It’s not easy to find the good things hidden inside our struggles, but finding them while we are going through them is quite difficult. So far we’ve talked about three ways to find the good, the joy, in the trials of life. This month I’d like to share my 4th way to find the blessings inside the struggles of life.
Not only do we develop our strengths by climbing our mountains, but we may finally be able to lay down our own strength and allow God to lead us. I’ve always been a doer. I’ve always been a hard worker and I’ve got the grit that comes from having to overcome struggles. While that develops character, it also develops a sense of pride or at least stubbornness. lol
Have you ever been so determined to do something that you didn’t stop to consult the Almighty to see if it’s what He wants for you? I know I have. When that happens, God often sends a tornado to destroy any pride you might have left so that you have no choice but to rely upon the God of the Heavens. Sometimes God needs to get our attention so we are listening to where He wants us to go because where He’s sending us is better than where we were praying we’d go!
Unless we die to self and take direction from the One who created the universe, we will not get where God wants us to go. Just as the seeds must die and be reborn as a tree, we often have to die to self to have our lives reborn into what the Father has for us to be…and live the life He meant for us.
I’ve been sharing some key ways of finding the good in the bad things we go through down here on planet earth. We do that by understanding that we couldn’t climb high and gain success if the mountain was as smoothe as glass. We do that by understanding that the more amazing the success, the more difficult the journey. And we do that by understanding that we are sometimes tested not to show our weakness, but to discover or even grow our strengths!
I don’t know about you, but the difficulties I’ve been through have given me the strength I needed to deal with what was coming down the road a bit. God prepares us. Body builders have to strengthen their muscles in order to life heavier weights. Gymnasts need to strengthen their bodies in order to do all the amazing tricks.
Just as athletes must strengthen their bodies, we must strengthen our minds and our resolve in order to do the work the Lord has for us. Just to face the growing difficulties of life on a fallen world, we need to strengthen our character, our resolve, and our mindsets.
Strength is something often admired, but most people have no idea what it took to get there. Building strength in an area often takes difficulties endured that often look like trials and hardships. But they yield some amazing fruit!!
I’ve often been asked how I am able to find a way to focus on the joy in my life amidst the trials of life. I thought I’d take some time to share some of the more simple ways I’ve managed this. I’m not saying it’s easy. Just that it’s simple.
Since it’s often the case that those going through life’s difficulties have very little time, I thought I’d share just one per month for the next few months. Also, this gives you time to make it a habit you fit into your life among the other “stuff” you’re going through.
I recently saw a quote by Wintley Phipps that I think illustrates the most important concept of finding joy in the trials. Wintley said, “Son, if the mountain were smooth, you couldn’t climb it.” If you think about life that way, it almost makes you wish for the mountains in your life. We wouldn’t be able to rise above the muck and mire of the every day to do the extraordinary things that inspire and motivate others if we didn’t have our mountains to climb.
We wouldn’t be able to see the majestic view at the top of the mountains of life if we weren’t able to climb the rocky terrain to get up to the top. And lets face it, if you’re thinking we could always take a short cut and fly over the tops of the mountains and catch a glimpse of the view, you’re not taking into account the experience you give up by not climbing it for yourself.
What I’ve learned by climbing to the top of my mountains has helped my readers and friends and family get through their own difficulties. Not every difficulty is alike, but knowing a friend was able to get through the death of her son or an abusive relationship or an illness, helps me face what life throws at me…even if it isn’t exactly the same kind of issue.
Let’s face it, life is difficult down here on earth. We will graduate to a perfect life in heaven, but for now, aren’t we better off knowing our brothers and sisters have paved the way dealing with trials such that we can learn from their experience? Here’s another word of wisdom that sums up why:
Whether or not you have a chronic issue/illness, you will face trials in your life. It’s not a matter of if, but only when. And most of us face trials multiple times in our lives–some of us, more than one at a time.
It’s sometimes hard to find the joy inside things that feel like the end of your world as you know it, isn’t it? I’ve noticed that there are different ways in which we can see trials and, that one fact alone, can determine how we face them.
When we’re at the bottom of our trial mountain, it can be hard enough to see a way up let alone how we can get there. But if we look at that mountain in a different way, we can see that there is a way up. You see that mountain up there in the picture? One side of it looks straight up. It looks hard to climb. Hard to navigate. But look at the back of that mountain? There’s a slope. It’s a steep slope, but a slope is better than straight up any day of the week!
Sometimes that slope on the other side is NOT as easy to climb, but that only means we should look at it a bit cockeyed. See how tilting the picture of the mountain gives us a better view of the slope in that picture? It may be harder to climb than turning the picture will make it appear, but what I’m saying is that there is your best shot. By being able to see that other side of the mountain with a tilt and enlarging the terrain allows us to learn better how to navigate our way up and over.
