How I Find Joy Amid Trials

Before I begin, I want to say the purpose of this post: It’s not to cause you to pity me. It’s not for me to get attention. Rather, it’s to point you to Jesus — I pray my story brings hope to someone so that they, too, may learn to find joy in the trials.

I once read a book titled “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. What he wrote has stuck with me years after reading it. To summarize, he said that if you can find a purpose in your suffering, you can survive anything. He attributed his survival to his hope of escape and seeing his family again.

That caused me to wonder: What is my hope? What is my light at the end of the tunnel? How can I find joy in my suffering?

Now, to clarify, I have a rare disease called “mastocytic enterocolitis.” I was diagnosed by a gastroenterologist a month ago, after 6 months of doctor’s appointments and many tests. Unfortunately, there is no cure. There isn’t even much information about it on the internet because doctors don’t understand a lot about it. It’s a condition where your body produces too many mast cells, which is thought to cause the inflammation that accompanies it in the colon. Mast cells are supposed to protect us from illness, but when we have too many, it causes anything from chronic diarrhea to stomach cramping, nausea and vomiting.

My symptoms are intense stomach pain (sharp, stabbing pain), strong nausea, lightheadedness and loss of appetite. They flared up so badly today, I had to go home early from work. The doctor says the only treatment is to take allergy medicine and try to figure out if food allergies are causing my symptoms to flare up. However, food sensitivity tests aren’t always reliable and I know I’m allergic to preservatives, which are hard if not impossible to test for.

So when the doctors don’t know what to do, and I’m sitting on my couch in physical and emotional agony, worried my boss is going to fire me, worried my future is being flushed down the toilet–what do I do?

I’m reminded of a story in the Bible about a woman who had a female-specific disorder that caused her to bleed more than normal for 12 years. Doctors didn’t know what to do. But she saw Jesus walking through the crowd and heard about His miracles and thought, “If only I touch His cloak, I will be healed” (Matthew 9:20-22). Jesus told her “Your faith has healed you” and the woman was healed immediately.

Now, I don’t read that story expecting to be physically healed right now. Jesus does not promise that to us in this life. Rather, I read that story in awe of Jesus: He CAN heal me, but if He chooses not to, it is for my best. It is to fulfill the purpose He has for me on this Earth. Maybe it’s so that I can minister to someone else who is in pain like me. Regardless, knowing Jesus has given me purpose in my suffering. He is my hope. Being in His presence in Heaven is my light at the end of this tunnel.

No, it’s not easy to sit down and worship God with joy when I’m in pain. But I’m drawn to experience His peace and His presence by reading the Word of God and praying, even when I don’t know the words to say. It’s the strength I need to keep going, the one thing I can count on in this life to satisfy me always. How do we find joy in our trials? Run to Jesus.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When Endurance Feels Impossible

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to “endure.” I listened to a podcast by VOUS church on endurance and how in Habakkuk 1:2, the prophet is asking God “How much longer” until He will come. God says, “If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay” (chapter 2, verse 3) — and that turned out being around 700 YEARS until Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem to save the world.

It’s been a little over 2,000 years since He was born, and now with COVID-19 getting worse again, I’m wondering… How much longer, Lord, until You return again?

Then I thought of a beautiful Christmas song that helps me find the strength to keep enduring. The lyrics begin like this:

Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appears

Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, oh Israel

Does Jesus like watching us wait? Why is He taking forever to rescue us from this brutal world full of pain and sickness and sorrow? Rather than “taking forever” to rescue us, He’s actually waiting patiently for us to turn to Him. He is waiting to judge us. He is rich in mercy and slow to anger, wishing that all might come to Him.

What does that Christmas song instruct us to do during hard times of waiting? It instructs us to “rejoice.” That is how we will have the strength necessary to endure the battles of life. Take time to thank and praise God — put on some worship music and dwell on the truth about His goodness, or sing to Him yourself. Worship helps remind us of our good, good Father who promises peace and strength to all who trust in Him.

Listen to my own cover of that Christmas classic here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Whole New World

nasa-Q1p7bh3SHj8-unsplash

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Growing up, Aladdin was my favorite movie. I wanted to be Princess Jasmine, and “A Whole New World” was one of my favorite songs. Never did I imagine that I’d one day title a blogpost with the name of that song to talk about a worldwide quarantine. The world will be different after this. The world is different even now.

Last night, I asked God to give me a passage to read. After just waiting on Him and meditating on Him in complete stillness and quiet, I tried to decipher His voice and really felt like He’d told me to land on Ezekiel 5. I read the first several verses and forgot about it.

This morning, I read the entire chapter. Look at how the chapter ends:

“Epidemic disease, unrestrained murder, death—and I will have sent it! I, God, have spoken” (Ezek. 5:17, MSG).

I don’t think it’s ironic that God told me to go there. Epidemic disease. We know God is sovereign, so why does He allow diseases like COVID-19? It’s a very intense chapter. The chapter is titled, “A Jealous God, Not to Be Trifled With.”

It’s a chapter about God becoming jealous because the people had all these idols before Him. If you think of idols as just being carved images like a golden calf statue, you’re not understanding the full picture. Today, idols more commonly manifest in money, fame, careers, notoriety, fancy cars and mansions.

Could it be that God has put His foot down and said, “Enough. Enough of putting your busy life ahead of spending time with Me. Enough of putting your careers before family. Enough of deliberately going against My commands in the Bible that are not meant to limit you, but to give you the best life possible.”

