagnosed too late for a cure.

If I hadn’t had the insurance at the time, I would have died.

If my surgeon hadn’t decided to be on the safe side and remove my fallopian tube as well, I would have died.

If my doctors all hadn’t moved as quickly as they did, they would have found it too late and, I would have died.

My cure, to a cancer NOBODY even knew I had, came from having insurance at the exact timing necessary and doctors who were careful and quick about something nobody would ever have thought to look for.

Be open to new things.  You never know where your solution may come from!

 

Step Three: Getting Out of Survival Mode

We’re up to step three in my 18-week series, 18 Steps to Getting Out of Survival Mode.  Step one was to Be Flexible and step two was to Develop a Sense of Humor.  Step three is to Be Open to New Things.

So I know how you feel.  I’ve been there before.  You’ve tried just about everything you could afford and remotely sounds feasible.  You’ve listened to friends and family drone on about how you “should do” this or that.  You’re probably tired of people telling you what you should do.  I’ve been there so I know how annoying it is to have people suggest the very same things you’ve just tried or can’t afford or are allergic to or whatever it is that prevents you from it.

But here’s the thing.  Here’s what I wrote in my original article. It’s not much, but it’s powerful. At least it was for me.

“3. Be open to new things
Sometimes you need to be open to the possibility that something new might help you–even if you’ve tried it before. Sometimes circumstances aren’t right and, as you gain more strength or balance your diet or meds, that new idea might just work.”

Sometimes we get to a point where we just don’t want to hear it anymore, but sometimes it’s the very thing we need to hear…just one more time.  Maybe it’s the way it’s done that’s different. Maybe it’s doing it in combination with something else. Maybe it’s just time.

I used to post on Facebook about my chronic health issues and had DOZENS of people PM me with the latest and greatest cure-all, sure-fire method to solve all my problems.  I seriously got tired of hearing it.  No matter what I did or took, I just couldn’t sleep longer than 3hrs at a time and four or five hours total each night. I tried everything but sleeping pills.  One day, my doctor recommended I take a melatonin and magnesium at night.  I just about had a purple conniption!  I’ve TRIED that before…and Valerian Root Tea…and several other things.  But she said to try it again with a muscle relaxer she was prescribing.  Well, it works for me!  I call it my Triple M!  Two things that never worked for me before along with one I hadn’t tried and SHAZAM!

Sometimes you need to stop the madness and not listen to the same things over and over again…to save your sanity.  But sometimes, taking the very same thing you did two years ago, just might work this time because your body has changed or because it’s taken differently or with something else.  Listen to your doctor, pray, and seek what your gut is telling you.  It might be telling you to be open to new things again…or old things in a new way.

 

Step Two: Getting Out of Survival Mode

We are in week two of our 18-week in-depth series on getting out of survival mode based on my article 18 Steps to Living Better with Chronic Illness!  Last week, I talked about step one: being flexible.  Step two is developing a sense of humor.  Here’s step two from my article:

If you don’t laugh, well…you know the alternative. I make a joke of things. Makes me feel better. Makes others around me feel better too.  But for times when I can’t joke, I can usually count on some friends, family and my dh to say something funny to cheer me up.  Life can be hard, even if you don’t struggle with chronic issues.  Making your struggle into humor is just plain uplifting. I’m not saying to make light of what you are going through, but I am saying to make light of what you are going through.  Now before you ask me for the Jibberish Subtitles, let me explain.  I don’t ever say that what I’m going through is easy or fun, but I do point out the funny parts of it.  In that way, I’m making it lighter and lifting my spirits.

Now in order to get practice in seeing the humor in your own struggles and trials, it often helps to see humor in something else first.  My default had always been to listen to Praise and Worship music when I was down, but when I was in a deep darkness, I found it difficult to listen.  The songs made me cry and, as you may have guessed, crying isn’t usually uplifting (However, see my side note below).  I found myself gravitating to the comedy section of Netflix and watching clean stand up comedians on YouTube for HOURS! Find something that makes you giggle, even if it’s watching the same I Love Lucy episode twelve times!