God often allows obstacles in our way to strengthen us-to build us into the person who can fulfill our purpose. Sometimes the storm clears the way. Sometimes storms are there to prove to us that we have strength we didn’t think we possessed. And that strength always comes in handy, if not for our own needs, then for the needs of our friends and family.
When we go through trials, we often feel they are a big part of our identity or, worse yet, ALL that we are. We are so much more than just the struggles we go through. God often builds us through our struggles, but He wants them to create a stronger soul able to reach and inspire others because nobody escapes this world unscathed. EVERYONE will have trials and those trials are more easily lived if we have others to look to who go before us and pave the way.
We are so much more than our struggles. We are so much more than our pain. We are shaped by them, but we are not defined by them alone!
The road to success is often paved with rocky terrain, u-turns, detours, and mountains to climb. Look at almost any success story and you’ll notice that the success you see is only the snap shot from the top of the mountain. When you read the book or watch the movie of their life, you see the rocky road they had to take to get there. And isn’t that a more inspiring story anyway?
Isn’t it inspiring to know that you aren’t the only one who struggles? Isn’t it nice to know that you, too, can achieve? That your struggle is what MAKES your success and not the reason you CAN’T succeed?!
I created this meme a while back when I saw a topic on social media talking about race and how it identifies who they are. I disagree. It’s only part of who you are. Who you are is SO much more than that and it’s so much more than a condition or illness you have. You are so much more than the struggles you have. God made each of us an individual-uniquely designed for such a time as this. He wants us to use the gifts and skills He’s given us to help others. If you can’t help others directly, you can inspire them with who you are and how you handle the trials you face.
So many with chronic illness believe they have nothing to give, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Inspiration is worth so much more often times than giving a million dollars to a charity. It’s worth so much more than physically being there to help someone up because you can lift them spiritually!
Remember, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” -Matthew 4:19. If you lift someone up off the floor, you help them get up once. If you lift them up spiritually, you may lift them up for a lifetime. That is what this blog is all about. That is what I strive to make my entire life about.
If I can inspire just one person, then my struggle has a higher purpose, doesn’t it? That higher purpose has another purpose because, in living my life to inspire others, it also inspires me to keep going! It gives me a purpose where I may have believed I had none.
Living with chronic issues or trials isn’t necessarily an end to your purpose here on planet Earth. It can be THE purpose you were put here by God to serve: an inspiration to others so they don’t give up on what God put THEM here to do!
My pastor shared this story on Sunday. I tried to verify it, but some say it’s a true story. Others say it can’t be confirmed. The story is the same everywhere I looked, but the names of the missionaries are never revealed. It’s a great story either way so I’m going to share it because it has a great message.
Two Babes in a Manger
In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics (based on biblical principles) in the Russian public schools. They were invited to teach at prisons, businesses, the fire and police departments and a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. They relate the following story in their own words:
It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.
Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me. No colored paper was available in the city. Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel (cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia), were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States.
The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help. All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6-years-old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy’s manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger.
Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately — until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib.
He made up his own ending to the story as he said, “And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift.”
So I asked Jesus, ‘If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?’ And Jesus told me, ‘If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.’ So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him’ — for always.”
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him — for always.
And the Americans? They had learned the lesson they had come there to teach – that it is not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that really counts. We should all give thanks for the people that “keep us” — in life — and for all of God’s many blessings to us: freedom from want, life, love, togetherness, and for the enduring love of Jesus Christ, the one person who keeps us warm and safe for always.
God made us unique individuals, but as a kid, I was always trying to fit in. It never worked and it was exhausting! I never thought I was good enough, tall enough, __ enough.
My hair was stick straight when big curly hair was in fashion. Now, when straight hair is in, mine is curly on steroids!
I’m 5’ nuthin’ and wear children’s size shoes, gloves, and I just fit back into my dd’s old size 10/12 children’s T-shirt! 🤗
My first car came complete with bucket seats and a telephone book. (Yup! I sat on a telephone book so I could see over the steering wheel!) And my kitchen stove has a matching step stool so I can stir the tall pots. 😉
You know what I learned from all this? To embrace my inner weirdness. (Hat tip to my dd who coined the phrase) You know what? Ever since then, I enjoy being me!
If you always feel like you don’t measure up, try looking at yourself as God does. He created you to be you – not a copy of someone else. Embrace YOUR inner weirdness and enjoy being who He created you to be!
So this month, I have shared how those of us with chronic illness seem to have been born without a comfort zone and how that has actually strengthened us both spiritually and mentally. I shared how our strength can be an inspiration and lesson to those who haven’t yet developed such strength. Then, I shared one of the most loved of my articles that spoke of the blessings of pain.
