We haven’t posted much lately. It’s so easy to share when life is good and sweet but when hard things come, my tendency is to shrink up and tell as few people as possible. And hard things have come. And have kept coming. So we haven’t updated. But I’m done shrinking. I’m ready to talk about the “opportunities” we are having. I know that many of you are also having your own “opportunities” of various kinds and it will be sweeter for us to persevere if what we are learning through ours can help you with yours.
The reason that I am calling our current trials “opportunities” is because they ARE. I have seen people persevere through trials with dignity and hope and I have seen others get through them with anxiety and despair. The ones who hold on to hope encourage others and grow in their faith through their struggles, whether they are relieved or not. That’s the opportunity that we all have. That’s what we – Chris and I – want to do, although, admittedly, it is a hard struggle.
I’ll briefly (ok, not really briefly) explain our recent troubles and explain how God is helping us grow through them.
What Went Wrong
The series of unfortunate events started before last year but they increased in severity about a year ago. I started to have pretty severe pain in my abdomen and side which was found to be an ovarian cyst. The endometriosis that I had surgery on in May of 2017 was back. We didn’t have health insurance so I made do with a treatment that didn’t solve the problem but calmed down the pain for a time. We were thankful for health insurance when I started working again in October but I waited until March to have surgery (it didn’t seem ideal to start a job and immediately go on leave).
Surgery was great! There is an endometriosis expert about 45 minutes away (Dr. Duke in Post Falls who I highly recommend!) and he was able to remove the adhesions and cysts with precision and care. I had zero issues from the surgery! I am so thankful for that!
I thought that I was getting my life back. After being in pain at varying levels for months, I was so excited to start feeling well again.
I was too optimistic. About a week after surgery, I had a big arthritis flare up (one of many I have had this year). And a few days later I “hurt my back” – which I now know is a herniated a disc. So I was healing from surgery (which was painful but not bad) and also dealing with serious back pain. After about a month, I was able to go back to work while still getting PT and Chiropractic care (Dr. Henning from FBC, he’s amazing!).
While all this was happening, Chris was balancing a heavy load of classes at The Master’s Seminary (TMS), teaching two classes at Moody Aviation, teaching an equipping class at Faith Bible Church (FBC), co-leading a College Small Group and working in College Ministry and caring for me. He made it through but it was difficult and did not include enough sleep.
In May I was referred to get other treatments for my back (epidural injections) but they didn’t help. So I had an MRI on July 5th. On July 7th, I was bending over and tweaked it again. The pain was out of control. I tried to work that week but couldn’t handle the pain and I have been out of work since. I will be on short term disability, Lord willing, so I should not have an issue with losing my job or health insurance. I don’t know for sure what’s next with this. Please pray that I would receive the right treatment quickly!
And then, a few weeks ago, the pain from my back was finally starting to improve when I scalded myself with boiling water while trying to make iced tea for guests. I am now healing from second-degree burns on both legs. When it happened, I hurt my back again jumping away from the water and I could not believe that something else was going wrong.
What God is Teaching Us
So for over a year, I have had a series of pain-events that would have been bad on their own but have been excruciating as they pile on one after another. Over and over I was asking this philosophical question… Is life mostly good with a little bad in it (which is what I had always expected) or is life mostly bad with some good things in it? And can God be good with all the bad things?
After pondering this for weeks, multiple Facebook friends posted a link to an article on DesiringGod.org entitled “Every Day’s a Bad Day” by Carolyn Mahaney. I didn’t click on the first one but after more than one person had posted it, I clicked. And, no exaggeration, the article changed my life and gave me so much confidence in my trials. I definitely encourage you to read it. This is the paragraph that caught my attention:
“Our problem is that we don’t really believe life is an unhappy business. We think if we work hard, we’ll eventually succeed. We imagine suffering is short-term, pain is the exception to the rule, and failure merely the prelude to victory. These illusions leave us blindsided by setbacks, devastated by failure and loss, bewildered by trials, confused by pain. This isn’t the way things were supposed to go! We talk about having “a bad day” as if it should be one in a thousand, but Ecclesiastes (and really the rest of Scripture, when you read it right side up) tells us that they are all bad. Daily work under the sun is an unhappy business.” (bold emphasis mine)
The sentence in bold was me. I was blindsided by the continued pain and thought it wasn’t supposed to be this way. I wasn’t angry at God. I was confused because my life was not what I expected it to be. This article helped me to see that life is actually hard, it purposefully is! But in the midst of the hardness, God brings good gifts (she talks about this later in the article).
I wasn’t thankful for God’s good gifts when I thought that life was supposed to be mostly good, I was mad that more things weren’t better. I thought, “So what that these trials have made my marriage sweeter, I want to not be in pain and I want life to be easy.” But the change in perspective made me so much more thankful for the good things, from the big things of my sweet marriage to the little joys of goodness in raspberry sauce with ice cream.
I am growing in trust in my Sovereign God. Any trial in my life is from His hand. He is at work in the “piling on” and He has a purpose for it!
I slowly read the book Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. It’s so helpful! I read this paragraph yesterday and it was like a salve to my soul.
“Every adversity that comes across our path whether large or small, is intended to help us grow in some way. If it were not beneficial, God would not allow it or send it. ‘For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men’ (Lamentations 3:33). God does not delight in our sufferings. He brings only that which is necessary, but He does not shrink from that which will help us grow.”
I believe that. And I have believed that to some extent in all of these trials. But I am learning to live it. I am learning to embrace the growth that He has for me as I endure pain. I am leaning in to my dependence on Him. I am letting go of my desire for control, to be respected at work, to know my future. I am more excited to pray and I get sustenance from the Scripture. I want to be in more fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially my brothers and sisters who are sufferings also.
The best news? I don’t even have to know all that God is doing. He is forming me to be like Christ (Romans 8:28-29) but the way that He is doing that is a mystery and I don’t have to know or be in control of the process. I just have to be willing to trust, obey and to receive His help as He guides me.
And you, my friend in suffering whether large or small, you also have the opportunity to grow as He works in you teaching you to trust and obey.
I don’t know what’s next for you or for me. We could easily face another calamity, lose a job, get ill or face other trouble. But we do know the God who is in charge so instead of looking to the future with fear, we can look to the future with faith. Whatever comes, whether difficult or easy, will be just another opportunity.
How You Can Pray
- Healing for Ashley’s back, God is the one who heals but He does use doctors… practically, that the neurosurgeon consultation in late August will be helpful and that there will be a viable treatment plan that will take place quickly (this will probably be surgery).
- Healing for the burn. And that the RA treatments would be effective (in the midst of all of this, the medication I’m on does not seem to be working).
- Ability for Ashley to go back to work soon (August 5th is my hopeful return date!) and not have to take off much time if back surgery is necessary. Also, that the disability paperwork would be completed by the doctor (there were some delays with this) so that there will be no problems with Ashley’s job!
- Chris starts classes at TMS again soon and he starts teaching at Moody Aviation sooner. Pray for his endurance and that God would strengthen him for the task as it will be a difficult and busy semester.
- That God would spare Chris and Ashley from further calamity while growing both in holiness, perseverance in the faith, and however else He wants. His will be done!
- For our effectiveness in College Ministry this coming year. It will be our second year and we are eager to serve the students!
- That God would be glorified in all of our trouble and that He would comfort us so that we can share that comfort with others.