Welcome to 2021. How are you doing with it? Are you finding out that your life still has a lot of uncertainty, unanswered questions, and even fear? A bummer, right?
Most of us are still trying to shake off 2020. Loss of job, loss of a friend or loved one. Mine was the dreaded health scare of Covid.
It snuck up on me. I had been washing my hands, wearing a mask, not venturing in public if I didn’t need to, even cautiously visiting family and friends. At least my wife and I thought we were being careful. Our house’s Covid stole through the back door when a family member contracted it from church.
The 2-week window progressed as expected. Fevers. Sleep. Sleep. More sleep. We all escaped extremely bad symptoms until day 14, when I began a 5-week journey of acute nausea. I could not eat or do anything that required focus. I just sat, some days with my eyes closed. I couldn’t even look at the pine trees swaying in the wind without getting nauseated.
It was a journey no one would invite. Or could ignore. Though I want to put it all behind me now, I cannot forget how it impacted me.
What follows is my journal of what I faced about myself, and what I told God I would not forget.
1. I Don’t Control Much
Sure, there are things I can control. But if you have been around a while, you know we can’t control what people may say or do. I can’t control that I get one year older every year. And I sure don’t have absolute control over my health. That was humbling.
My life became sitting on the couch trying not to vomit. My prayer narrowed to God, get rid of this. I even said please! Prayer was a good start. It reminded me Who was in control, and it helped me to refocus my priorities.
2. Back to Basics
My wife and I were forced to read the ingredients of everything because my stomach was very picky. Citric acid became a bad word. Just thinking of other foods made me gag. Not a good thing when you’re looking into a barf bag too much already. New parts of my diet were B-R-A-T … bananas, rice, applesauce, toast (and dry toast at that). They almost made me a brat! Those items had not been part of my regular food intake pre-Covid, but if I wanted to get better, I had to eat them to build my body back up.
I also discovered that my faith was weak and needed a new regimen too, if I was going to win the daily battles that need strong faith. I’ve preached many sermons in my career, but the Lord took me back to His basic desire for my own life. In Luke 9:23-26, Jesus simply says:
I thought I was doing pretty good with that. But God used this trial for a much different result. I had to admit that I was weak both physically and spiritually. My daily battles were taking a toll on my body (I lost 25 pounds) and on my faith (I lost faith on bad days).
Jesus says Follow, but He doesn’t tell me where or for how long. Faith is not just trusting Him but depending on Him for whatever I face that day. Like food, I needed to digest what faith is all about. That was hard.
3. Faith Is Waiting
Some days in my sickness were better; other days were awful. I was lusting after my wife’s spaghetti (and most of her dinner portions). But even more difficult than that, enough bad days stacked up that I was close to despair. The end did not seem in sight.
In my daily time with God, I was reading from God’s Word in 1 & 2 Peter, books about trials and suffering. In his second letter, Peter wants us to know how to endure. He wrote In 2 Peter 1:2:
May God give you more & more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.
I wanted to be rid of Covid and its clutches on my body. Immediately. God wanted to add much more important things in my spirit. Just as I was carefully eating and taking medicine to help me overcome nausea, I needed to consider His greater sustenance if I wanted to get better. To ignore these necessities would keep me sick in my soul. This was not His prescription for my life.
The steaks and french toast and ice cream could wait. I needed the pure goodness that God desired me to have. That takes time.
4. I Will Believe
My sickness was during the Christmas Season, and we were listening to Handel’s Messiah. I was struck by the song “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth,” words taken from the Old Testament saint, Job, in his darkest days.
I knew I needed to re-believe that God’s Word is true even in the bleak days. I wanted to have faith that by His grace, He would raise me up. But I can’t take the credit for turning the corner in my own dark days. It was then that my mind cleared enough to realize how others had been praying so fervently for me.
They became my lifeline to hope. They carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. They prayed for me in specific and powerful ways. They sent me Christian music and favorite Scriptures of theirs. They stirred my soul and made me weep. God used their inspirations to set my feet again on solid ground. As they reached out to me, they helped me to reach out to the promises of God.
The closing verses of Isaiah 40 say,
The Lord is the everlasting God. He gives power to the weak. Those who wait upon [trust in] the Lord will find new strength.
Even when I didn’t have the strength to believe, God strengthened me anyway. In the loneliness of sickness, God gave me Himself and His people. You might expect me as a prayer pastor to say that I needed others’ prayers, but I learned this in a deeper way. Other people’s prayers speak differently to me than my own … and when I’m feeling down, theirs are better!
My spirit was healing faster than my body. It changed my whole outlook. My future was becoming brighter as God then blessed me with a very special passage from 1 Peter 5:10-11 …
After you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation. All power to Him forever! Amen.
I was on the road to recovery in more ways than one. Soon afterward, my physical health began to change. God used my weakness to teach me His eternal ways. He truly is the Healer! That’s His grace.
If you are going through a trying time right now, visit our prayer wall to be strengthened by the prayer of others.