Joy is altogether possible in the face of sorrow. “The joy of the Lord is my strength” is seen in Nehemiah 8:10. These words came on the cusp of having fought tirelessly so as to rebuild the city wall. They toiled and, simultaneously, stayed prepared for battle. Exhaustion must have been merciless during that time. Nevertheless, they rejoiced recognizing that, literally, joy in the Lord was the strength that kept them going so as to succeed in their mission. Joy was their hope, their power in duress.
So it is with parents of chronically ill children, be it physical, mental, or emotional illness. Only in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ can anyone endure such a task as watching their children suffer, taking them here and there for treatment, trying new diets and/or medication, and so on. I cling to the words of Roman 15:13 which reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
I retain joy and hope in Christ in the inner most part of my being while, on the surface, I feel intense sorrow for my child’s anguish. Just as the torrents of rain, wind, and hail pound upon the surface of a well’s water, the deepest part of the well is unmoved by the turmoil. My spirit-man (the inner most part of me), which is one with Holy Spirit, is unmoved by the elements which cause temporary sadness.
Christ is my hope, both for my child’s wellbeing, mine and our family. For example, Sophia was doing well on the new meds until she contracted an infection. One round of antibiotics made it a bit better but was insufficient. Yesterday, we discovered she has an infection in her bones called orthomyelitis. She’s been in terrible pain with bizarre and never before experienced symptoms. She cries a lot. They’ve put her on a 21 day regimen of antibiotics and may possibly need IV antibiotics. These are the very meds which have caused severe and chronic stomach troubles. It feels as though we’re on a hamster wheel and can’t figure out how to exit.
Notwithstanding, what I feel is not aligned with the promises of God. I have living hope in my God, for He cares for her. I believe she is healed. I have faith, not in what my eyes see, but in who my God is. I cling to His promise that, what Satan means against her for evil, He will turn for her good because we love Him. Curses will turn into blessings. As I have stated in most all my blogs and books: God. Is. Faithful. Always. I refuse to lose faith or sight of the sovereignty of the Almighty. This is my power. This is my strength. This is my endurance to the end.
I’m baffled it’s already been three weeks since last I blogged, but that’s how it goes when you have a child who is perpetually dealing with various illnesses. I’m writing today just to share my heart. I think, no, I know there is a misconception floating around that those who are followers of Christ are never down, never upset, bothered, or affected by their surroundings. As a Christian author and minister, I teach with voracity how to overcome the obstacles of life and I purpose to live that which I preach to others.
Notwithstanding, people of the deepest levels of faith have bad days. Just because we function in absolute trust in the Lord does not mean we’re bubbly and overflowing with positivity like we live in a bubble. The bottom line is, there are days I cry or rather, days I want to cry but literally have no opportunity to do so. There are days when I am just shy of being overwhelmed by the situation. Case in point, Sophia has been throwing up 11 or 12 weeks to date. In that time, I’ve attended multiple meetings with the school, an attorney, doctors, and the superintendent in the attempt to fight the school system so as to keep them from calling truancy (which was successful), dealing with losing our insurance due to Michael having lost his job of 20 years the end of December, attempt to pay bills with money we do not possess because his new job won’t render any real money until May, run back and forth to MUSC (2 hours away) for multiple doc appointments, run a household as well as minister to others.
With all that, I have zero time with my husband – ZERO. Frankly, I miss him. He’s working long hours so as to build a sales clientele and, by the time he comes home, we try to spend time together as a family and then everyone passes out. We have lost all our saving paying for doctors and medication along with the loss of his job. In our nearly 16 years of marriage, we have had 1 vacation and that was a trip to the beach with two two-year-olds…not what I would call a vacation as that is a lot of work! Life is hard enough with a normal setting with healthy kids, but life with a chronically ill child – I have no words. I cannot properly express the exhaustion, sorrow, and altogether madness of dealing with the day to day. No one could possibly understand other than someone in these shoes.
Here is the “so what?” No, we are not to remain in a funk or depression as that is not of God. We are not to spread our sorrows to any listening ear. Yes, we are allowed days where we can admit to the difficulties. Confess there is a present struggle to someone you can trust who won’t be judgmental and will lend godly counsel as needed. Sometimes we simply need a friendly ear and prayer.
God is faithful. God is good and great and kind and merciful. Above all, God is loving. Knowing this, I am sustained. Knowing this, I am at peace. Knowing this, I can push through the worst of days. Knowing this, I maintain the Living Hope, which is Jesus Christ. Knowing this, I can allow myself a moment to cry or even a moment to be frustrated without beating myself with guilt for having a bad moment. The best of people can have the worst of days. Cut yourself some slack and then allow the hand of God to raise you in spirit, soul, body and mind. He is faithful.
I Peter 1:3-4: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.
