“In order for God to take you deeper and most intimately into Himself, He must expose all in you that is not of Himself.” Lori Laws
Please share – we may never know who’s struggling
A Merciful Awakening
Reflecting on my past, I was figuratively living in the Ancient City of Babylon. I certainly had the Babylonian mentality, which is a mentality saying, “I am the only one, and nothing else matters” – “I am the most exciting thing there is.” Once I explain the kind of person I used to be, I think you’ll be able to understand. So here goes…
I was a self absorbed, overconfident, super snob. Image was everything. I was definitely a high maintenance kind of girl, and looking put together at all times consumed me. I was a beautiful, healthy, and vibrant girl – and certainly knew it. Self-sufficiency, gaining money, and striving for material things is what was important to me. I was out to live the glamorous life! Self-esteem or self-confidence problems were never an issue. It was all about being independent and being in charge of my own destiny. People had to live up to my expectations, and anything else was unacceptable. Being self-centered and focusing on my strengths and accomplishments was what my life was all about.
My physical appearance was what I obsessed about. My hair had to look great, my makeup had to be impeccable, and my nails had to be perfectly manicured and polished at all times. Everything was about me, me, and me. I elevated myself on a pedestal, and in my mind I was better than others. There was so much value put on material things. I was fanatical about buying new clothes. It was nothing to go shopping and drop a couple hundred dollars because I wanted to be seen in a different outfit every time I went out. I had to have nice things. Everything in my life was all about status, prestige, and feeding my huge ego. I was extremely conceited, and appearances meant everything to me.
Do you remember two songs from back in the eighties titled, THE GLAMOROUS LIFE by Sheila E., and MATERIAL GIRL by Madonna? Well, they were my theme songs. If you really listen, the lyrics say it all.
My favorite activity was partying I thought I was the ultimate party girl, and was a regular at many of the local nightclubs. I loved going out and being seen. I knew I was one of the beautiful people, and made sure everyone else knew it as well! It was all about flirting, and thinking I was the best thing since sliced bread. Dancing was my passion. I was good, but also convinced I was one of the best (like maybe Paula Abdul and I were in the same league). As a matter of fact, I was 100% confident I could have been one of The Fly Girls on the TV show “In Living Color”. “After all,” I reasoned, “They were pretty like me and I could dance as good as them.” I used to be the girl who would never pay her own way. Cover charges and drinks were always paid for.
I loved getting drunk – really drunk; drinking to the point of losing my coordination, stumbling, and tripping over my own two feet. Now I understand why I got drunk and goofy so fast; it was because the alcohol intensified the Muscular Dystrophy that was dormant in my body at that time. My friends called me a “lightweight”, and said that I couldn’t handle my liquor. We all just laughed and thought nothing of it. It was just a big joke.
Want to hear something crazy? After the clubs and bars were closed, my friends and I usually went out for breakfast. Turns out, the empty lot across the street where we parked and stumbled out of our cars to go to the diner, is now my church parking lot!
I remember being in one of my first apartments and looking around at all the “stuff” I had. I arrogantly said out loud…
“Look at all the great things I’ve been able to get by MY OWN POWER (nice furniture, great apartment, beautiful clothes). After all, I deserve it, I’m worth it, and I’ve worked hard.”
The Bible warns us about pride – thinking we are better than others; thinking we are invincible and not able to fall. God hates pride, and won’t hesitate to let the prideful fall, but He loves to lift up the humble. Here are three scriptures that are relevant to this scenario:
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
“Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and glorify and honor the King of Heaven. All His acts are just and true, and He is able to humble the proud.” (Daniel 4:37)
“You felt secure in your wickedness, ‘No one sees me’, you said. But your wisdom and knowledge have led you astray, and you said, ‘I am the only one and there is no other.”
Isaiah 47: 10- God predicted the fall of Babylon)
I was a runner. Let me clarify; one consistent thing in my life was that I always ran from bad situations. If I didn’t like something or if it was problematic, I was out of there. This was true of jobs that I was always quitting, running away from bad relationships…etc. You name it, if it was uncomfortable, I ran from it. It didn’t matter where I ran, it always seemed that the same problems followed me; maybe dressed in a different package, but nevertheless, the same problem. It didn’t matter how far I ran (once moving 3000 miles to California), the same thing I was running from greeted me at the front door of my new destination. But my running days would soon be over… I have since learned that running from your problems doesn’t solve anything.
A few years later in my mid to late twenties, things seemed to be going great. I became more smug and self-satisfied. Life was good. I was making good money, living very comfortably, and had collected a lot of “stuff.” Still being very snobby and self absorbed, the world was pretty much revolving around me.
In December 1999, a new chapter opened in my life; I got married! By now I was 30, and life was progressing nicely according to my plans and schedule. Our lives seemed so carefree when my husband and I were dating. We both loved to go dancing. We loved doing almost everything together. Being so wrapped up in myself image, I remember telling my husband that no matter what, I was always going to look good and would always take the necessary time to look my best. I told him that he “had better get used” to waiting. I was living a fairy tale, and expected nothing less than to live happily ever after.