Now, I’d like to turn it over to the Lord. Here are some of the most inspiring scriptures from the Bible:
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.“
Isaiah 40:31 “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.“
1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.“
Exodus 15:2 “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”
Deuteronomy 20:4 “For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.”
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I 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.”
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
When you are first dealing with something difficult, all your energy is on how to get through, how to move on, and then how to cope with it. After you begin to find your way, you can go back to the Lord and see what He has in store for you to share or to do.
All month long, I’ve been talking about this process. When you finally have a handle on this thing called chronic illness, even if it’s changing, you can take some of the energy you have and put it into the mission or the work the Lord designed you for. When you do, you will find that the joy in your life is greatly increased because you found your purpose and it isn’t just getting through life with chronic illness!
When you write your own story. At the end of the day or the end of your life, do you want to be the one always complaining who others pittied or do you want to be the one who did what she could with what she had and relied upon God to bless her? Be the overcomer, the one who persevered!
Do you know what makes a good story? What makes you read or watch a movie and feel something for the characters? Is it the success or the struggle that was overcome?
My life would be a pretty boring story if I just did everything great the first time and it came easy. Life doesn’t work that way. We don’t admire people who are a success if that success was handed to them on a silver platter. The ones who were born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Those people don’t inspire others because that almost never happens, does it?
I was thinking about perspective one day and I created this meme:
I noticed that if you look at the side of the mountain with your head tilted, it looks like just a moderate walk to the top. God often has us look at things differently and do things differently such that it doesn’t feel like an insurmountable task to climb what we thought was a huge mountain.
Sometimes it feels like we’re swimming upstream trying to get things done with a body that doesn’t want to cooperate. Then, suddenly, we hear clearly how the Lord wants us to do it and things seem like we’re just riding the current. So…
Are you swimming upstream or are you letting the Lord lead you? This is part one of a four part series on how we can choose to live our lives joyously in spite of chronic illness or any other difficulties. Life is difficult at best and a mess most of the time. But it’s a wonderful mess that we can stop trying to control and just trust our Lord to take us where He wants us to go.
If you’ve ever been in a river, you know that it’s so much harder to try to swim against the current than to allow it to take you away. Well, that place He’s taking us may not look good, but if we trust Him, it will be a wonderful experience. OR the road there, which at first seems treacherous, may actually be EASY if we stop fighting against it and allow God to guide us.
Example 1: My son. We were heartbroken when we lost several babies to miscarriage after my daughter was born. We went over NINE YEARS without hope because we thought God didn’t want us to have another child. We didn’t trust the Lord to handle the situation as much as we were disappointed that He didn’t give us another child. At first, we were devastated each time we found I wasn’t pregnant. All our energy was focused on that next child until one day we stopped trying and just allowed the Lord to do what He wanted.
Our miracle baby was born 9.5 years after my first. We had wanted two children, a boy and a girl who were about 2-3 years apart. That was our plan. BUT…If I had another child a few years after my daughter was born, I’d never have my incredible son and we would have been empty nesters a LONG time ago!
God knew what He was doing! He gave us what we needed when we needed it. Just as He always does!
Example 2: My cancer journey. I thought it was the most awful thing that could happen to us. My husband was fired with no way to prove it was racially motivated. No job, no income, no insurance. BUT God…
But God had a plan and because of that plan I’m still alive! My husband and I spent hours and hours worrying, planning and doing things that would allow us to make a living until he got another job. Now, the doing WAS needed, but the worrying was NOT! It took so much of my energy of which so little remained as Fibro had hold of it.
After a while the company insurance ran out. It wasn’t that great anyway, but now we had none. We found that the state offered it to those who were in this kind of situation. When the doctor wanted to send me to a specialist and then for testing for a fibroid tumor (which we both knew was almost certainly gone now that I was nearing menopause), I only agreed because she was insistent and it didn’t cost me anything out of pocket.
If my husband still had that job and insurance, I would never have agreed to pay for tests and specialists to find something that was most certainly gone by now. They never would have found a cyst on my ovary that required surgery and they NEVER would have found a rare and very aggressive cancer that almost always takes the woman’s life because it is found too late to cure! I would have been dead long before and you wouldn’t be reading this blog! So, what looked like a disaster to us turned out to save my life!
Since only God can see ahead, we have no idea what He has in store for us that might be better than what we could have even hoped for. We only see the edge of the waterfall. As we are going over Niagra Falls in that barrel, we can only see and feel fear…unless we trust God to take us through. On the other side, we can sometimes look back to see how far He was willing to go to save us or give us what He wanted.
Next week, I’ll be back with some more on how we can find the good in a bad situation.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
So, long before we were born, God knew what our lives would look like and He gave us what we needed to do the good works that we were created for. The challenge for us, then, is to seek His guidance in how we do that because life can change drastically for us. While that’s not news to the Lord, it may require some tweaking on our part.