Have you ever been so stressed out that something seemingly just a smidge funny made you laugh uncontrollably for what seemed like hours? Then afterward you felt a bit happier and much calmer?  That’s what seeking out humor in your life can do for you.  So…after a much-needed giggle fest, I was able to see a bit more humor in my own issues.  You’d be surprised at the sense of humor life has when you’re primed to see it!

Another way is to just begin to do silly things with your friends and family.  I once went to a large park with sales booths and stores.  My sister and I walked around all day together just talking and laughing.  One particular store had hats.  Weird, odd, silly, pretty…hats.  We went about the store trying them all on and taking our pictures both separately and together.  It was such fun!  A great release and a much-needed giggle in my stressful situation and declining health that I was facing at the time.

Yet another way to get some lighthearted humor in your life is through me!  I’m a goofball by nature and I’ve been defunkifying myself for decades!  I’ve created over 570 humorous sayings about life-most of which come directly from my own struggles with various health, financial and life issues.  I call them JoJoisms.  I’ve turned several of them into small PDFs on a particular topic and posted several of them in visual format I call Visual JoJoisms. These have been sprinkled in throughout this post.

Once you have been able to lift your spirits for a short time by finding humor others bring to the table, you are ready to find it on your own.  Finding the humor hidden inside trials is something that has two parts:

1. You can never find the humor when your struggle is raw.  When you first find yourself in a painful situation or when you first find out about something that adds to a difficult situation, it’s hard to find ANYTHING funny about it.  But, if you give yourself a little time, you will be better able to see the humor sitting just below the surface of a frustrating situation.  How long a time it takes for something to heal enough to where you can see the funny side of it, depends.  Each person is different and each zinger life throws at you is different.  Tread lightly at first, but invite yourself to see the humor at various times during your trials.

Side Note: There are times when you just can’t laugh and you really want to cry…need to cry.  Do so!  Find a sad song or movie and give yourself permission to cry.  Afterward, you’ll probably be ready to find something to make you giggle. 

2. The more you practice this the easier it gets.  I was born a goofball. I’ve always been a goofball and I’ll probably always be a goofball.  But I know everyone else has a different gift as well as a different natural approach to life’s struggles.  The trick is to work with what you’ve got.  The more you see the humor or blessing or gift hidden (albeit sometimes FAR beneath) the struggles, the easier it will be the next time life throws you a curve ball.

 

The First Step in Getting Out of Survival Mode

I wrote an article a while back, 18 Steps to Living Better with Chronic Illness.  I thought I’d expand on these one at a time to share just how this works and how it has helped me.  Sometimes it’s hard to see things with a short blurb without really expanding the concept.  So over the next 18 weeks, I’ll be sharing one concept in depth. I pray you can see yourself and your family in these as they are some of the best ways I’ve found to live a life beyond surviving.

I started off with some ideas of attitude. The first was:  Be flexible and here’s what I wrote:

Chronic illness takes twists and turns. No matter how well you plan and/or how faithful you are to your meds/vitamins/diet, you will have times when you won’t be able to do X.  Be flexible enough, if your work allows, to be okay doing Y or Z or M.O.U.S.E.  If I don’t have the energy to bounce back after a difficult or stressful weekend, I may need to devote Monday to staying in and even taking a nap if need be.

Any time you or your family is in crisis/survival mode, you will have twists and turns.  It can be financial, health, or even family related.  Any major issue or struggle in your life will have ebbs and flows, twists and turns.  Even if God is working things for your good and the outcome will be deliverance from the trial, I’ve never found the path to be straight up.  It’s like that meme on Facebook everyone shares.  You may have seen it too.  The top shows a stick figure on a bicycle on a path with a slight upward grade and says, “Your Plan.”  The bottom shows the same stick figure on the same bicycle on that same slight upward grade but on a rocky path with ups and downs and pits filled with water and precarious narrow bridges. It says, “Reality.”