Then in June 2000, it happened. Crazy things were happening to my body, things like: not being able to keep my balance, loss of coordination, leg heaviness and weakness, shooting pains up and down my spine. I needed to walk with a cane to prevent myself from walking into things. My knees would lock. My leg muscles, (especially the muscles surrounding my knees) were rigid and wouldn’t bend. I walked like Frankenstein.
Can I express to you how humiliated I was? I was mortified! I was so scared! A simple thing like walking was now almost impossible! The world I knew – my world – was falling apart, and there was absolutely nothing I could do! My physical body used to be beautiful, but now it was broken and ugly. Here I was judging on appearances, and now my own appearance was horrible! I was really depressed – really, really depressed. Things absolutely looked hopeless! I wanted to crawl under a rock, and die. I found myself “trapped,” with no way out. I had to quit my job because I couldn’t physically handle it anymore, and had to go on permanent disability. It seemed like any desires and dreams I had for the future were now dead. Everything was falling apart at the seams. It was a huge pill, and it was very hard to swallow!
The Muscular Dystrophy I have is hereditary. This disease has been dormant in my body up until about ten years ago. I was able to run, skip, dance – do everything considered physically normal. Looking back, there were red flags (clumsiness, dragging of my feet, burning sensations in my legs and back, and weak leg muscles), but I could still function as if nothing were going on with my body. I was pretending, and was in a major stage of denial. When this disease initially manifested itself in 2000, I had no clue as to what was happening to my body; so you can imagine the stress, fear, and hopelessness gripping my heart! This is a progressive disease, and the way it affects people is different. It’s impossible to medically predict what the future holds. Something I didn’t know, and you probably didn’t either; Muscular Dystrophy is a general name for a myriad of neuromuscular disorders. There are many Muscular Dystrophies, (more than two dozen). Currently, there is no medical cure. MD is rare, but millions are affected.
Every step I took was, and still is a huge effort. The heaviness in my legs feels as if buckets of cement are on my feet. My balance feels like I am walking on stilts. I was a control freak, and I had no control over what was happening! Being out of control is the worst thing that can happen to a control freak!
“But then I will win her back once again, I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there…” (Hosea 2:14-15)
After the Exodus out of Egypt, God led the Israelites into the wilderness for forty years, where He taught them obedience and dependence on Him. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, I believe that God had planned this transformation for me long ago. The first thing He did, which was not pleasant, was to take me out of my Egypt; my environment, my comfort zone, my perception of the perfect world. It was a separation from my old life. He took me into the wilderness.
I wasn’t kidding before when I told you that my running days would soon be over. There was no way I could run now. I was alone with God, forced entirely to depend on Him, and I learned how to accept help from others. God changes us in the wilderness. He removes things that prevent us from fulfilling our purpose. We can only fulfill our purpose by spending this time of preparation in the desert. This is where our true character is revealed, and we find out what is really in our hearts. He had to erase my way of thinking and replace it with His way of thinking. My spiritual eyes were starting to open. God knows our need for a wilderness experience, and He knows exactly how to produce in us the qualities He desires for us to have. One of the hardest lessons to learn is that God is sovereign. As our Creator, He knows what will get our attention.
The dust has now settled and I am able to take a step back, and see the fingerprints of God throughout my situation. He revealed Himself to me, taught me, and is still teaching and preparing me for His purpose. The Bible says…
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)
When a crisis hits, your world is turned upside down. The blinders are on, and you can only see two feet in front of you. An all consuming darkness clouds your view. I will always remember the darkness…the hopelessness…the suicidal thoughts. God rescued me in the nick of time. You may be in that same place now. I want you to know that you do matter. You’re life matters. Things can change. There is a better way…
My husband and I moved to a new apartment complex two months after I had to quit my job. My life was in chaos, both physically and emotionally. I was not a happy camper. I was bitter, embarrassed, and hated the world! Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? I truly felt I would never enjoy life again. My chance for happiness was gone (that’s how self absorbed I was). As we were moving our stuff into our new home, we ran into some of our new neighbors. They were an older couple, who were very nice. We made our introductions, and they welcomed us to the community.
They saw I was walking with a cane, and having a hard time. The man asked me what had happened to make me need assistance with my walking. I honestly don’t remember my response, but I know my bad attitude was clearly shining through! I do remember telling them that whatever I had, I was going to have it for the rest of my life (I didn’t have a diagnosis then. The results from tests I had gotten were all normal. I had been going from doctor to doctor with no avail. Even they were stumped as to what was wrong with me. I wanted answers, but it seemed like nobody could help). My new neighbors looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Well we believe in prayer.” That is all they said. They left, and I wasn’t sure what to think. I hardly spent any time thinking about God, yet alone praying. All I knew was that God had let me down.