Some Background: I was perusing Facebook the other day when I came across a long time friend’s post (Cindy Rushton) talking about being an overcomer. She posted, “You are designed and destined to be an overcomer!” My first instinct was to be sarcastic so I said, “Well, I certainly have been given enough to overcome!”
As the discussion went on, I relayed how I had to make some adjustments over the years in order to keep writing. The limitations of chronic illness had a profound effect on my ability to write from the thinking process to the physical act of writing. However, I have found workarounds and even changed what I wrote about over the years-lending my voice to different passions I’ve had…and I’m still writing!
I’ve written a lot about my life on this blog and all the adjustments and limitations I have had throughout my years, but I had really never thought much about the ways in which I had to make changes in order to continue writing until one of her last comments to me, “That was powerful!
As I looked at her words typed there to encourage me as she so often does, it suddenly hit me that my writing testimony really IS powerful. Right then and there, I felt the Lord leading me to write a part of my testimony that I had never considered much up until this point.
I was born a writer and I started writing even before I knew the Lord at the age of nine. I wrote poems and songs in my youth. In my teens, I began writing humorous one-liners about life I called JoJoisms. I’ve got well over 700 of them now. When I began homeschooling, I wrote books about communication skills and articles for homeschool magazines. And my most recent writing passion is here writing in support of those (like me) with chronic illness.
Now, when God gives you a passion for something, He doesn’t usually give you a clear path to success. You may have noticed that people who have gone on to incredible things have usually had a lot of struggles along the way. The Lord allows struggles: heartache, difficulties, and trails because many times that is exactly what it takes to get them done.
Have you ever heard of an accomplished pianist, a professional basketball player, a famous band, an accomplished actor, or a prolific writer who went from zero to hero in a straight line? Everyone has struggles to overcome on the way to where God leads them. It’s not the absence of trials that brings success; it’s what you do with them. It’s how you handle them, how you overcome them that defines you.
When God put a calling (writing) on my life, He factored in my limitations, my frailty, my stupidity, my fatigue, my pain, and my stubbornness! And my stubbornness is one of the reasons I didn’t give up my calling, my dream, my purpose, and my ministry! The other is Almighty God. Because…I AM an overcomer. …And I’m still writing!
Pain and Fatigue: One of the first things that began to impact my writing was pain. Arthritis, neuropathy, and Fibromyalgia made my fingers and wrists ache. In addition, God only made me 5′ tall so, when sitting at a normal-sized desk, I was unable to reach the keyboard properly.
My first adjustment was to sit on my legs as I typed. Unfortunately, after doing this for many years, it took quite a toll on my lower back as well. Not too long ago, we solved that problem by switching me over to a laptop computer that I was able to use on the couch.
As the fatigue from Fibro began to increase, I was forced to let go of some of my other online activities in order to have the energy to continue writing. I had begun a copywriting service only to abandon it shortly after it launched as I didn’t have the energy to pursue that stream of income. However, that was for the best as I felt the Lord leading me to write in my own voice. …And I’m still writing!
Broken hand: About six years ago, I broke my hand in three places after a roll-over car accident. My left hand was in a splint for months and when it emerged, I found that my middle finger had decided to hug my ring finger when I made a fist. Not thinking that this was a big issue, I decided not to have another surgery to fix it as I thought it only was an issue of aesthetics.
Not too long after physical therapy, I realized that I would have to relearn how to type! It took me several months to get decent enough to go back to my blogging and about a year for it to become natural. I still can’t snap my fingers with that hand, but fortunately, that’s not a skill that is required to write! …And I’m still writing!
Essential Tremors: A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with Essential Tremors. That’s what doctors call it when they can’t find a cause for your shaking. I had always had what I called jitters, but I had been told it was a sugar issue. It’s true that it was worse when I was hungry, but in the last few years, those jitters had followed fatigue and stress as well as JUST BECAUSE.
Further, they had spread from my left hand to my right hand, both legs, and my head when it was particularly bad as well as internal tremors that feel like I’ve just been asked “Your money or your life!” As you might have guessed, it’s even more difficult to type when your fingers have a mind of their own.
Part of the challenge for me now is that I like to write my notes for an article or book in a notebook, but it’s a bit hard to read my writing–even for ME! Lastly, it takes me 10x as long to type (or mistype) or write than it used to. I’ve been known to backspace and retype something six times and still have it come out wonky.
Final Thoughts: The Lord’s call on our lives is still the same, even after the heartbreak of trials and the limitations of this life. It might not look like we expected it to, but it can be even better if we stay the course and cling to Him.
So, it’s been a bit of a journey to overcome these obstacles, but with God’s help, I’m adjusting. …And I’m still writing! What are you still doing with God’s help?