I felt productive and bit proud this morning as I took packets of dry yeast and a bag of xanthan gum from the bag I had just picked up from our local Walmart. Having to eat gluten free and hoping someday to be able to digest the gluten in the wheat, I decided to attempt baking homemade gluten free sandwich bread rather than pay upwards of six dollars for a small loaf as I have done several times already. Deciding to bake bread gave me a sense of pride and stewardship.
I have struggled much with personal value since not being able to work. My comfort zone is being the person who gets things done regardless. For the past few years I have spent much more time in the sick zone than my comfort zone. The battle of not crushing the productivity markers is all too real for me. It’s a battle of pride that forces me to realize my worth is not in what I can or cannot do, but in Christ who redeemed me for His purpose. Daily I remind myself to be a productive steward of all Christ has entrusted to me while understanding that my accomplishments or lack thereof due to sickness does not change my identity in Christ.
It is important to be productive; however, our focus cannot be on the to-do list more than our Creator we honor by accomplishing the to-do list. Though I have always sought God’s direction and to honor Him in all my tasks, I was accustomed to saying with confidence that I could handle any task, putting more emphasis on my accomplishments more than the Creator who blessed me to accomplish. I sought to honor God, but honestly sometimes it was out of accomplishing things He didn’t give me yet I felt pride in doing.
When my ability to accomplish anything above existence and care for myself came to a screeching halt, I felt God was through with me. I became angry and bitter not being productive for God any longer. I could not understand why He allowed the sicknesses to take over my body, time, and ability to honor Him in all I love to do.
Not only did I not understand, but those around me didn’t understand either. That my loved ones lost confidence in me crushed me. It was like the last blow in a near-fatal fight. I felt completely useless and abandoned. Honestly, I felt damned. I felt that God had made me as some ill-fated soul to suffer misery.
Spiritual healing didn’t happen all at once but rather over a grueling couple of years of my seeking God and hoping I have purpose beyond my pain. I knew then any chance I had to hang on to life was to seek God. I immersed myself more deeply in His word and Christian music, recognizing and choosing to turn from every trick satan could conjure. Sometimes I felt there was only one fine thread keeping me from falling off the edge and ending my own life. That thread was God. Knowing He loved me beyond what I could see, hear, or feel right then kept me alive. Regardless of my feelings of abandonment and betrayal on top of my terrible physical condition, God was with me loving me and keeping me alive moment to moment.
I sought God for healing and for peace in my situation but continued to suffer. The confusion of others at my situation grew as did their misjudgments and gossip about me. Though I knew satan was using this as a ploy to draw me away from the only true life source, God, I struggled to not let thoughts of my abandonment and betrayal flood my mind.
Struggling to reconcile my situation with my identity and worth in Christ alone really helped me to more deeply understand in Galatians 2:20 where Paul says that he is crucified with Christ, that it is no longer he that lives but Christ in him. I felt as though I had lost all my identity, everything that made me who I was. It was in that void of value that I realized I am still a child of the most high King, created of love to be loved by God and to love others through Christ.
Philippians 4:8 instructs believers to think on good, not bad. The word used for “to think” in this verse in the original Greek is “logizomai” which according to Strong’s Concordance means to “reckon, count, charge with, reason, decide, conclude, think, suppose.” This encompasses all manner of thinking from when thoughts pop up to processing them and making conclusions or judgments that affect our behavior and ultimately our love we are to have for others.
Thoughts of others’ betrayal and abandonment wrought bitterness resulting in my ill thoughts towards them. Satan easily used my negative thoughts to foster disbelief of God’s love and purpose for me. I let satan have half an inch and he ran me ten miles.
Regardless of my physical health, I knew there was now a separate battle to be won in my mind. I chose to put away many thoughts that would pop up like weeds in my mind. I chose to only think on those thoughts which were true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praised my Lord. I admit that sometimes much effort was needed to form good thoughts and focus on them. Often good thoughts came when I would pray to praise God for who He is, sometimes with the help of a list of God’s attributes when my mind was too weak to think of them. Other times, I would thank God for His many blessings toward me in the past. Sometimes I would just pray thanking God for His existence and beg for His mercy. All these prayers helped to focus my mind on good things. Eventually I was able to thank Him for more specific blessings through people as the darkness began to fade. This discipline of thinking on only good things took my mind away from my situation which I felt was very grim.
God knows our needs better than we ever can, and He provides just what we need when we need it to become who He designed us to be. He makes us able to trust Him and seek Him, but ultimately we must choose to follow and believe even when we cannot see. It’s having our hearts and minds set on Him that gives us the strength to follow one step at a time. “My heart is fixed!” as the psalmist says in Psalm 57:7 and Psalm 108:1. It is this resolution which strengthens us in the Lord to live our very best possible life.
Today I still struggle much with physical health but not so much with my value as a person. I am known and loved by my Creator; I find my identity and value in Him alone. I still get frustrated at not being able to live as I planned doing much good, but that is when I must pray and thank God for His love and plans for me to get my thoughts where they should be. Every day whether I am able to make soup for elderly friends or I am too sick to accomplish much above my own existence and care, I have to focus on good things to make the best decisions every minute. I am so thankful that regardless of our situation or state of health, we can help others and honor our Lord.