All throughout that first year, most of my time was spent trying to find medical answers. I was putting my hope in the medical community, and it didn’t take long for me to get tired of going to doctors. I was especially frustrated with arrogant doctors who thought they were God. Some of them were sure they knew more of what was going on in my body than I was. One particular doctor told me that everything was in my head, because he couldn’t find any physical abnormality on any of the tests I’d had done, (Blood tests, MRI’s, EMG’s …etc)
In my head? What a quack! Anyone could plainly see just by the way I was walking, that something was seriously wrong. I’m not sure “irritation” is a good enough way to describe what I was feeling!
Still drowning in my misery, I was watching TV late one evening. While channel surfing, I came across a religious channel and stopped. I don’t know why I stopped there. The people on TV were promoting a book about Generational Curses. I didn’t know exactly what a Generational Curse was, but I thought that maybe I had one? After all, a curse would explain a lot! All other efforts had failed, so maybe there is something to this religious stuff.
I was directed by something inside of me to go online and buy the book. The book came in a day or two, and it was fascinating. I learned that a Generational Curse involves negative patterns from your family history, which are repeated in your own life. The book was about identifying and breaking these Generational Curses. The book was about God. There were Bible references in this book, and it took me only two days to finish it. It was interesting, and it made me hungry for more of God. What? Hungry for more of God?
I was raised in the church. But like a lot of people, all the Spiritual knowledge I had was in my head – not in my heart. So as a result, I really didn’t understand much. But I thought I was a nice person. I think most of us are nice people. We try to do the right thing. We try to outweigh the bad by the good we do. We try to keep “The Golden Rule.” The plain fact is that despite how good we are, we’re missing something vital. And because we’re missing this, we can be as nice as we want, but still be miserable; even though our lives on the outside tell a different story to make others believe that we have it all together. Throughout my life, religion was drilled into me, and I was taught the Bible was indeed the inspired Word of God. But I guess I never took that seriously enough – until now.
When I look back at this time in my life, it’s so clear to me that God was drawing me to Himself. He was leading me to read the instruction manual for life. I went to a local Christian Bookstore, and asked the lady who was working there to help me find a Bible I could understand. I bought a New Living Translation Bible, which is easier for me to grasp and identify with. I was on a mission – a mission to find God. I wanted so desperately to be healed. I knew if anyone could heal me, it would be God. I also thought about times in the past when I had tried to read the Bible, only to get really confused, fall asleep, and eventually give up because I couldn’t understand what the Bible was saying. This time was different. I can’t explain how, but I understood almost every word.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 13:12, “To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
God also says in Jeremiah 29:12-13, “In those days when you pray to me, I will listen. If you look for me with all your heart, you will find me.”
I was looking for God with all of my heart and found Him! I was open to His teaching, and He gave me understanding and an abundance of knowledge! The truth of God’s Word simply blows me away! That entire time period was such a precious time. My spiritual eyes were beginning to open. I truly understood for the first time, despite what was happening to me, God still loved me! My disease does not change who He is or who I am in Him. I know that He is much greater than my pain.
All the knowledge about Him in my head somehow started to penetrate the depths of my heart. It was just like that song… I once was blind, but now I can see. I read about how much He loves me. So much that He had sent His Son to take the punishment everyone in the world deserves. That punishment is death. He died on a cross for us. He died on a cross for me. The Bible helped me put two and two together – when Adam and Eve sinned (they disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit), it resulted in having their spirits separated from God. Their sin opened the door to death and suffering. And because we descended from Adam and Eve, each one of us has inherited their sin nature (or original sin). God came up with the solution needed to bring us back to Him:
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son and whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
It’s important to know that the word “believes” doesn’t just mean to know about Jesus; it’s not just about head knowledge. I looked up the Greek meaning of “believe” in the Vine’s Concise Dictionary of the Bible. It means to place confidence in, and to trust” The Vine’s Dictionary tells us that to “believe” is to have reliance upon, not mere credence or lip service.
He died so my spirit could be reunited with His! He wanted me to know Him, and have a relationship with Him. Jesus clearly tells us…
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
He wanted to be my Savior, and I wanted Him to be my Savior. The Bible says that if we confess with our mouth, and believe in our hearts that Jesus is the Son of God who died, and was raised to life again, we will be saved. So I did exactly that. I asked Jesus to come into my heart and change me!
September 5, 2001 was my spiritual birthday! Lightning didn’t come down or anything – there was no immediate change, at least no change I could see. But I know that God’s Word tells me that He will put His Holy Spirit in my heart if I ask Him. Because I asked Him to come and live with me, I knew I was saved! My friendship with God was restored! The Bible says,
“Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
I finally understood that this is what it means to be born again. Why is it that the thing we need most, is the thing we usually run from?
The next day I was off to my physical therapy appointment. Then, and all throughout the day, I felt a presence with me. Hard to describe, but I felt loved so completely! It was a feeling I had never experienced before that day. I felt protected, and things felt peaceful for a change!
Yes, I still had my physical limitations, but the bad feelings didn’t consume me like they had before. I let go of the bitterness and anger keeping me in bondage. This is a Great Exchange. God gave me a new and lasting hope because I gave Him all of that junk I was carrying around. I was happy for the first time in a long time! I am a friend of God! He has forgiven me, and removed my sins as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) Jesus saved me! I stand in awe of God’s mercy. You and I can do absolutely nothing to earn our salvation. It’s a free gift from our Creator.
