There and Back Again: The Jouney Back

 If you haven't read There and Back Again you might want to go back and read it first.

Yesterday I awakened in pain. It was a full-blown flareup from Graves disease. Almost every part of my body hurt. My joints hurt, some joints were inflamed and swollen. It began on Saturday but I ignored it. Yesterday it couldn’t be ignored. Even as I sit here today I am in pain and my brain fog makes it difficult to process, to write, to remember words I want to say. The cause could be anything, perhaps something I ate, I have had sugar, dairy, and gluten this week, when will I learn? It could be that my thyroid medication needs adjusting, again. Or it could be just because my body decided to attack itself. It’s what autoimmune disease does, after all, attack itself. I am grateful though that this is no longer constant, day after day as it was prior to diagnosis. I now only deal with this when the meds need adjusting or I’ve not been careful with my diet. That is praiseworthy, for I do feel better today then I did yesterday.

The spiritual ramifications of this physical disease have been difficult. In the beginning, before I knew that my body was physically attacking itself I assumed that I was spiritually falling apart. Anxiety and depression are often blamed on sin or a life that wasn’t totally relying on God. Did I have unconfessed sin lurking somewhere inside my heart? If I did why didn’t God reveal it when I asked? I’ve often struggled with trusting God completely, trusting in His sovereignty and goodness in my life, was this the cause of my anxiety? I searched, asked questions, but there seemed to be silence. After a time, and as my symptoms grew worse, I grew weary of searching for spiritual answers.  I would rarely share what I was going through physically, mentally or spiritually because in most cases it just wasn’t safe. I remember sitting in the doctor's office, almost in tears, saying I  just couldn’t go on like this. It was the truth, I didn’t want to go on, but I wasn’t going to take my own life either. Instead, I just begged God to take it. My doctor looked at me and said, “It sounds like you’ve lost hope”. So he gave me an anti-depressant and sent me on my way.

I thought about that for quite a while, was he right?  Had I lost hope?  Would I ever feel better? Would God forever feel distant? Would I ever be able to read God’s word again with a longing to know Him more? These questions and so many more plagued my mind. In so many ways I knew he was right, I had lost hope. I had convinced myself that my life might be like this until death. I may live in pain forever. I may never be able to have a completely coherent thought again. I might never have the concentration to dig deep into God’s word again.

Lost hope? Yes, and slowly this kind of thinking began to permeate all of life. I withdrew from all ministry. I withdrew from most relationships. I stayed home, unwilling to make the effort to reach out. Perhaps unwilling isn’t exactly true, it was more like just not having the energy to reach out. I found that if I wasn’t reaching out to others then they weren’t reaching out to me. ( that will definitely be blogged about later) So here I was, cutting myself off from believers and finding it difficult to be in the word of God which then lead to being unable to write. After all, it is difficult to write if you can’t think right, or concentrate, or your brain fog completely takes over your life. So if there was little to no hope left what would I even write about. My last few blogs before stopping seemed to focus on suffering, loneliness, and other rather depressing topic and while they all pointed me and the reader back to God I often felt I was just being a hypocrite. Yes I would write what truth said, but at that moment I wasn’t living it out myself, so my writing here stopped.

The journey back. As I shared in my last post I am still fighting this disease but today with medications, diet, and the lessons I have learned I am better able to fight through the physical and focus on the spiritual. God has taught me about perseverance, He has shown me His mercy, His grace, and His goodness. He walked through every step with me. As I began to adjust to a new normal He would remind me that I was not becoming less of who I was but God was creating in me the one who He desired me to be. This battle is daily but by His grace He teaches me. It’s through this time God gave me a greater understanding of my wrong thinking, my shame-based thinking and helped me begin to see the root of where it all came from and how to battle it For an example I will share my journal entry from December 21, 2017. “Too often I feel dead inside, you feel far away. But I continue to pursue you. I know feelings often lie to me, but today I just grow weary of the battle. I know there is much going on in me physically that tires me. I know I may not be thinking correctly. God I know you will never leave me. I know you pursue me. When I feel lost you are there. God me strength to hold on to what I know is true. Don’t allow me to stay focused on the lies. Today is hard, I feel lost, please come find me.” I only had 6 entries in the year of 2018 that was the last one. In 2018 I had only 12. So you can see it was even difficult for me to write in my journal, but I pressed on and lean on the One who I knew would see me through.

On January 2, 2018, I wrote “In 2017 I often held on to the word hope, learning that my only hope is in Jesus. It was a hard year fighting through the physical... so with a greater understanding of hope, I enter into a new year where I believe God will teach me, in greater depths to endure through suffering.” And He did. He has. In 2018 perseverance was my “word” for the year. It had been a while since I felt so clearly that God had given me a word so this in and of itself brought hope and joy to my heart. Once again God showed me He was with me. On January 16th I wrote, “Perseverance. To patiently walk through trials regardless of what comes my way. I need to surrender to the will of God even if my circumstances never change. To patiently endure this life with Christ Jesus is what God is asking me to do” So began my journey last year in learning to not just endure through life but to find joy in spite of what Graves was doing to my body.

In God’s goodness and love, He also kept two friends (besides my husband) by my side during this. These friends would remind me of the truth. They would remind me to give my self grace during those time that I would cry out about having so little energy to be in the word. Both of the suggested spending time in the Psalm and go slowly. To forget, for now, trying to go deep and study. My heart longed for it, but my mind could not. So I would read a chapter in the Psalm, sometimes it might just be a few verses, but I went at my pace and God began to refresh my spirit, even if my body wasn’t. I am grateful to God for these friends, who live states away and going through there own trials and suffering, continue to show me love, grace, and truth. They would pray for me, check in on me,  These two would consistently point me back to Jesus, all the while totally understanding where I was physically. My pastor, who is also my counselor, was another source of tremendous encouragement and grace. He would help me focus on roots issues that I had not yet dealt with. One example is my control issues. I kept struggling in the area and assumed it’s was one source of my anxieties, besides being a side effect of Graves. So I kept focusing on trying not to control and surrendering all to God. But he reminded me that desiring control, or to constantly put myself on the throne of my life instead of God, was not the root. So I would go home, search my heart, ask God to reveal the root issue so that I could deal with this control thing at its root. The root, confirmed by my counselor and my husband, was the lack of trust in God. I struggled to fully trust God with all of my life and those I loved. My faith in this area was weak. Once realized I began to allow God to help me learn to trust Him. It was suggested I memorize Psalm 131 which is just 3 short verses. These verses helped to remind me that I am not to concern “myself in great matters or things too difficult for me” but I am to “have a composed and quieted” soul. A soul, like that of a baby who has been weaned and can now rest against his mother's breast without nudging around for milk. This began my journey in 2019 so I wait quietly with perseverance to see where God takes me in the last part of the year.

There are so many lessons I learned that I know I can not share them all today. My hope is that God will allow me to share them as I sit before this computer and write. I know my post will not be as many as they were in the past. I can not write daily, but I do hope that God will help me to post at least weekly, most likely on Mondays. Thank you so much for reading this far, I don’t think all my post will always be this long! May God bless you richly this week!

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