Caring for a chronically ill child is marital stress. Ladies and gentlemen, this is no joke for the strongest of marriages! Trying to find alone-time to spend with one another is like searching for a needle in a haystack. If found, attempting to have the energy to enjoy one another’s company without falling asleep tout de suite is virtually impossible! People, such as in our situation, who are caring for a sick child nearly 24/7/365 scarcely have a moment alone for themselves, much less for their spouse. It is sad, but all too true. It could easily crumble the most virile of marriages. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:
- Purpose to steal a moment here and there with a touch, a wink, a conversation, a text; find whatever is intimate between you and your spouse. These little nuances are where your marriage will be sustained until you have actual quality time to spend with one another.
- Always say “I love you” regardless of how exhausting our day has been. Never neglect one another even if you’re bone tired. The little things matter.
- Stay attractive even when you want to slob out every moment of every day. Seriously, this is a thing! For me, I put on make-up, do my hair and put on clothes (not a bathrobe!) regularly (though I miss a day here and there), even when I know I won’t be leaving the house that day. It is important that I maintain who I am even though it feels like I’m completely swallowed in care-giving.
- Find something to watch you both can enjoy in between the stopping to attend your kid’s needs. Togetherness, even sporadically, is more important than you may think.
- Remind yourself you are not a “team” as that would depict two separate entities. You are, rather, “one” as Christ has brought you together as such. Do not function separately together, but together as in “there is no divide” – you are a united front.
- Share the responsibility even if one has a larger role than the other. Don’t be afraid to allow your spouse to help – this is vital to your sanity as well as your marriage.
It is of the utmost importance to remind yourself you are in this together and you must face life’s challenges together united as one. Otherwise, it is all too easy to internally go your separate ways without even realizing. The busyness of life is hard enough but, with a chronically ill child in the mix, the busyness can become an insurmountable barrier like the Great Wall of China. Find the time to say “I love you” and, better yet, to show “I love you.” Don’t allow anything to come between you and your spouse. Pray, laugh, cry, aid you child, as one. Above all, put on hope, faith and love in Christ as a united front; this is where you will find your peace and encouragement.
Ecclesiastes 4:9: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
“Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41, NAS).”
“And those being in the flesh are not able to please God (Romans 8:8, NAS).”
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)
“My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your word (Psalm 119:28, NAS).”
The fleshly nature of every human ever to walk the Earth is the same: it wants what it wants and it is weak in every way. One person may appear better than another, but rest assured, all flesh is unholy, unrighteous and is weak even when it appears the most powerful and strong. Galatians spells out the evidence of the flesh:
- sexual immorality
- fits of anger
- things of like nature
There isn’t a moral enough person on the planet that has not, at some point, operated in at least one of the evidences of the natural man. Because of the rampant weaknesses of the flesh, why would anyone assume they have the power to be strong enough to overcome temptations, weaknesses, or tribulations? Strength is not a part of the flesh, contrary to popular belief. We’re taught to be strong, be tough, as though the flesh can possibly (in and of itself) muster enough power to endure the pitfalls of this condemned, Satan-run world.
Sure, it can definitely have the appearance of strength; after all, it also has the appearance of life even though Jesus crucified the nature of the flesh of all mankind. The Bible tells us we have all been crucified into Christ’s death (all are dead in sin), but not all are resurrected in the life of Christ. The flesh is so weak that, in fact, the first people created in God’s image lived in utopia and still could not control the desires of wicked, weak flesh. There, Adam and Eve stood with power to subdue the entire Earth, but that wasn’t enough. The fleshly nature, at the first sight of temptation, longed for more and purposed to take what it desired even though death was their fate.
We should never be surprised at the ultimate frailty of our flesh because, at it’s core, it can’t be anything else. So, yes, we can have the outward façade of strength; just don’t be astounded when it suddenly crumbles under the pressures of this life. Christ is our only hope, our only strength, our only possible solace in time of trouble. Throughout this book, I have inserted several passages from my first book, What Was God Thinking? Why Adam had to Die, because the topic at hand is in direct correlation to dying to the flesh.
Chapter 2, When All My Strength has Failed
Aside Posted on Updated on
Galatians 5:1, 13, 16-18, 25 (NAS): It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery…you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh…But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another…if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law…If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Also in Matthew 16:24-25, we read, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself…’” To utterly deny one’s self is death. In short, “dying” in this sense is not physically dying and going to be with the Lord in heaven, but rather it is a spiritual term. It means sacrificing all of self to the point of self being completely obsolete so as to be filled with and directed by the Spirit of the Living God.
The success of anyone’s walk with God here on earth is contingent upon the reality of these two conditions:
1. Christ is in my life
2. Christ replaced my life.
Some would argue these are the same, but I assure you that the difference is paramount – its bondage vs. freedom. I’ve lived both ways and, now that Christ has replaced my life, I have total freedom instead of perpetual bondage of the Law. The problem with condition one is that there are two lives warring for power in one residence; everyone knows that war is exhausting!