“I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
What an awesome God! This is how my journey began…
Table of Contents
Foreword ………………… 1
Introduction …………….. 5
Chapter 1 A Merciful Awakening … 9
Chapter 2 A New Beginning……19
Chapter 3 Serving ………….33
Chapter 4 Purpose in the Storm..47
Chapter 5 I’d like Some Answers .. 57
Chapter 6 Hope is Alive!……..7
Those are some pretty powerful words spoken by Jesus. A grain of wheat must die before it can reproduce itself. In other words, for the spirit to live the flesh must die. So the person following Jesus must die to all purposes in life that are contrary to the will of God. He or she is a person who is so committed to living for Jesus; their earthly life is of less importance and value than serving Him. Being weaned off of the world is certainly no picnic. Nobody willingly walks down the road to Calvary. Calvary is the road that speaks of genuine brokenness and a crushing of self. God uses suffering to afflict the heart and conquer the mind.
To be effective for God’s Kingdom, the heartstrings of our old nature have to be broken. Our unyielding character, which we inherited from Adam, has to be grounded to powder; and that means the breaking of our self-will and self-confidence! Being separated from the things we rely on for comfort and stability, and losing things we hold dear is extremely painful! At the onset of this disease, my body, mind, and soul was plunged into great darkness. I was thrown into a deep pit, where I was confronted with humiliation after humiliation! Yes friends, my soul has throbbed with the agonizing groans of Gethsemane. For lack of better words, the weaning process is a living nightmare. There is a cutting away of earthly attachments. There is also a deafening silence coming from the throne of God, and every fiber of your being tries to make you believe He has abandoned you.
You may now be at the place I’ve just described. You may now feel disconnected and lonely. Perhaps you are a brand new Christian, wondering why God would let this adversity come your way. On the other hand, you may be a long-time Christian who always thought you’ve been trusting Him, but now you’re finding that you’ve been trusting and relying entirely too much on the very thing that has been taken away. It could be your career, your finances, your health, your family and friends, or a thousand other things. Pits come in a wide variety. If you’re not a Christian now, I have good news for you. When and if you decide to ask Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior, the Father gives you a promise…
“All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8: 28
“All things work together for good.” Please hear this… even as you question, hold onto God. Keep trusting. Keep waiting. This is a season where Almighty God is starting to prepare you for something much greater than you and I. God never kicked me when I was down. He won’t fail you. He will lift your head, and will give you the exact amount of His grace to get you through whatever you’re up against. I am greatly encouraged in the midst of my suffering because that’s where He meets me. He reveals things to me that otherwise would never come if not for Muscular Dystrophy. Yes, He’s walking right beside me in this storm; and more often than not, He’s carrying me. He has led me to find small clues as to what is happening to me and why. Yes, He gave me very small clues in His Word to help me get a grip on this thing called suffering. Just as He promised, a path was set before me…
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with my eye.” Psalm 32: 8
He shows me His truths whether it’s through sermons I hear, books I read, or just simply showing me His love through friends and people I encounter every day. In some way or another, He always reinforces His love to me.
YET LOVE PERMITS PAIN. I’ll say that again, LOVE PERMITS PAIN. How many of us at one time or another entertained this thought,
“If God doesn’t fix my problem He must not love me.”
That thought entered my head so many times. Because of your circumstances, you may be tempted to question His love for you. We must realize that there are many things God doesn’t fix because He loves us. Instead of removing us from the problem, He uses that problem to call us. Yes, He calls us. I think if we look at the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, we may begin to start looking at suffering in a new light. Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to a man discovering treasure hidden in a field. Jesus tells us…
“In the man’s excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” Matthew 13: 44
Take a minute or two to really think about this; Jesus talks of a treasure hidden in a field, a field that’s not a sun-drenched, grass-green meadow; but a dry and sun-scorched, bleak and empty space. Once we realize the treasure we find in it, we start to look differently at our circumstance. Our perspective changes, and just like the man who uncovers the treasure, we “sell everything we own.” This means saying goodbye to the pity parties, the complaining, and the other bitter questions we were so used to asking. We won’t be used by God until all self-pity is gone.
In order for God to take you deeper and most intimately into Himself, He must expose all in you that is not of Himself. At first it seems extremely cruel to be cut off from earthly things and people we rely on for comfort and stability. But it’s in this time that the familiar sounds and voices from the world are exchanged for the peace and serenity that comes only from the throne of God. When this happens, God suddenly becomes everything! And having Him as our only resource is exactly what He wants! He will calm and color everything we see. This may mean that we do less outward visible work, but the work that we end up doing has more depth and power. This scripture in Isaiah says it all…
“And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” Isaiah 45: 3
The death of my “perfect world” has caused me to find those treasures in darkness God is talking about. I know without a doubt that God has allowed this difficulty to come because it has brought me closer to Him. I will not let this time of trial be a separation. I will cling tighter and tighter to my Lord Jesus. I will still press on through my darkness, because God says there are more treasures to be found. Some of those treasures I can now see in the form of being able to encourage others in their darkness. I know by being faithful and not giving up, I will surely find out that the most exquisite work in my life was done during these dark days. With all certainty, I know that someday I will watch as He brings about goodness and beauty from all of my pain and tears.
