I truly enjoy going to church when my health allows me to do so. But there is one thing other than poor health that frequently keeps me at home. Our front yard becomes like a mud pit when we have a heavy rain. For several days afterwards, I’m forced to stay in the house because going outside would result in my walker or wheelchair sinking down in the mud. I am physically stuck in the house until the sun comes out and dries the yard!
Since finishing my series on Job a couple weeks ago, I have been praying for God’s direction for this blog. Honestly, I’ve felt stuck. My desire is to write articles that will encourage those with chronic illness, but my prayers for direction were going nowhere. Then this morning, I sensed God speaking to my heart that I wasn’t the only one feeling stuck. This is something many Christians experience when facing circumstances we wish we could change but can’t. Whether the issues have to do with chronic illness or some other problem we are facing, feeling stuck is a common emotion.
Since this blog focuses on living a Christ-honoring life with chronic illness, I want to look at some of the positive steps we can take to become unstuck, that is to take hold of the hope that enables us to keep moving forward.
- Start with being honest with God about where you are. Admit to Him you feel stuck. Ask Him to show you the way out of the “miry clay” that is keeping you from moving forward.
- Overcome discouragement with prayer and praise. Oswald Chambers said, “We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.” And praise is one of the most effective ways to turn our focus onto the Lord. Praising God for who He is, reflecting on His attributes and names, enables us to see our circumstances in a clearer way. One of my favorite tools for this is a page I keep handy during my prayer time, 30 Days of Praying the Names and Attributes of God, put out by The Navigators. Use the following link to download this helpful tool. http://www.navigators.org/www_navigators_org/media/navigators/tools/Resources/Praying-the-Names-of-God-The-Navigators.pdf
- Ask God to speak to you through His Word. On days when you feel up to it, use one of the many online tools now available to do indepth Bible study. Two of my favorites are Bible Gateway and Blue Letter Bible, both available as an app and a website. But even on your not-so-good days, find a way to expose your mind and heart to God’s Word. On days that I find it difficult to focus on reading my Bible, I often listen to it being read, using a Bible app such as the YouVersion Bible app or one of the audio Bibles available on http://www.biblegateway.com. As I was doing some research on the chapter in 1 Samuel that was on today’s reading plan, I also discovered an informative series of videos on the YouVersion Bible app, put out by The Bible Project. There are brief annimated videos about every book of the Bible, giving an overview of the book and of how it fits in God’s bigger picture, and others on specific topics. These videos are also available on YouTube (just search for The Bible Project and the name of the book or topic you are studying) and on https://thebibleproject.com/resources/
- Be a doer of the Word, not just one who hears or reads and then goes away unchanged. Ask God to show you specific ways He wants you to apply what you are learning. Remember these importsnt words from the apostle James, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:22-25 NIV)
- Let go of the past. This includes both the bad and the good that used to be a part of our lives. Of course we need to let go of past failures and sin, and ask God to heal the hurts they caused. But on the other hand, chronic illness changes our lives dramatically. If we insist on holding onto our lives as they were pre-illness we will be disappointed. Our dreams and goals may need to change, or at least the way we seek to fulfil them.
- Accept your current limitations. Common symptoms of chronic illness include reduced energy levels, increased pain, amd difficulty focusing on things. If we insist on continuing our activities at the same level we did them before becoming ill, we will fail to meet our goals and end up extremely frustrated.
- Look for new ways to meet your goals. This applies to simple tasks such as taking care of our homes, but it also applies to larger life goals. For example, before my chronic illnesses became disabling, I enjoyed leading ladies Bible study groups in our church. I found teaching God’s Word and encouraging other ladies very fulfilling. Today, since I am not able to drive or even leave the home without my husband’s help, I am no longer able to do this to add meaning to my life. So I began asking God to show me another way to experience fulfilment. It didn’t happen overnight, but I am now finding the same degree of fulfilment in my role with God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness, as a part of the teaching team for that ministry. Though illness closed some doors, continuing to pray and seek God led to some new open doors beyond anything I had expected or previously experienced. Now, instead of touching the lives of a dozen women in my church Bible study group once a week, I have the privilege of sharing almost daily with a group of 375 ladies needing encouragement in their walk with the Lord.
This Sunday, if the current weather forecast is correct, may be another day of being stuck in the house when I really want to be at church. But even if this happens, I don’t need to give into feelings of being stuck. I can instead choose to take hold of the hope that lies before me and keep moving forward in my walk with the Lord. No matter what has you feeling stuck, my desire is for you to join me in this commitment to not allow feelings of being stuck to detour me from walking forward into God’s good plan.