Condition two is peace. It is the recognition and acceptance of the death of self (fleshly nature) and, in such death, the person is emptied and available to receive the full life of Christ and allow Christ to do all that needs doing in the earth through them. The former is constant struggling and the latter is perpetual peace. If anyone desires to be at peace regardless of the circumstances of life, choose the latter.
Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow Him; aka death to the nature of the flesh (Adam’s nature). Time and time again Christ followers are instructed to die to self. Just as Jesus died physically, the spiritual representation here is undeniable. Christ was the ultimate sacrifice, yet He commands those who follow Him to take up the same cross, only in a spiritual sense. We are to do as He – die to self that God may rule.
Since we are all born physically into Adam’s sinful nature, the only way to expunge the tainted blood is to die. Once we die, we can then have a new life; no one can live two lives simultaneously. We must give up our “life” (all the desires the flesh/natural man) while dwelling in human form so as to become the physical manifestation of Jesus over and over. Romans 8:13 plainly states, “if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
This is not a suggestion! Either our natural man is active (though technically dead), or the Spirit of God in us is alive. Only one life can rule. It’s imperative to understand what God requires of us so as to effectively expand the Kingdom of God here on earth; after all, that is our heavenly assignment as ambassadors in Christ.
We must daily die to self and allow Christ through Holy Spirit to be our actual life. It’s the difference in Christ’s life taking residence in a part of our lives (carnal Christianity) and Christ replacing our life (spiritual intimate relationship). The latter is where Christ calls us. Let’s read I Corinthians 15:
I Corinthians 15:31-32, 35-36, 42-44, 49 (NAS): I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me?…But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies… So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body… Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
Verse 49 well expresses it: we were born earthly, but bear the image of the heavenly. Once in Christ, we instantaneously cease being of the human race (earth) and become of the heavenly race (Kingdom of God). In this, we must understand that God does not want to “change” our lives, rather He wants us to willingly “exchange” our lives for His.
We’ll pick up here next week! If you are interested in reading more, check out my website to order my books, or go to my Facebook ministry page where I post regularly. Blessings!
Alexys V. Wolf
I have you in my heart…how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus…I pray that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment…TO WRITE THE SAME THINGS AGAIN IS NO TROUBLE TO ME…(Philippians 1:7, 8, 9; 2:20, 26; 3:1; 4:1, 17, NAS)
May I plainly state that this is difficult – the whole “do not speak against one another”? However, when I really begin to understand how God operates in love at all times, you and I will be better equipped spiritually to administer the Word of God without a judgmental or impatient spirit. We must all begin seeing ourselves for just how lowly and forgiven we are personally. It is when we have an opinion of ourselves that is higher than it ought to be that we begin to judge others and grow weary and impatient. I heard a saying while ministering in prison: I’m no one’s judge since I haven’t a heaven or hell to place them. What a simple and brilliant thing to say and understand!
Jesus and His true followers who have gone on before us delivering the message of the Kingdom of God were simply called to walk in and reveal love and truth to the people. Their job was not to force people to get it. Some will receive and some will not. Our concern should not be the outcome, but rather we conduct ourselves in obedience in love. This way, our level of joy will not so easily fluctuate. Our joy will be grounded completely in the Instructor instead the instruction or the instructed and their reception or rejection of it.
What I mean is that, often times, when a person is obedient in speaking a word from the Lord with joy and zeal and a person receives, we rejoice as if we ourselves have accomplished something. Our zeal is through the roof! On the other hand, when a person is obedient to speak a word from God and a person rejects the word, the level of joy plummets to sub-zero. We seem to take it personally as though they have rejected us, when in fact they have rejected God. Our level of joy should not be moved either way. Happiness is emotional and it comes and goes due to circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is based on faith in who God is and not what goes on around us. The outcome of how people respond for or against us not our concern – it is God’s alone.
Jesus and those who imitated Him walked in pure, joyous love, which kept them balanced; although this does not mean they were necessarily “happy” in every circumstance. Paul said he repeated the word as many times as necessary so that the people would be safeguarded; his concern was for the people and their walk with Yahweh. When we get angry when others don’t receive the word of God we’ve delivered, it is pride in us that brings the irritation. It is us having the poor attitude that they should do as we say, and if they don’t, they aren’t as good as we.
Maintain humility, and our only goal will be to deliver the Word whether people receive or not. We are to keep our eye on being obedient to glorifying Christ. True love does not puff itself. True love is always humble and courteous.
“Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins” (Lamentations 3:39, NAS).
“Do all things without grumbling and complaining” (Philippians 2:14, NAS).
Love, peace, blessings, and Merry Christmas!
Alexys V. Wolf