I now see that death of self is a gateway of life!
I want to share something with you that’s a profound confirmation of what the Lord is doing/has done in my life, and perhaps it will be a confirmation for you too… a help for when the things of life throw you for a loop, and you just don’t understand why whatever it is, is happening.
I am talking about isolation, the kind of isolation where our soul no longer depends on the continual help, prayers, faith, and care of others. To be alone with God is a place where we are no longer dependent on those around us. The place of isolation is where we absorb power from the Living God.
“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
We all want to soar like eagles, but take a moment and think about this… there isn’t a bird that lives in as much solitude as an eagle. They never fly in flocks, and you rarely see two eagles together. This may mean renouncing or separating ourselves from specific people or things, leaving a strange sense of deprivation and loneliness.
But take heart, for it’s in the experience of isolation that God develops an independence of life and faith. Most importantly, He develops a dependence on Him. Assistance and inspiration from others is necessary. It definitely helps us grow and bloom in our Christian walk, but sometimes it can actually become a hindrance to a person’s faith and welfare. A good example of this very thing in my life is how God had to break the relationship between me and a spiritual mentor, because I was getting way too dependent on her faith, and I was neglecting to put all of my trust and faith in God.
God certainly knows how to change our circumstances in order to isolate us. It may take a little while, but once we yield to Him through an experience of isolation, we begin to realize He has done a new work within us, and that the wings of our soul have learned to soar in loftier air. We learn how to live in the sunshine of God, and be content in any storm that comes up against us. No one ever arrives into the full realization of the best things of God in his spiritual life without learning to walk with Him alone. One more thing… A life that is dedicated to God, knows divine fellowship, no matter how many human friendships have to be forfeited along the way!
If not for our suffering and adversity, where would our faith be? When suffering comes, it reveals the core of who we are. If we’re truthful with ourselves, we usually don’t like what we see. It’s immature to believe our lives are going to be prosperous and problem free when we become Christians. That’s not Christ’s teaching. Sure, there are going to be good times, but God wants to make us mature and complete, and that will never happen without pain and struggles. Let’s look at what Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth…
“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And He did rescue us from mortal danger and He will rescue us again.” 2 Cor. 1: 8-10
Paul doesn’t go into details about the hardships he endured, but we do know they were bad enough to make him think he wasn’t going to make it. Paul and his companions realized they could do nothing to help themselves, only to rely on God. Let’s be honest, how often do we go through things and think we aren’t going to make it? Some people are very fortunate to learn from the experiences of others who have gone before them. And then there are hard heads, like myself, or those who never had a chance to grab hold of this truth found in Scripture. Some of us are still trying to depend on our own skills and resources. Sometimes it’s only when we agonize and struggle, do we turn to God. He is our source of strength and power. Suffering is what drives us, and keeps on driving us to our knees.
Now I know this is going to rock the theology of some, but God ordained this disability. He’s the One who has hemmed me in. How can I say that? All you have to do is read your Bible. I really do understand how some can disagree and debate me over that, but it’s not until suffering plops itself down in the middle of your life do you start to seriously seek what God has to say about it. “God is in control” is one of the simplest things for us to say, but when suffering strips things away from you like a jackhammer plows through cement, you realize the true magnitude of your own existence. All of us are spiritually bankrupt without Jesus. Let’s let scripture speak…
“He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; he has shrouded my path into darkness.” Job 19: 8
“I will bring calamity upon them from every direction,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 49: 32
“He has made me dwell in darkness.” Lamentations 2: 6
“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” John 9:2-3
“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there.” Hosea 2: 14-15
Oh, how I’ve learned that God speaks to us in the desert! That’s where we’re free from distractions, and we can seriously tune into God. When we’re hemmed in from all sides, the only place to look is up. But of course we all have the freedom to become bitter and choose not to look up.
Here’s a hard-won ruby of wisdom… I’ve learned how to walk humbly with my God. I am no longer the same shallow, snotty girl, who was convinced the world revolved around her. Yes I’m talking about suffering, the suffering that took me on the most difficult ride of my life, pushing me to the very brink. I’ve had moments when I wanted to take my own life, but that’s when Jesus stepped in and took it instead. Muscular Dystrophy just happened to be the vessel used to veer me off the destructive path I was on. It was a path where I measured my value and worth on my health and appearance. I was so broken, and this brokenness is what literally and figuratively brought me to my knees. In the midst of the most severe storm of my life is where I found my Life-Giver!