If you are not willing to be flexible with whatever gets thrown in your way (or flung in your face), if you are not willing to go with the flow when bad goes to worse, you will only succeed in frustrating yourself such that you will not be able to enjoy the in-between times when you are clearly on that slight upward grade with no pitfalls impeding your steps.  Frustration only leads to more and there comes a time when too much frustration will bring you to a place of wanting to give up.

First, let me say that life will give you plenty of times when you will need to stop, regroup, gather strength to go on without any help from you.  Those times are built for resting, but not for giving up.  However, if you heap more frustration upon yourself by not being flexible with your plan, you will come to that place much sooner and your brain won’t listen to your heart for God’s guidance that will allow you to continue.  It will lead you to a valley too deep to climb out of on your own.  When you are flexible, you flow easily between your plan and reality without benefit of fits.

So what does being flexible really mean?  You know how when you’re really looking forward to seeing a movie on TV, but you got the night wrong or the station goofed in reporting its programming?  It’s disappointing and frustrating because maybe you passed up an opportunity to go somewhere more exciting than what that channel is currently broadcasting.  But, what if just after you find this out, a friend calls that you haven’t been able to see in years and says she’s in town for only that day and has two hours to spend with you?  You’re no longer upset about the movie, are you? You’re delighted to be able to see that dear friend and happy you didn’t have other plans that would have made you unavailable when she called.

Life can be like that when you’re in survival mode.  You can think that your answer comes from one place and it can be devastating when that place is no longer available to you.  That resource is no longer attainable.  But where does our help come from?  The Lord is always at work and sometimes we need to be flexible enough to appreciate it.  Sometimes we are able to see that help right away in the place we expected it to be.  Sometimes we are able to see it around the corner from the place we expected it to be.  And sometimes it’s a long way down the road from where we expected it to be.

But if we spend our time frustrated that it wasn’t where we wanted it to be, we may not have our eyes on the road and miss it down the road…because our eyes were filled with tears.  There are times when we need to our tears to clear out our anxiety and help us focus on what’s next.  But sometimes those tears go on for so long that we miss what God has put in our path. It could be the very thing our heart longs for.

 

 

Three Things to Do for Someone Who’s Hurting

hear-no-evil

If someone has had an illness long enough to be termed “chronic,” trust me. They have probably researched more about it than you have. They’ve probably tried all the conventional remedies and most of the unconventional ones as well.  We don’t want to be told about this fix or that drug.  We’ve heard it all before.  We don’t usually share our struggles, but sometimes we just need to be understood or we need some help.

We don’t want to hear how we should pray more, not be so negative or that other people have it worse than we do.  It might be true, but when we are in the middle of a long overdue pity party or meltdown because we are at the end of our rope hanging by a painful thread, now is NOT the time!  Now is not the time for “I told you so” or “You should have…” or “I had a friend whose cousin’s uncle’s neighbor’s dog’s veterinarian’s mother, tried XYZ and it did wonders for her.

When we confide in you that we are hurting, desperate, frustrated, or depressed, now is the time for compassion.

And there are three things we need and would appreciate:

  1. A hug– We are a lonely lot having had many of our friends and family abandon us because they didn’t know what to do for us and/or were tired of hearing how painful our lives are.  We are desperately in need of a hug, to be held, comforted.  We are tired of defending ourselves to our doctors and friends and family.  We’re often alone because we are too tired or in pain to make it to social events.
  2. A prayer– As a Christian, I feel comfort when a sister or brother in Christ prays for me, but what really makes me feel God is near is when someone prays WITH me.  Even if the someone you know who is hurting isn’t a Christian, it is often a gesture of great comfort.  Very few nonreligious people will turn down a caring friend’s offer to pray with them.  If they are not willing, you can tell them you’ll pray for them, but it’s often a source of comfort whether or not they are a believer, just to know someone cared enough to take the time.
  3. A listening ear– So many of us have stopped talking because, when we do, we are either dismissed, ignored, told to be more positive, or told it could be worse.  Even worse, we’re told we should be doing the things they recommended we do every time we speak.  People mistakenly think we tell everyone how we feel and are just not willing to do anything about it. Take their advice.  Truth is we don’t tell anyone exactly how we feel.  We lie and say we are fine when asked: “How are you?”  We smile through the pain and we laugh and make jokes so we don’t cry.  Truth be told, we feel better when someone is willing to listen without judgment and without a recipe for our medical, spiritual or emotional salvation.  Once we get out what we need to say, we release it and can move on.  Keeping it bottled up is what causes meltdowns.

