My name is Joy. People often say that I live up to it, although life has sobered me some and, unfortunately, I probably laugh less and carry more burdens than I used to.
I’m the wife of a pastor, the daughter of missionaries and mom to five children, two of whom have cleft lips and palates as well as Autism. They’re all precious gifts that circle us with love. Two years ago, after a year of debilitating weakness, aching muscles and cramps, my husband was diagnosed with Hypereosinophilic Syndrome (HES), a rare and poorly understood blood disorder. According to the medical journals, HES always ends badly.
My husband Ken and I met in Bible College, married, went to Regent College to do masters studies, and then right into full time ministry. We took over a church plant and ministered there for almost nine years. During that time we were very busy raising our kids. When Ken, started to experience symptoms he carried on pastoring but would take days to recover after each Sunday. As doctors tried to determine what was wrong with him, we went through one of the worst phases of a long-term illness without having the validation that comes from a diagnosis.
It was a year before we received his diagnosis. We were winded by the news and yet somehow relieved that we knew the next step. Ken hadn’t been able to work since the fall of 2004, but with this diagnosis he formally stepped down from the church. A colleague and I continued giving oversight until a new pastor was found.
We both love God, and want to serve Him, and we continue to pray for healing. We’re so thankful to be in a caring community. So many have rallied around us and prayed. God seems to be telling us to wait on Him and be still. Things have not improved, but still we pray.
Whirlwind of emotions and questions
I’ve gone through a whirlwind of emotions while petitioning God for healing. I can’t help wondering what I’m supposed to believe in, the miracle, or the Christ? There are many questions. . . I know God will do as He pleases, and I hope I’m good with that. Is it
I know He’s able, but why does He not comply with my request? Am I following Him for what I can get? Why does He allow such pain? Jesus told his followers, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him.” (Matthew 7:11) But He seems to be withholding this good gift. I can’t help but come to the inevitable conclusion that I am not capable of understanding. a cop-out to pray, “Not my will but yours”?
C.S. Lewis, in his book A Grief Observed, ponders, Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow a square or round? Probably half the questions we ask half our great theological and metaphysical problems are like that.
Love God and my neighbour
So, I get on with life and seek to follow the two greatest commandments to love the Lord with all my heart and love my neighbour as myself (Mt 22:37-40). I can do that, even with my questions unanswered. I still take my petitions to Him because I know He likes me to. But when my focus is on loving God, just walking with Him on this strange journey, and not on the gift of healing, then I don’t feel so confused.
When we are depressed or in pain we often lack the ability to feel much of anything else. Nothing is very funny, or sad, or interesting. This becomes very serious when we cannot feel God’s warmth, or his presence. This isolation is unbearable. Jesus felt it when He cried out from the cross, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Although we can’t compare our pains with Christ’s, none the less we can feel utterly forsaken. We know feelings are not reliable and may not carry much wisdom, however we often let them shape our thinking. Illness often brings unpredictable symptoms such as fatigue, fear, anxiety, anger, stress, and depression. Although, statistics indicate that most of us will experience two or three chronic illnesses in our lives, when it actually happens, we can feel shocked and alone.
Mystery and yielding
Jesus warned us that in this life we will have troubles (John 16:33), so why are we so surprised when they come? Why do we take every trial as if it were a deviation from God’s will for us? We believe in and accept the mystery of how great and unfathomable God is, but we’re not okay with the mystery of pain, especially when it affects us.
If I could say anything to fellow believers who may have identified with aspects of my journey, my heartfelt admonition is to yield, not fight. Accept your lack of understanding. God is God, and the deeper you go, the more profound the mystery. We make God too small, because we make him in our own image. We expect Him to do the things *we* thought of, and question His character when he does not comply.
The shield of faith
When the fiery darts of the enemy fly, (feelings of despair, doubts about God’s word, temptations to sin…) put on the best defence: ‘the shield of faith'(Eph. 6:16). Trust in Him, not in what you asked Him to do. If we are to learn from Christ’s passion, then truly, ‘Thy will be done’ is the ultimate prayer.