I sure don’t have this “disabled” thing down. I’m certainly not a professional at this! I can never forget the sorrow and grief, but God in His wisdom has used both of these things to build my character and make me strong. I can never say that “I have arrived.” To arrive in Jesus’ arms is a lifelong process. Dying to self is ridiculously difficult. But once we surrender and lay our self-will and pride at the feet of Jesus, a certain sweetness of the heart comes. And that sweetness attracts the enemy, just like honey attracts bees. There is nothing new the enemy is using in battle. His best weapons are depression, guilt, and discouragement. He is actively looking for people to attack with temptation, because he wants to make people hate God. He does this through planting lies, and tries to deceive us in the battleground of our minds. He’s the one initiating the pity parties…
But the Giant’s calling out my name and he laughs at me, reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed. The giant keeps on telling me time and time again…” Boy… you’ll never win, you’ll never win.”
Those are the lyrics to the song “Voice of Truth” by Casting Crowns, and they are the exact words I hear… “You’ll never win, you’ll never win.” The song continues…
But the Voice of Truth tells me a different story. The Voice of Truth says, “Do not be afraid.” The Voice of Truth says, “This is for my glory.” Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth.
I know what the Bible says. It tells me that God delights in every detail of my life. I would be a fool to turn away from the only One who can truly help me. He alone speaks the Words of Life.
When all of this medical craziness eventually drove me to my knees, reading the story of Job comforted me. The reason I was so intrigued with this book is because God pulls the curtain aside, so we may see what is going on behind the scenes. The story of Job blasts a giant hole into thinking that God only lets us experience happiness, cotton candy, and marshmallows!
We read that Satan approached God, and told Him that the only reason Job worships and trusts Him is because He put a protective hedge around him; Job was a prosperous farmer, had a large family, and had huge holdings of livestock. Job had been greatly blessed, making him a perfect target for Satan. God gave Satan permission to assault Job on every side. This would be Job’s greatest test. Would he cave under pressure and curse God, or would He remain faithful to Him?
“One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them. “Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan. Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.” Job 1: 6-7
Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant, Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.” Job 1: 8
Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God. You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But reach out and take everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” Job 1: 9-11
“All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence. Job 1: 12
Satan went to work. Job lost his children, his livestock, his farmhands, and his servants. He was devastated. Job was stripped down to his foundation, but that foundation was built on Almighty God. Satan still held to his opinion that Job was faithful to God only because of His blessings…
Satan replied to the Lord, “Skin for skin, a man will give up everything he has to save his life. But reach out and take away his health and he will surely curse you to your face!” Job 2: 4
“All right, do with him as you please,” the Lord said to Satan. “But spare his life.” Job 2: 5
God permitted Satan to attack Job physically, but He drew the line when it came to preserving his life. So Satan’s next step was to inflict physical suffering upon Job to prove his original accusation. He struck Job with terrible boils from head to foot. Despite these calamities—these personal attacks—Job still trusted in God.
A few of Job’s friends came to grieve with him. They told Job that he must be suffering because of some terrible sin he committed. They believed that good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. Bad things never happen to good people. Trouble never comes to those who love and obey God. They felt that their role was to persuade Job to repent of the hidden sin in his life causing his suffering.
The story of Job now takes a very interesting turn. Here comes a bystander, a young man named Elihu, who offers another explanation for the pain, by pointing out that God might be allowing it to purify Job. Elihu says suffering isn’t always sent to punish us; it’s mostly meant to correct and restore us, to get us on the right path and keep us there. He claimed he had the answer to Job’s question, which in turn is the same question humanity has asked throughout the ages, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
“For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings. He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride. He protects them from the grave from crossing over the river of death.” Job 33: 14-18
“If they are bound in chains and caught up in a web of trouble, he shows them the reason. He shows them their sins of pride. He gets their attention and commands that they turn from evil. But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer; for he gets their attention through adversity.” Job 36: 10, 15
We sin when we angrily ask with our clenched fists, “If God is in control, how could He let this happen?” Questioning like this mirrors a lack of trust. We’re unable to see beyond today, and we can’t know the reasons for everything that happens. We have to choose between doubt and trust. Will you trust God with all of your unanswered questions? Or, are you using what you can’t understand as an excuse for lack of trust? What does the above scripture say again?
“He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride; for he gets their attention through adversity.”
I was the queen of pride! I was certainly going down the wrong path. I was on the highway to hell, and was totally oblivious to it. Yeah, I grew up in religion. I knew about Jesus, but so does the Devil! I did what Satan told me… look out for number one and forget about Jesus! Because God speaks to us through dreams, let me share a dream with you that I used to have. I say used to, because I am certain this dream speaks about the way I was living before Jesus came on the scene…
It was always the same dream. The dream would always begin with me getting ready to leave my home for work. Before I would leave, I would make sure all of the windows and doors were locked, so nobody could break in and get access to my home and possessions. When I’d come home from work, I would always be met with an open door. The open door was evidence someone gained access to violate me and my things! No matter where I was living, or regardless of how many precautions I took to make my home safe from invasion, the intruder somehow always found a way in. I really believe this dream reveals how vulnerable I was. It so clearly speaks of how I had allowed the enemy to have free access to everything I owned. Satan and his demons did as they pleased.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:35
Honesty is the mark of a good writer. I’m going to be honest and say that some Christians erroneously believe that if God loves you, you won’t suffer. I heard that coming out of someone’s mouth at my church! At church! That is something that has the potential of stripping someone down to their emotional core; especially if someone is a new believer. Oh and by the way, especially if they’re sick in their bodies!