After we have felt like we are worthy, we have people in our corner, remember that God is with us, and have had a chance to talk, we can move on to handle our next hurdle or challenge.  And there WILL be others in short order.

What is something that gives you comfort when struggling with a chronic issue?  Please share.

Stress Isn’t the Same as Unbelief

This week, I had planned to share how God is leading me out of a very dark place, but something came up that I felt lead to address.

When a Christian reveals that she is stressed, some of her Christian friends will try to console her by saying to just have faith-as if belief in God will always fix the problem.

Stress isn’t always a matter of belief and God doesn’t always fix a problem you have. Many people are never healed; Paul was never healed. And anxiety isn’t always because of worry. It’s sometimes the sheer stress of having to deal with the natural consequences of trials in your life, especially when there are many issues going on at once. This is compounded when multiple struggles have gone on for a long time and even further by health conditions that put stress on the body and hormone changes that cause you to cry at toilet paper commercials.

My pastor has been going through Job for a while now and the theme of each week has been how Job’s friends, though they meant well, actually hurt Job because they gave uninformed opinions based not on scripture but on their own ideas of what Job was going through and what would fix his problems. They actually did Job the most good just by being with him at the beginning of their visit–allowing Job to grieve. Often the most help you can be to someone who is going through struggles (especially when there are multiple chronic struggles) is to be there for them, listen to them, hug them, pray for them, pray with them, and try to understand.

Stress isn’t the same thing as worry. You can worry about something without being stressed about it. A man can worry that his job isn’t secure prompting him to prepare a backup plan thus alleviating the cause of stress a job loss can inflict.

And worry isn’t a sin. It doesn’t mean you don’t have faith or aren’t Heaven bound. Mother Teresa worried that she wasn’t good enough.  All human type creatures worry even the ones who attempt to appear pious refusing to admit that they worry.

Lastly, just because you trip, doesn’t mean you fall. Trials produce worry and stress. The Bible is filled with good people who stumbled. We are human. God knows we will stumble during struggles. But that doesn’t mean we’ve given up on God.  Worry doesn’t cancel our reservation to eternal peace.  That’s why God tells us to lean on Him. That’s what fellowship is for. That’s why there is prayer, both on our own and collectively.

Stress isn’t the same as unbelief. Anyone can go through a temporary trial and not get to the point of stress. Those of us who have chronic, long-term issues know all too well how time can erode your strength. And those of us with chronic illness know that having other chronic issues pile up on top of you, while already struggling with chronic illness for years, can cause tremendous stress on the body as well as the mind.

Further, it is naïve to think that worry or stress will simply (and immediately) go away when a declaration of a belief that God is in control is made.  If the source of stress is still being dealt with, if there is a physiological reason why stress is manifesting in the body, and even if the stress is all in one’s head, this is a process much like the grieving process.  It takes time to master.  It seems only those of us who struggle with it truly understand.

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” -Romans 8:26

Next week I’ll share how God is beginning to lead me out of that very dark place.

God Held My Hand

handI told you all I’d update you on my progress and, well, I gave it the old college try, but I just couldn’t choose joy with the tools that devotional talked about…the one I told you about last week. I found myself crying more and being frustrated more and my struggles increased.

So last Wednesday, I couldn’t sleep. Woke up several times. Starting/running three businesses while trying to earn a steady income a month before your daughter’s wedding and two months after your dh lost his job is even more stressful than I had imagined. I cried out to God for direction and peace for about an hour and then…

The last time I awoke, I really didn’t think I had been asleep. I felt someone holding my hand, but nobody was there.  Somehow I felt it was God.

I turned to my iPad to read the Bible, devotionals and to pray. Then I found myself watching a few In Touch Ministries YouTube videos on grief, struggles, and sadness and then I found one on courage.

I never thought about meditating on the word of God the way he suggests, asking Him questions about how He would do this or how I should follow A or B. I also loved his suggestion not to read through the Bible in a year when you are struggling, but rather to read Psalms or Proverbs. My daughter had told me as much not a few days prior. Finally, I loved his five-point plan for finding courage during dark times.

1. Meditate on God’s Word as your compass

2. Recall past experiences when God helped you through challenges

3. Observe the courage of others and their blessings to give you hope

4. Ask the question “What if I do or don’t do this?”

5. Recall His promise that He will never leave me, forsake me and will always be with me

After a few days, I was scrolling around on the internet and decided to type in “God held my hand” and found this: “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear;  I will help you.” -Isaiah 41:13

I was dumbfounded as I reflected upon my initial thought as I woke up feeling as if someone was holding my hand. Despite the fact that my left hand was hanging free off the couch and my right hand was pinned between my body and the couch back, it was my right hand that I felt someone was holding!

Sometimes You Need a Pity Party

cry baby partyI don’t think you’d be human if you were sunshine and roses every day, especially in the face of chronic struggles and hardships.  However, some will tell you-you’re not a good Christian if you share that you are depressed or upset or frustrated.  It’s not like the Lord doesn’t know you feel this way. It hasn’t escaped His notice.  It’s not a sin to be angry or sad or frustrated with your situation.  It’s only destructive if you stay there.  It can actually be quite therapeutic to throw yourself a little pity party now and again.

I think the only people who don’t ever go down deep in the valley of despair are those who don’t have any problems. Know any people without any problems?  Me neither!

So when you are exhausted just after getting up in the morning, you go looking for your sandwich in the closet, your electric bill is past due and you have only two nickels to rub together…AGAIN, you will enter that valley.  What you do there and how long you stay will determine your quality of life and the joy you find in spite of it all.

The value of a pity party:

Allow yourself time to grieve and/or express your negative emotions so you can move on.  Without a pity party, some find it difficult to gather the strength to move on to life’s next chronic hurdle because they haven’t dealt with the previous one.  Making time to express your anger, sadness or frustration can help you get rid of those feelings.

What to do at your pity party:

Invite people to your pity party.  You don’t have to send out formal invitations or anything, but fellowship with one or two trusted, Christian friends or family members who understand what it feels like to deal with the issues you are struggling with.  They will not only understand and allow you to vent but lead you back out of the valley of despair and back to the Lord.  They can help by validating your feelings so you aren’t concentrating your energy on justifying why you feel the way you do.  You have a right to your feelings.  You don’t have to marry them, but you have a right to them as you come by them honestly.

Play Woe is Me.  Express how you feel and allow that trusted friend or family member to see the real you–even if it isn’t pretty right now.  It’s your party and you’ll cry if you want to so…cry if you want to!  You’ll feel better afterward.

Allow friends or family to lift you up.  I know.  It’s frustrating to make one single statement and have well-meaning Christians immediately jump all over you about not being positive and tell you just to cheer up.  But once you’ve had a good cry (or scream as the case may be), you need to be lifted up out of the valley or you’ll be tempted to stay there.  And trust me, pity parties are a nice place to visit, but you don’t want to live there!  Your friends want to help.  Let them.

What to do after your pity party:

Have some FUN!  Here are a few ideas.  Go for a walk, see the beauty God put on this earth.  See the humor in your situation and poke fun at yourself. Lift someone else’s spirits.  Make someone laugh.  Concentrate on someone else’s problems for a while and try to help.  It’s amazing how focusing on others will draw you out of the pit you’ve fallen into.  Write about it.  Sing about it.  Hug your blessings…better known as your children.  Hug someone else’s children.  LOL

Pray.  Pray that God would take this from you and, if God doesn’t take the struggle away, pray that He would use it, your experience and you to lift someone else up.

