The Lord has given me a deep bench of friends. Friends who are wise. Who don’t tell me easy answers. Who consistently speak Truth regardless of its sharp edges. Who love me, mess and all. Today, this dear one wrecks my too-often only-in-hindsight belief system and challenges me deeply with her recent email….
it has been an incredible struggle.
the news of one of my worst fears hitting my ears: not one, but three kidney stones – in both kidneys – and all this coming after we have sold our car, moved out of our house, sold our furniture, stored our boxes to be shipped to Asia and traveled back home with our two babies (a 2 yr old and a 4-month old) and are living out of six duffle bags – displaced and in limbo, scheduled to move across. the. world. in just a week. this has now all be put on hold as we will probably be here another 2 to 3 months for me to undergo at least two surgeries and then have to pass these stones. but while everything rages around me, i have moments where my heart feels strangely quiet. i think it must be that the overwhelming magnitude of it has left me with no other place to go than to cling to Jesus. I’ve been thinking a lot about when some disciples abandoned Jesus and Jesus asked the Twelve if they would leave too. Peter’s response has been sitting on my lips recently as he responded to Jesus, “To whom else would we go? You have the words of life and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
those words ring in my heart. as the powers of darkness press in on me from every side right now – the pressure continuing to build, i feel the questions looming: “Have you had enough? do you give up? is it too much for you to go? will you choose to stay here for comfort? will you run?” and peter’s answer is on the edge of my lips – i want to scream – “to whom else would i go, Lord? you have the words of life… i can’t run; i can’t give up ; i’ve literally sold all to follow You – i have no other Rock to which i can turn. i’ve put all my eggs in Your basket, so You’ve got to come through for me.” and as john sat in prison facing the dark night of his soul, he sent a messenger to Jesus to ask, “are you the Christ or should we look for another?” and Jesus went on healing others and sent word back to john essentially saying, “look around at what you see – i am healing and the Gospel is being preached … blessed is he who does not fall away because of me … i’m healing and freeing all these, john, but i’m not going to free you … it’s not what i have chosen for you.” the absence of suffering, and even death, was not what it meant for Jesus to come through for john.
so what will it mean for jesus to come through for me? absence of kidney stones? freedom from pain? ease of life? uncanceled plane tickets and unfoiled plans? if that’s the case, then there is no hope for me in these circumstances.
a five-day hospital stay with kidney stone pain when i was pregnant with jude awakened in me a lifelong battle with fear. i have lived most of my life battling fear of some sort: fear of the dark, of being kidnapped, of my parents dying … fear of sickness, pain and suffering … fear of losing my husband, children, loved ones. long have i lived with fear’s gripping hand rising up to choke me, strangling the life out of me, paralyzing me – leaving me unable to live freely.
in the fall of 2010, feeling stagnant in my walk with God, i began to ask Him to increase my faith and grow me in grace. since that time, several of my greatest fears began to surface. i’d pray for relief and instead of relief, God would bring another … and another – the pressure began to build – as if God himself had His thumb on me – pressing down, harder and harder. for the past year and a half, everything around me that could possibly give me a sense of security began to go – one after another – culminating a few weeks ago as we were carless, homeless, furniture-less, largely possession-less, my infant son spitting up blood, fever, ER visits and tests, my own health faltering, and traveling with everything we owned to texas – same day the news comes that i have kidney stones again – too large to pass. i break down in sobs. it’s more than i can bear.
i asked the Lord to grow me in faith and grace … i long to be free from the grip of fear and my grasping for earthly things … is this how God is answering my prayer? is this how He is coming through for me?
there’s a hymn that john newton wrote in 1779. the words feel as if my heart could have written them last week. this hymn has been the song of my heart since this past september:
i asked the Lord that i might grow in faith, and love, and every grace;
might more of His salvation know, and seek, more earnestly, his face.
’twas He who taught me thus to pray and He, i trust, has answered prayer!
but it has been in such a way as almost drove me to despair.
i hoped that in some favored hour, at once He’d answer my request,
and by His love’s constraining power, subdue my sins, and give me rest.
instead of this, He made me feel the hidden evils of my heart.
and let the angry powers of hell assault my soul in every part.
yea, more with His own hand He seemed intent to aggravate my woe,
crossed all the fair designs i schemed, blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
“Lord, why is this?” I trembling cried. “wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“tis in this way,” the Lord replied, “I answer prayer for grace and faith,”
“these inward trials i employ, from self and pride to set thee free.
and break thy schemes of earthly joy that thou mayest find thy all in Me.”
i know what He is doing … He is setting me free.
He has taken away my comforts, my securities, my things to hope in – and He has given me Himself. He has calmed my heart in the midst of anxiety and fear and taught me to trust Him in a new way – a way that feels at peace without fear even if He does not come through for me in the way i expect or desire. i trust Him because He is with me – He will not leave or forsake me and He will provide all i need in the moments i need it. His presence is the provision.
i am writing this, not from a problem-free place looking back on my suffering with forgetful nostalgia as i most often do … but in the midst of pain, another looming surgery, a baby still spitting up blood, still displaced, delayed from moving to our new home and a toddler daily telling me “back home, mama.”
i want to go back home too; i want these kidney stones to disappear; i want my baby to stop spitting up blood; i want to unpack and have a home and stability. but this is not how God is coming through for me at this moment. He is giving me something greater than all these things – Himself. and for the first time, i think i am truly starting to believe that He is enough for me. i would be so grateful if you would join me in praying for that – i go back and forth between belief and unbelief, peace and fear, gratitude and frustration.
but i am utterly thankful that He is growing all these things into my heart.