Please hear me when I say this. If you are sick in your body, and you’ve tried everything you could to alleviate yourself out of your illness and nothing works, AND you are a devout follower of Christ… realize that God is allowing you to physically suffer. I’ll say it again. God is allowing you to physically suffer. The only thing you can do is accept the situation and be determined to carry on the best you can. That’s the only way you will benefit from your darkness and captivity. Worrying about your situation or striving against what God has placed in your life will only tighten the cord that is binding you! Someone actually told me I was sick because I’m accepting Muscular Dystrophy. Wow, if I never accepted this as coming from the hand of God, I would be an emotional and spiritual wreck. Don’t be like Job’s buddies. Don’t judge anyone until you’ve walked in their shoes. Our problems cannot always be fixed, but they can be accepted as the will of God for us now, and later will be turned into something beautiful. Contentment in life happens when you know you are where you belong.
“For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.” 2 Timothy 2: 11
Table of Contents
Chapter One ……… Weaned from the World
Chapter Two ……… The Ministry of Comfort
Chapter Three ……. Waiting, is it really a Gift of Time?
Chapter Four……… My Journey from the Valley to the Mountain
Chapter Five ……… Scripture to Meditate on and Recite Back to God
Before we are placed in our life’s roll, we must be prepared for that which awaits us. There cannot be as so much of a hint of self-centered pride or self-exaltation. This doesn’t happen until we have been broken and come to the end of ourselves. Most of the time our life is shut down on the outside because God is performing spiritual surgery on the inner man, and because that change is so vital to enabling us to walk in our calling, God takes away all things that can be distractions to this work; a lot of our possessions, even people, can easily be turned into idols. God demands your full attention! What I mean by that is you are no longer able to get or have the things other people get or have so easily. He takes you out of your Egypt-the way that you determine in your heart life should be. And in turn, reforms you. It seems very cruel and unfair to have all of your earthly comforts and your normal ability to manage your life removed. We are stripped and made to feel the shame of our nakedness. But it’s really a severe mercy. God wants us to focus on learning from Him, and sometimes uses ways we think are cruel and harsh to call us to where He wants us to be. His heart is not cruel, but kind. What He’s after is growth of character and faith.
He wants to be the only source of everything in our lives. We need to understand that He is in control of everything concerning us. We must be certain that He is our only provider and not anyone or anything in the world that can satisfy us more than Him. We come to discover that if we don’t love God above all, we are truly not worthy to be His disciple. The wilderness teaches you to be free of your fear of man and need for approval. When we totally surrender our heart to God, that’s when He knows nothing else can take His place. The truth of James 4:4 echoes with confidence in our soul..
“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
I think the best way to tackle this subject of wilderness is to expound from experience. I’ve come to understand that God’s method is usually to give a vision or a dream first, but all hell usually breaks loose before the fulfillment of the dream occurs! Let us remind ourselves of the story of Joseph, and recall the story of his preparation in the wilderness.
Joseph often tended his father’s flocks with his half-brothers. He was their father’s favorite because Joseph was the son of Jacob’s old age, and that partiality separated him from the rest of his brothers. He was not only the favorite son, but the Bible says that he reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing. As a result, he was the object of envy and hatred amongst his brothers. They couldn’t even say a kind word to him.
The time came when God gave Joseph two dreams. Both dreams implied that he would become a great leader who would have authority over his brothers. The Bible says he promptly reported the details of those dreams to his brothers, and that caused them to hate him even more!
In a few days marks the fourteenth year I’ve been here in the wilderness. Let me tell you why I am and have always been drawn to the story of Joseph, by drawing some comparisons. Just like God gave Joseph dreams about his future, let me tell you about a vision God gave me many years ago. I believe God gave me this vision/promise to anchor my faith during the years life would get really tough. I tell you the truth when I say that hearing these words from God, and hiding them in my heart are the only thing that has kept me going all these years. The particular night the vision came, my heart was so very heavy with the panic and depression of this disease that was choking out the very life in me. Lying in bed that night, I gazed into the skylight above our bed and could only see one bright star…
“I am that bright star,” God whispered to my heart. At that moment dark clouds came across the skylight and completely covered the star. The sky was totally dark. “Your trials are going to be as thick as these clouds, making it impossible to see me, BUT I AM STILL THERE.” The clouds then rolled away and I could see the star again. He then told me, “Just as these clouds dissipated, yours will too.”
Joseph was just a teenager when his adversity began. He was thrown into a pit by his brothers, and then sold to Midianite slave traders. He was taken to Egypt and was then sold as a house servant to Potiphar, who was an official of the Pharaoh, captain of the guard. Because the LORD was with Joseph, whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper. Potiphar saw that Joseph undoubtedly had the favor of God, so Potiphar made him overseer of his house, and all that he had was put under Joseph’s authority. The LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake.
