Here’s an article I wrote over on JoJoisms back in November of 2014.
November is the month of Thanksgiving, but those of us who struggle with chronic illness or other chronic issues often find it difficult to feel thankful for what we have. I understand this as one who has struggled with chronic issues for over 35yrs, but I also know we do have things to be thankful for. It’s just often very hard to see them through the pain and frustration and sadness. I know from experience that they are there if I look for them. Starting with my last post, The Blessings of Pain, and all this month, I’ll be sharing my observations on being thankful, joyful and grateful even in the midst of the darkness and despair that is chronic illness. Here is an article I wrote a while back as we continue our month-long study of thankfulness in the face of chronic issues.
Sometimes things that friends and family communicate to us can make our struggles more difficult, but there are things we can communicate to ourselves that can help us during struggles. Today I’d like us to consider some things that will help us remember that God is not out to get us when struggles come. God isn’t punishing us and that there is a reason and maybe even a blessing around the corner.
1. Even if we cannot feel Him, God is still with us
We can count on Him to help and support us through the difficult times. Often we feel abandoned by God when tough times come. It’s only natural that we may not feel close to God when we are struggling, but if we can remind ourselves that God has not moved away from us, we might feel Him near. It’s always harder to find something when we aren’t looking.
It’s almost like when you have a close relative who lives far away. You can’t reach out and touch them or hug them, but you can still talk to them on the phone, but only if we dial the phone.
2. This struggle may prepare us for an incredible opportunity
We may need to learn something from this horrible experience that will help us in the future. Just as the butterfly strengthens its wings as it tries to break through the cocoon, so we may be strengthened by the struggles we face. If you cut short the butterfly’s struggle to break out, you assure that he will not be strong enough to fly afterward.
It’s not fun to think about this, but it will help you see a purpose…a method to the madness and meaning in the wilderness.
3. Think of this struggle as an opportunity to trust God with your life rather than a time of meaningless strife
I remember delivering both my children via natural childbirth. It was more painful than anything I have ever experienced in my life or likely will again. Part of the training the Bradley Method provides (similar to La Maz) is to realize that there is a reason for the pain. At the end of this excruciating pain so intense I felt like ripping my face off, I was blessed with a precious child of God.
Thinking about that pain now, I don’t think I could have stood it for just a few minutes if I didn’t know it was for a good cause. My pain wasn’t meaningless so I was able to endure it and trust that God would end it with the blessing of a child.
Some labor lasts only a short time as mine did. My son was born only three hours and fifteen minutes after the first sign of labor. However, some children are born after 20 hours of labor. Likewise, some struggles may last a day and others will last years. Knowing there is a purpose, even if we don’t know what that purpose is, will help us endure. If you can’t see a purpose in the struggle you are facing, try to think of the purpose as an opportunity to trust God.
4. Think of your struggle as an opportunity to obey God
Sometimes it isn’t a matter of trusting God with your physical life, but trusting Him with the course of your life. Instead of thinking of the experience as meaningless and difficult, we can try to think of it as an opportunity to obey God. Do you feel called to do something, but it isn’t working out? Maybe it’s helping you to obey God. Nobody said life was easy and nothing worth doing is easy either. Sometimes it’s so hard people often want to give up just prior to success. Did you know that Mother Theresa wrote in her diary that she struggled to obey God’s calling for her life? What if she had given up on God’s plan for her life because she was frustrated and tired? She did it anyway.
Even if our struggles are long and even if things are coming at us from all sides, just remembering these four things can help us to endure. So, as we saw a few weeks ago, sometimes it is the communication of others that make struggles more difficult. Sometimes it is our communication with ourselves that can help us stand strong in the struggles.
Next week, I’ll give you some practical tips that will help us to be thankful for our blessings even in the midst of a storm in our lives. These are things that have usually helped me and I pray they will help you as well.
I’d love to know what you remember about struggles when they hit. Please share your experiences here with my readers and God bless you…