Wednesday, April 24, 2013

You will waste your suffering if...

This post (part of this series) was written on Sunday, April 7, after a vet visit that significantly impacted how I view suffering. The original article was talked about in a church sermon that morning, and while the pastor only touched on a few of the topics I was inspired to read the entire selection. In doing so I felt God asking me to process my experiences and use it as a framework for reflecting on what I had learned (At that point).

Although there is much I could add to my musings (in the two weeks since it's original conception), I've chosen to leave it in the original form. Part of this process has been documenting my reactions in real time (or as close as I can get). It's important to me not to fast forward through the growth process, and to recognize each step along the way.

1.       You will waste your suffering if you do not believe it was designed for you by God.
a.       So many things have happened in the past week to show me how far God had to bring me, and he used Lilly’s illness to do so. Without her illness occurring how and when it did, I wouldn’t have felt the need to reach out to my friends. Without her getting sick again tonight, I would haven’t been back at the vet’s office and had the opportunity to witness to his son. Without having something ‘incurable’ I wouldn’t be in a position where the only explanation for her healing was God. Going through this experience has also put in a position to better empathize with my families at work. Let me be clear, I am NOT comparing my rabbit’s sickness with the illness of a child. However, watching her suffer, having to make decisions for her well-being without much knowledge to base it off of, just my gut, I feel like I have had a small taste of what my patients go through. I can minutely appreciate their struggles
2.       You will waste your suffering if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
a.       “The blessing comes in what God does for us, with us, through us”. I struggle with this one a lot. It’s hard not to feel ‘punished’ through this experience, although I can see how it has been useful in causing a new level of maturation in my soul.

3.       You will waste your suffering if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
a.       I’ve been guilty of trying to research online everything I can find about her condition for exactly this reason, I want the comfort of knowing that there are cases of animals coming through. But here’s the kicker- it doesn’t matter what the ‘odds’ are, if God wants to heal her, He will. When she was first sick, her creatinine levels were so high she should have died. But she didn’t. She kept eating. Therefore, I have to believe that even though the odds look dire right now, God is greater than those odds.

4.       You will waste your suffering if you refuse to think about death
a.       Having Lilly’s death as a real possibility has allowed me value the time I have with her. I appreciate every single second because they are so precious to me.  To quote my new favorite book, A Ring of Endless Light: "If we knew each morning that there was going to be another morning, and on and on and on, we'd tend not to notice the sunrise, or hear the birds, or the waves rolling into the shore. We'd tend not to treasure our time with the people we love. Simply the awareness that our mortal lives had a beginning and will have an end enhances the quality of our living. Perhaps it's even more intense when we know the termination of the body is near, but it shouldn't be."

5.       You will waste your suffering if you think that “Beating” this situation means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ
a.       I keep wanting to think that overcoming this situation is about Lilly beating her illness and living an unspecified amount of time in the future. I have to face a stark reality that overcoming this may mean coming to terms with myself and restructuring my relationship with Christ. It feels unfair that her life is hanging in the balance. But maybe this is not a case of God sentencing her to death to teach me a lesson, maybe God is using her death (which will happen anyways) to give me a chance to grow and learn.

6.       You will waste your suffering if you spend too much time reading about it and not enough time reading about God.
a.       It’s interesting that my internet has been out all week. Obnoxious.. but maybe it is for the better. I can’t go online and read and obsess, instead I have felt a real need to read my Bible. To read scripture. To pray. To read other people’s insights on God. As much as it is tempting to consume myself with researching all the best methods to take her through this, I have to accept that building myself up in God, and using the advice given to me by my perfectly capable vet, is a better option.

7.       You will waste your suffering if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
a.       This is definitely one of the areas where I can see God really pulling me forward. I have reached my breaking point and have begun to recognize that I need support moving forward. Tonight, when I was taking Lilly to the vet, I knew I needed to call and ask my friend to meet me. She was more than happy to support me, and I am glad I was humble enough to admit my need. I have being so broken and vulnerable, but God has used this experience to show me how many amazing people there are in my life.

8.       You will waste your suffering if you grieve as those who have no hope
a.       Last Sunday, Easter, my dad commented in his sermon that the thing that made the early Christians different was their lack of fear in death. Rome lived by fear, and they corralled those who opposed them by threatening their lives. This approach didn’t work with Christians because they had no fear in death. Christ has conquered death and there was nothing this world could do threaten that bond. I struggle with this.. I just admitted to my friend tonight my fear in losing Lilly, my desire to fight for her life, has made me question my own beliefs. If I truly believe everything I say I do, that death is not the end, then why am I so scared? Why is this loss causing me to project into future (human) losses? It’s a struggle I’m still working on.

9.   You will waste your suffering if you treat sin as casually as before.
a.       I’ll admit that this one doesn’t’ seem quite as appropriate, but it has made me very aware of moral code. I made a deal with god to fast from sugar and alcohol until the situation resolved. I feel so much more in tune with trying to live up to God’ expectations.

10.  You will waste your suffering if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ
a.       If nothing else the unique circumstances of this situation have put me in a place where I am more than willing to give God the credit. For God to heal her from her kidney infection was a miracle not explained by modern medicine. For God to provide for her vet care this evening  is beyond pure coincidence. I have to make sure that I continue to keep my focus forward and on the right things

There was a quote today in church about how God only gives us the courage that we need as we need it. He doesn’t give us the courage to deal with tomorrow’s problems, because we need to focus on today. I’m clinging to this thought as a life line. If she is to get sicker tomorrow, if she were to die tomorrow, I will be devastated, but I will deal with it then. For now, God has given me the courage to work one step at a time, and Im content to wait for his guidance on each step. He has shown me his path, and I CHOOSE to trust that he will continue this way. The positivity project was about me believing God has a purpose for everything. I may not see it now, but I am choosing to cling to that truth. It’s all I have right now.

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Thanks for taking this journey with me! I always love to hear your thoughts and promise to respond whenever possible.