The Bible tells us that Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, but he resisted her brazen attempt at seduction because he was a godly man and had integrity. Potiphar’s wife was outraged, and falsely accused Joseph of rape. After Potiphar had gotten report of this, he took Joseph and put him into the dungeon, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. So you can say that poor Joseph found himself up to his neck in adversity! But Joseph prospers, even in the dungeon. God gave Joseph favor with the jailer, and he put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything happening in the dungeon.
God gave Joseph the ability to interpret dreams, and because of that gift he was able to interpret the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s officers; the chief butler and the chief baker. Because they both terribly offended Pharaoh in some way, they were thrown in prison, the same prison where Joseph was confined. They remained there for quite some time and Joseph was assigned to take care of them. When interpreting his dream, Joseph told the butler that it meant Pharaoh would take him out of the dungeon and return him to the position of his chief butler. The Bible tells us that Joseph then told the butler,
“But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon (Genesis 40:14-15).”
The dreams came to pass exactly according to Joseph’s interpretations. The butler was reinstated, but forgot all about Joseph and never gave him a second thought. Joseph rotted in jail for two more years. Two whole years!
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” Pro. 13:12
Just imagine Joseph’s elation at the butler’s release. He probably thought he had a really good chance of getting out and I’m sure he got his hopes up, only to be forgotten! Through this, God was waiting for Joseph to totally surrender his dreams to Him. From being disappointed time after time, Joseph finally turned from hoping in man and no longer looked for any earthly help. He learned to trust in God only. He painstakedly learned that the temporal things are not to be depended upon. That’s a hard thing for us to really absorb!
My hope has been dashed time-after-time. Let me just share some of these times with you. I think you’ll try anything when you’re desperate enough!
A few years ago, I read about braces that promised better balance and stability for walking (my balance is so bad, I literally have none). Actually the man who made these braces painted a very positive picture of sunny days and miracles. I couldn’t wait to have them, and was so hopeful. I took the matter into my own hands and wasted no time getting them castered and measured specifically for me. To make a long story short, my husband and I commuted to Baltimore at least five or six times, each trip about 300 miles, only to get them and discover how ridiculous they actually were! Needless to say, I had a pity-party and felt sorry for myself. I later threw them in my closet along with all the other gadgets that didn’t work.
Note about self-pity… satan is standing behind you laughing scornfully when you complain and pity yourself. Complaining gives a foothold to the devil. For now he has attained his goal, you have fallen prey to an idol, your own ego!
I have a Baclofen Pump for my severe spasticity (spasticity is just like it sounds; its rigidity and tightness in the muscles, with the added perk of involuntary muscle spasms. Walking is impossible with severe spasticity). It’s a pump that is surgically implanted below the abdomen. There is a thin, flexible catheter that delivers a constant stream of Baclofen (a muscle relaxer) to the area around my spine that controls my legs. Anyway, I had high hopes again because I was led to believe things were going to be so much better with this pump, I’d be able to climb mountains! Almost ten years later, I still can’t even put one foot in front of the other because my legs are too heavy. It feels like I have buckets of cement on my feet.
“Could this weight vest be the answer?” My hope has been deferred too many times to count and I refused to strive anymore. I resolved to let God be in control, and whatever works-works, and vice-versa. The weight vest did help my balance. I could stand still more easily, but as soon as I moved… forget it!
And there are many, many more medical/physical false-starts.
God will often times let things die; He will let a situation get utterly impossible in the natural because when He steps in and does a miracle, there is not anything or anyone who can take credit but Him! God shares His glory with nobody. Think about that… He let Lazarus die before He raised him back to life. And as a result, many believed in Him! Many false starts and many deaths to a vision really has a way of hammering this truth home. As I write this, these words are screaming… Don’t believe the hype, only trust God. He knows what He’s doing.
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 NIV
As far as spiritual dead-ends are concerned, several years ago I started a Christian support group for people with chronic illness. I was ministering to some women, but after a little while the group just mysteriously dwindled away. The support group was resurrected a few times, and I really thought each time would be the time the group would explode! But I was wrong. I’ve also had the chance to speak at a few churches about God’s sovereignty in the midst of chronic illness/disability. Again, this is where I was thinking God would surely use me to speak about the relationship of Him and adversity. I was wrong, again. He obviously has another idea for me somewhere down the line. Having your hope deferred is a constant reminder that only heaven can satisfy – not this present world.
It seems that the things that work for others never work for me. My friend Nancy says that she and I are two zebras in a herd of cows! Funny but true. Pathetic.
Chapter One – Laying the Groundwork
Chapter Two – Tried by the Word
Chapter Three – He Has Made Me Fruitful
Chapter Four – Grace and Courage Under Pressure
Muscular Dystrophy Messed Up My Life and Made Me Whole - Volume One
From Darkness to Light!
Muscular Dystrophy Messed Up My Life and Made Me Whole - Volume Two
Spiritual Riches of Greater Intimacy with God
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness - Volume Three
Diamonds of God’s Truth in the Wilderness