Perhaps this time is God’s mercy giving us another chance to get our priorities straight. Are there talents He’s given you that you’ve neglected? When was the last time you spoke with your immediate family? When was the last time you’ve just sat still in His presence, waiting to hear His whispers to you?

In no way am I saying God is necessarily punishing us, because we can’t know for sure why this all happened. All we know is we live in a sinful world and it’s horrible that so many people are dying, and healthcare workers are risking their lives every day to be on the frontlines. That’s incredible and I can’t imagine what that’s like. This is a traumatic experience, and some people are feeling it more than others.

What I do know is we have hope. We know in the future Jesus is coming back and this world will pass away, every tear will be wiped away, and evil will be no more. We can trust God for peace and strength during the trials. But we also know hardships and suffering are inevitable on this earth.

Regardless of why the whole world is experiencing this plague, it’s no doubt also causing mental illness to rise. When we don’t respond properly to a pandemic, such as by running to God, family and friends for the encouragement me need, it’s easy to become depressed from loneliness. How will you choose to respond? (Note: I’m not saying depression is always caused by circumstances. I actually did an entire mental health podcast series here, where I discuss the importance of counseling and even medication in extreme scenarios.)

I know for me, this quarantine has prompted me to spend more time with my immediate family than I ever have before. I’ve been singing while my mom plays piano. I’ve been playing cards with my sisters. I’ve been writing handwritten cards to my best friends to remind them how much they mean to me. This is my new normal. And though I was upset about having to adjust as recently as yesterday, I’m becoming more grateful today.

Sure, I don’t want this social distancing thing to last long. I don’t want to wear a face mask in public like I have to do now. I miss my boyfriend and my other best friends, seeing them face to face over dinner or a cup of coffee. But I’m cherishing the lessons this unique time is teaching me, and doing my best to focus on those more than what I miss.

I’m grateful for technology like Zoom where I can still participate in virtual Bible study. I’m grateful for YouTube where people are sharing about their enriching experiences at home, such as this father and daughter who made a channel to share their music during quarantine.

What are you grateful for today?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Remember…

kalen-emsley-Bkci_8qcdvQ-unsplash (1)

I’ve been hearing God tell me to remember a lot in this season. It’s so easy to forget where we’ve been and all He’s brought us through to get us to where we are today. Looking back on the good things God has done is a wonderful practice of gratitude that’s so crucial to do daily. We’re forgetful creatures! Remember all God has done. He is faithful. He’ll do it again.

I’ve decided to print an excerpt from my time with God today. He told me to get out a pen and paper and start writing. So I did:

“Remember who you are. Envision yourself atop a mountain, looking down at the valleys below. Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil. I am your rock, your comfort, an ever-present help in time of need.

“Should you ever need anything, I’m one prayer away. I’m readying you for something great. Your ears will tingle. You were in the valley, but I’m bringing you to the mountaintop. You were confused about who you were, but now you will walk in freedom.

“I need you to focus in this season. Rid yourself of distractions so you can spend time with me. Make that a priority. I’m tugging on your heart. Just let me in. Your questions will be answered.

“You belong to me and I am in pursuit of you. I want you to come to me with all your anger and just yell. Come to the secret place. I’m waiting. I am your ultimate therapist. I desire to hear all that’s on your heart.

“You’ve been feeling heavy—let me lift some burdens off you. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. … I will give you reassurance. I will give you peace that surpasses all understanding. Trust me. Sit with me awhile. De-stress. Be like a child. Have faith.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Season of Fears

This is a very fitting lesson from God, given that Halloween is right around the corner! God has me in a season of facing my fears. And it’s both terrifying and refreshing to see how He’s molding my character to make me more like Him.

This season started in June, and it’s still going on. It started with two friends betraying me. Then, I quit my job to move back in with my parents. Then, I got confronted at work about something I don’t know how to fix.

Basically, without giving too much detail, several people who have wronged me in the past are in my life again. I’ve set up boundaries for my own mental health, but I feared ever speaking to them again. God is softening my heart to one of unconditional love and impartiality.

Second, if you really know me, you’d know I crave stability — yet God called me to quit my job after 9 months to become a reporter, something I dreaded in the past and told myself I’d never do again. Not to mention, I don’t like confrontation so when someone confronts me and I don’t know the solution to the issue, I panic. Though interviewing was hard at first, I’ve gotten more of a hang of it now. I’m also learning to be confident that God approves of me, and if He called me to something, I need to move forward boldly and joyfully no matter what people say. I’m still trying to move out, so I’m still living in an uncomfortable place of both physical and financial instability (also with my health, but that’s another story)…but for now, God is teaching me to “laugh without fear of the future” (Prov. 31) no matter what my circumstances.

Finally, I have several things in my life I haven’t mentioned here that I’m also uncertain about. They’re things I’m currently investing lots of time into. And I hope that’s God’s will, because as a planner, uncertainty is a threat — spontaneity is not my cup of tea. Yet I must say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the past — God is teaching me to be more dependent on His timing and provision than ever before. Thankfully, I’m not the master planner — He has the right to interrupt my plans, and He knows better anyway so it’s good (even though I may wrestle with God a bit at first!).

Betrayal, instability and uncertainty aren’t fun things to learn to be OK about. They’re terrifying. Naturally, a lot of us fear those things. But God doesn’t want us to fear. So He’s making me face those fears head-on to teach me that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). The only thing I should fear is Him — because He wants what’s best for me and will never withhold what I need.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment