There’s a line from Fiddler on the Roof that keeps running through my head these days. It’s something I think we all feel from time to time when things go wrong. It’s how we feel when too many things go wrong for too long a time. That kind of struggle, that kind of suffering can wear away at your strength not to mention your faith. And it’s that kind of struggle my family has been going through for the last few years.
The line is: “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?” As I remember, it’s somewhere near this scene called Dear God featured here on this YouTube video. Ever felt this way?
After struggling with several chronic illnesses for decades, recovering (somewhat) from a car accident while looking for a place to live two years ago, moving across the country for a job my husband ultimately lost not even a year later, getting through gallbladder surgery and the bills that came with it, being told my husband was over qualified and going without a steady income for over 18 months, struggling financially and with three businesses that were each meeting various obsticals, suffering near insanity from 17 years of peri menopause, and living through another surgery to remove my ovary and the cyst that moved in without an invitation, I was beginning to feel a lot like Tevye. Then, just the other day, I was told I may need a third surgery to remove a probable growth on my parathyroid. That would be three surgeries in two years! At this point, I am wondering if I qualify for Frequent Flyer Miles on the Friends and Family Surgical Program.
When we go through so much for so long, we pray to God to help us understand, to help us cope, to give us strength, and, let’s face it, to complain. It’s not like He doesn’t already know we don’t appreciate our circumstances. He wants us to come talk to Him. He wants us to trust Him, often even if we can’t possibly understand why we need to go through what seems completely unnecessary and unfair. It’s at these times when we feel like Tevye, that we are being chosen for struggle. We feel like the walls are closing in around us, that our head is almost under water, and there’s a big Ogre sitting on our escape route.
We understand that sometimes God says yes and sometimes God says no, but we don’t often truly understand that sometimes God says the dreaded word, “WAIT.” I don’t like waiting. I’m not good at it. I have no patience and I don’t want to pray for any. I want things to change NOW. I want God to take away my struggle and I want Him to do it NOW. I don’t want to pray for God to get me through. That takes too long! But lately, God has made me wait. Things are not resolved. The walls are still closing in and the Ogre is laughing…at least that’s how I feel.
How, then, can we find comfort in the chaos? I found the answer, but I didn’t like it and you won’t either because it isn’t easy. Psalm 119:50 says, “This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.” The Bible tells us that Jesus died for our salvation. It’s not this life here on earth that Jesus died for. It’s our eternal life. The life here on earth is full of sin and hardship and struggle. We often expect that life should be easy down here, but nobody has an easy life this side of heaven. And some of us struggle greatly for an extended period of time and we grow weary of praying and not hearing the answers from the Lord. We may even feel like we’re nagging God. “Hey, Lord! Remember, me? I’m still in a mess down here. Now would be a good time!”
I’ve been in tough situations before. Some were short and sweet and some struggles were longer, but God had always gotten me through and actually, like Job, I came out better on the other side. After it was over, I could see God’s hand in all of it. I could justify my struggle by understanding what I had been waiting for. Not this time. Decades of health and financial issues, 18 months of joblessness, and surgeries I could definitely have done without just added insult to even more injury and I was complaining to God on a regular basis.
Though, none of my struggles are over (my husband is still out of work, I still struggle with chronic issues and that third surgery is looming), I have learned a few things about struggle along the way. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m closer than I ever was. I have been reading several devotionals each day and I’m feeling a bit of joy again even though I didn’t wake up cured and I never found a million dollars in my mailbox.
1. God wants us to talk to Him daily, even if it’s to complain. At first I didn’t want to pray or talk to God because I didn’t want to complain. But someone told me it’s not like God didn’t know what was in my heart at the time. Initially, complain is all I could do, but later on I was able to be thankful for what He had provided, for the little things along the way, for people who took the time to call or bless us in various ways, and for various ways in which we were able earn some money here and there. It didn’t solve our problem, but it did help me to not feel so alone and it did help us pay some bills and expenses when we had trouble meeting them. Tevye complained to God and Job complained as well. But they were also grateful for what God had done in their lives.
Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.” The more we talk to the Lord, the more we will be able to find peace enough to ask ourselves why we are not at peace when God is a loving God. Because we can be giving thanks to Him and others for the blessings we DO have-even if we struggle with a lot.
2. Being thankful for the little things helped me feel less stressed about the bigger things. It’s hard to see the blessings at first, but as soon as I began to notice them, I saw them everywhere. I saw blessings in my children who were quick to help in any way they could. I saw blessings from the Lord for my surgeries which were both amazing successes. My recent surgery to remove my ovary was so amazing I NEVER took a single pain pill. Not one that was prescribed nor anything over the counter. There was NO pain for almost an entire day following my surgery! And what followed was something I could deal with. I bounced back fairly quickly with just some residual fatigue which plagues me to this day, several days post surgery. But I’m getting better every day and it could have been so much worse.
Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” I’ve noticed that as I’m more thankful, I’m also less worried about what could happen. At the moment, my husband (who was a higher paid Corporate Controller for a multinational corporation), is now working as a laborer at our church. I have no idea when my husband will get a job that will pay our bills, but I am less stressed about it than I used to be. Our old pastor came to visit us when he was here for a pastor’s conference. He told us to do what we can and that’s all we can do. The rest is God’s problem. LOL Because only He can handle the rest.
3. Doing God’s work helps me focus on the positive. One of the devotionals I read said to do for others even while in the chaos of struggle and that will help take the focus off the pain. I have no idea when things will change for us, but I don’t have much time to focus on that because I’m busy doing what I believe God wants of me. I’m writing this blog to help uplift and support those who also struggle with chronic illness and issues who may be losing hope and faith. I’m working on a new product for one of our businesses and I’m also working to create a workshop that is a new ministry. I’ll share more about that later.
1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith,being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” The more I concentrate on others: my customers and those who need to be uplifted, the more I find I don’t have time to think about what could happen. I’m just moving all day to do the most I can myself as I learn to trust that God is working the rest out all on His own. And in that I can praise and honor God, the Father.
James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” I used to ask God why He couldn’t just choose someone else to go through these struggles. After all, I’m full up right now. I used to wonder how I could count all this as joy when things all around me feel like they are falling apart. I’m finding that, the more I share with others (not about how God worked a miracle in my life, but about how to handle the chaos that is struggle), the more others are uplifted by what I share.
Maybe it’s just me, but when I read about Job being blessed more by God after his struggles than he was before, I don’t feel as uplifted as I do when I read that Mary Marshmellow is still in her mess, but is able to see the joy. Reading Job does give me hope, but just because God healed Job and gave him blessings only means He CAN work a miracle in MY life. It doesn’t mean He will. There are plenty of people who were never healed. Paul was never healed. Many people go through life with worse chronic issues and illnesses than I have and are never healed. But if I can see how to be uplifted and can uplift others WHILE I’m in the mess, then the chaos at least serves some purpose. And if it does serve some purpose, then maybe that’s why God didn’t choose someone else. God may heal you. He may yet heal me. He may turn our financial mess around…or not. Either way, I need to find find the joy in it to see the best in a bad situation. Just maybe, with me listening for the best, He’ll show me a way out.
I’d love to hear your experience with long term struggle and faith. Are you struggling now? And how can I pray for you?