Thursday, July 02, 2009

Perspective on Life (A view of Christ through death and disease)

In recent months I (Mike) have been faced with numerous friends, neighbors, and family who are facing significant life crises -- everything from stage 4 cancer, to Lyme disease, to gallbladder disease, and even amputations. Through websites like Caringbridge.com, Carepages.com, and even Facebook.com, their struggles are lived out in very public ways. They are struggling through questions that quite frankly I’ve never had to face in my own life.

My wife Leslie has been encouraging me to write some of my thoughts on the topic, but I’ve felt that I’m the wrong one to write. I’m not the one who is going through these things. But, my friend Polly just wrote something that made me say, “I have to write.” Polly has Lyme disease and it has caused severe Autonomic Dysfunction.

Polly and her husband Jack work for Student Venture, the jr. high and high school ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. I worked with them for a number of years from a distance (resourceing them) and at conferences.

As I understand it, Lyme disease (caused by a bacteria) when treated, actually causes greater symptoms of the disease as the bacteria are dying off (a process called Herxing). I cannot imagine the hard balance between experiencing a worsening of the symptoms but also killing off the bacteria that cause the disease in the first place. For Polly, any illness is magnified, as her immune system can’t respond normally. Needless to say, this causes life to look significantly different.

Polly’s perspective on life with Lyme disease (along with the example of so many of my other friends who are suffering) inspires me to live differently.

Here are Polly’s words:

…as i began to pray the Holy Spirit quickly met me and said, "You can worry about how this disease will affect you next week, five years from now...or you can trust me and live abundantly where i have you each and every day."

Certainly i grieve this awful disease and wonder how much less active or shorter my life may be because of it, but i would much rather rest in His peace and enjoy what He gives me than be bitter, hurting mom and wife.i don't know, i guess when the Lord said that i just got two pictures of myself, each 20 or so years from now. One was as a bitter woman bemoaning the fact that i can't run around in the woods with my grandkids as i would like to, worried if i would live to see their next birthdays. The other was one on a porch in a cabin in the woods. I'm laying in a lounge chair surrounded by my kids and grandkids laughing, snuggling reading books and marveling at God's creation which we are surrounded by. Who of you by worrying can add even an hour to your life? i choose scene two.

As Polly stated later, she wants to make clear that “choosing scene two is only by the grace of God and it is a moment by moment dependence.”

As I look at my own life, I have nothing to complain about compared to people like Polly, or my friend Barry who has finally had to have his foot partially amputated due to a motorcycle accident over ten years ago. I don’t suffer in any way shape or form in the way they do.

My friend Valerie is another example. Several years ago, she had an emotional break down that caused her life to come to a screeching halt. But the Lord did amazing things and healing was brought about. More recently she was diagnosed with stage four cancer. One thing after another has hit in Valerie’s life and yet she offers these words:

Does our life sound stressful? It has been. Have you read the book of Job in the Old Testament? Here’s a guy who just kept getting bad news. By the end of all the terrible news, he is grieving his losses and even depressed, but he never curses God for his circumstances. Most of the rest of us would ask, “Where does it stop?” The truth is, it may not stop, but from the beginning of my breakdown God has been teaching me that He is my Loving Father who suffers with us, and for us. Healing our souls and growing our love for Him are top priorities for God. In the midst of a lot of hardships and trials over the last few years, God has shown his faithfulness to us, and we are thankful for His continued pursuit of us. He has wept with us as we grieve, and rejoices with us, as we are encouraged.

As I look at these friends and the struggles they are going through, I loathe my own attitudes. How in the world can I feel bad about my own circumstances? My circumstances are nothing compared to these. The amazing thing is that Polly, Barry, Valerie, and I all have a personal relationship with God that sustains us in our present circumstances.

Psalm 46:1-3

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

I don’t know about you, but these examples make me want to choose to live my life differently. When “tough” times come, I choose not to complain but to embrace the path that God is taking me on. I will choose to embrace the moment so that, like Polly’s example, I will choose scene two.

To read more about these friends I have mentioned, you may visit their Caring Bridge websites:

Polly Noonan http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/momoffive/

Barry Atwell http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/barryatwell/

Valerie Yarbro http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/valerieyarbro/

2 comments:

Laura Rosecrans said...

Wow, Mike. Hopefully this will make sense thru the tears. It's been 2 months since Dale's passing. Just enough time for everyone to move on with their lives and for us to finally get enough rest that we can start to feel again. And unfortunately, I have done a lot more feelin sorry for myself than anything. Thank you for reminding me Who is there to support and encourage me to keep on keeping on. And Who will never leave me or forsake me. I needed that reminder today. Thank you! God has used you today, my friend.

Jill said...

Thanks, Mike for expressing part of what's been on my mind on this topic as well. I pray I can approach such life events with half the graciousness and faith that I see in my friends. God bless.