Lastly, thank God.  Thank the good Lord for the good things in your life.  Count your blessings.  You have some!  Even in the lowest pit of despair, you have some blessings you can count.  If your dishwasher broke and you can’t afford to fix it, you can thank God your water bill is paid this month and you can afford dish liquid.  If you are so tired you can’t get up out of bed, thank Him for the bed you have.  If your pain level is high, thank Him for the life you have and the chance you have today to perhaps find your answers. Maybe you’ll discover something that helps you.  Maybe you’ll discover a $20 bill in the couch that will pay for a few groceries.  I know, I’ve looked there a time or two as well!

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”—  2 Corinthians 4:7-9

I pray this has been helpful and uplifting. Please leave me some feedback in a comment.  Share your story.  Tell me what you’d like to see in the coming weeks as I share.  And please pass this post along to others who may need to start planning their own pity party.  😀

One of the Worst Things to Say to a Believer Who is Hurting

I wrote this a while back for another publication.  It’s the first time I began to think about how society (even fellow believers) communicate with those who are suffering, especially with chronic issues.

 

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” -Proverbs 16:24

SadI’ve seen it so many times. A sister in the Lord opens up to share a struggle she is going through in the hopes that the fellowship will bring strength to a weary heart. Instead of support, sympathy or understanding, she receives condemnation by well-meaning and faith-filled believers. In place of words of peace and comfort, they rebuke the poor sinner for not having enough faith. They remind her of the mustard seed, how faith can move mountains and how big God is, but what does that do to her suffering? Does it relieve her suffering or does it, in fact, increase it and place the blame squarely on her?

This is actually one of the worst things you can communicate to a believer who is hurting. Why? Because what you’re saying is:

1. Your suffering is your fault

By telling a believer that she doesn’t have enough faith in God, you are telling her that she wouldn’t be suffering if she only had more faith. Since she either doesn’t believe she has little faith or doesn’t see how she can have more, she feels you are telling her that she is ONLY suffering because of her own lack of faith. Essentially, this belittles her suffering. After all, people don’t feel as sorry for those who cause their own suffering as we do for those who are suffering through no fault of their own.

2. You wouldn’t suffer if you only had more faith

After being told she has caused her own suffering through unbelief, the only option given her is more belief. This is sort of like telling someone “Be happy!” Have you ever been upset and been faced with a situation in which you had to go out and put on your happy face? It was difficult, wasn’t it? Magnify that tenfold and think how difficult it would be to put on your happy face after having lost a loved one to cancer or after being faced with financial ruin. Can they do it? I’m sure some could, but what does it require? It usually requires a time of mourning, a time of rebuilding after a period of support and strength that comes from fellowship. Telling someone to have faith after you just told them they didn’t have any, isn’t helpful and it can be a huge detriment to their ability to bounce back after a devastating event.

3. Your suffering is not going to stop until you have more faith

This poor hurting soul who was reaching out for comfort and strength is now frustrated because she is being told that, no matter how the struggle began, it is now her fault, the only cure is more belief and she cannot find an ounce more in her suffering so it’s never going to end. She is now convinced her suffering will go on indefinitely! Struggles are difficult enough when we believe they are somewhat temporary, but when we see no end in sight, struggles take on new depths of sorrow.

We can all build our faith. Even the most faith-filled Christian can become even stronger in the Lord, but this growing in faith usually comes after a period of mourning the loss at the root of the struggle and a period of gathering strength from family, friends and the Lord.

Telling someone their suffering comes from their unbelief is unbiblical. Here are just three examples from scripture:

1. If all suffering comes from not having enough faith, why was Paul suffering?

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” -2 Corinthians 12:7

2. If all suffering can be reversed by having more faith, why wasn’t Paul healed?

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.” -2 Corinthians 12:8

3. If Christians are not supposed to discuss their feelings when they are suffering, how can you explain Job?

“Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.” –Job 23:2

And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” –Job 42:10

Telling a person who is suffering, especially when the suffering is new, that they simply need more faith is not only unhelpful, but it can frustrate and depress the person even further. This is where more communication skill is needed. Be careful at this vulnerable time in this believer’s life that you are part of the solution and not part of the problem

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Please share your comments, thoughts, and experiences here.  I’d love to hear from you.