BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
JUNE 16, 2012
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why we utter the Amen through him, to the glory of God.” (II Cor. 1:20)
Life has come at us fast and furiously since the first of February, when Lenny and my mother began having serious health issues. After receiving a question about suffering from a reader, I felt led to share it and my response in this blog, because a lot of us are in the same situation. A friend whom I’ll call Jane sent an e-mail with the phrase “Husband in pain” on the subject line.
She wrote, “Dear Jan, I enjoy and am liberated by your writings, especially those dealing with religious addiction. I am writing you because I am struggling with acceptance about my husband. He has been suffering with chronic pain for a year now and although there is an end to this I am not handling it so well. I become ungodly in my attitudes, angry and resentful, sometimes mad at GOD and I know everything works together for good but I can’t stand to watch my husband suffer so much pain. Can you give some advice, some suggestions about how to deal with this? I know you have been in my place and I would like to know how you dealt with it.” End Quote
Dear Jane, I’m sorry to hear about your husband. Chronic pain is dreadful for the sufferer and traumatizing for the spouse who has to watch. Lenny suffers with it everyday. His vision is failing, and his hearing is getting worse as well. Getting mad at God is a very normal reaction to adversity, because when you think of it, He’s the only one who can do anything about your troubles. I can tell you from experience, that He is a safe place to unleash your anger. If He weren’t, I’d be a cinder by now. You can’t hide your feelings from Him. It really helps me to yell at Him when I’m just so frustrated I could scream. He loves me out of my “fit,” and miraculously, I feel better afterward. (When you yell at a person, the aftermath is usually guilt).
It helps me is to know that God, the prime cause of everything, sent “it” in order to reveal His glory in us, eventually. After experiencing at a cellular level the sovereignty of God, and really understanding Paul’s assertion in Rom. 11:32, that “God consigned all men to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all,” what I’ve come to is that I can no longer expect much of myself. I don’t beat myself up for “ungodly behavior or thoughts.” Self recrimination and shame are the byproduct of religion, which is based on law and legalism. I didn’t do anything to get myself saved, so how can I make myself behave better?
When I sometimes feel resentful about my lot in life, I tell the Lord, “I can’t do anything about these ugly feelings; I have tried. Only YOU can change my heart and give me the mind of Christ in this matter. So have at it.”
Anytime anyone beats himself or herself up over bad behavior, you can bet the law is at play, because IF we could have bettered ourselves, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, our Champion, our best friend, without whose help we can do nothing.
We do expect God to heal Lenny, and now, I need healing as well. My right knee is giving me problems. The doctor said nothing will help but knee replacement. Lenny’s left knee is in the same condition. Surgery is not an option for me, because there’s no one to take care of us but me. Lenny is legally blind, meaning I now do many things he used to do. God never gives us more than we can bear, so we both wear knee braces and go in grace, knowing ALL THINGS are possible with God.
Two years ago, my sister moved here from Oregon to care for our 94 year old mother. She exhausted her body and emotions in the effort, and now needs a knee replacement, scheduled June 27th. As a result, we had to put mother in a nursing home, which brought up feelings of inadequacy, sadness, and guilt.
We’ve had one crisis after the other hitting us since the beginning of February. I walk through it knowing God didn’t send it to kill me, but to grow me. Religion has laid on us that we ARE our brother’s keeper; we are responsible for taking care of anyone who needs us. That’s codependency on the hoof. Mother is being very well cared for at the nursing home and I’m so thankful that my sister isn’t still killing herself trying to take care of her. Lenny is my help meet, my best friend, the lover of my soul and I will care for him the best I can until God heals him. I do resent it sometimes, no question.
My resentment stems from fear, exhaustion, and wondering, “Who’s going to take care of me?” But God continually assures me, “I am taking care of you.” That makes me smile visualizing the Lord shopping for food at Walmart for us, but it does ease the emotional burden. Sometimes when I’m in bed, I throw myself onto the mercy of God, seeing myself as a whimpering little child resting in His powerful, loving and comforting arms.
This kind of stress brings the junk we need to be healed of to the surface. He shows it to us before He delivers us from it. The stressors are meant to conform us to the image and likeness of Christ, our elder brother. In my writings, I have used the metaphors “cactus patch,” ”knotholes,” and “divine combine,” to describe God’s processing. Never pleasant, always painful one way or the other, He uses our suffering to burn off the dross. It is part of the fiery furnace Paul wrote about which tests our works.
The main thing is that the more He shows me what He has ALREADY DONE FOR US IN CHRIST, the more I realize that NOTHING depends on me. He chose us. We didn’t choose Him, Jesus said. God is the subject of every sentence. Religion makes man the subject of every sentence, which makes everything in our walk dependent upon OUR works, our performance. That’s exactly backwards. Christ IS our LIFE. We walk in the One in whom we “live and move and have our being.” Giving God that “churchy” guilt about how we should/ought/must behave goes a long way toward lessening the pain we feel when we’re in the situation you and I find ourselves in.
God has it all in Hand. He knows “the end from the beginning,” which means to me that He already knows how it’s going to turn out, and it will be for our good and His glory. Last year, He said to Lenny and me on different occasions, “Change is coming.” I thought of that a few weeks ago and groaned, because I don’t think He was talking about all this junk we’re wading through now. I HOPE He is talking about a new enlightenment which will sweep through the body of Christ, ridding us all of the darkness and legalistic bondage in which we have struggled for two millenniums.
I don’t know when, but it is coming. How can I be sure? Because scripture has promised that “all flesh will see the glory of God together, for the mouth of the Lord has promised it.” Neighbor will NOT say to neighbor, “Know the Lord, for all will know the Lord from the least to the greatest,” and “his glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the seas.”
Give all your burdens, your disappointments in yourself and others, your failures and your anger to the Lord. After surrender comes deliverance. You and I are NOT strong enough to carry this baggage, but the Rock of Ages, our ever present help in time of trouble, is able to lift us up from the fiery furnace and set our feet on Mount Zion where turmoil cannot assault us; legalism cannot bring us down in failure; and the JOY of the Lord IS OUR STRENGTH.
The Psalmist wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Selah.” (Ps. 46:1-3) Isaiah assured us, “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isa. 43:2)
Father, we fall on our faces before Your majesty, Your love and Your ability to deliver us from ourselves. Make us instruments of Your peace, light bringers and Good News bearers to our families and all nations. In Christ we ask it, amen.