Clearly I've felt God's presence in struggles of this season. It really hit home Friday night when Beve sat down next to me on the couch and said, "My back is hurting." He pointed to his right flank in the region of his kidney. And, sure enough, over the next hour, the pain grew. And we began to laugh over the pain, because honestly, what else could we do? I mean, really, a kidney stone on top of everything else? Because that was clearly what was going on. Last time he had such pain, we raced to the emergency room where he had a series of tests confirming the presence of said stone, he got pumped full of pain meds, and then was sent home with a strainer to catch the stone when he passed it. And when he finally did the next day, that little sucker was barely visible to the naked eye and hard to believe it could cause such havoc to the naked eye.
So Friday night, as he began to squirm and ache and sweat, he decided not to shell out good money for an emergency room visit when he could do all that in the comfort of his own home (and bathroom). Sans strainer, of course. But who needs it? He just took a couple of pain pills, went to bed, was awakened by the pain at 3 AM, was uncomfortable for a while, then most likely passed it before I even got out of bed and took my first dose of my Ibuprofen.
But I have to tell you, we were a little hysterical Friday night thinking, this too? I mean, even a kidney stone? A week ago, before my surgery, Beve went to the retina specialist for a check up from his iritis of last spring, and the doctor told him, "You have a hole and tear in your right retina. I think we'll just laser that right now before it gets worse." It just seems like every time we turn around these days something is falling apart.
There are a few different reactions we could have to this situation, of course. We could rail at the universe and God for why he seems to be punishing us. We could blame Him for everything large and small that goes wrong in our bodies and lives and relationships. But those responses don't take into account our own sin, the fallenness of the world at large--which created a world in which disease exists. Nor do they take into account the fundamental nature of God. It is not God's character to punish us. The cross of Jesus Christ has seen to that. Though there is consequence to specific sin, there is no cosmic punishment dealt out to us. This leaves, of course, two different 'reasons' for such times of suffering. The first is the enemy's desire to rip us from the Father's camp.
And we know that he definitely desires this. He is described as 'a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.' (1 Peter 5:8) He'll use anything he can to get a foothold into our lives, and sickness, weakness, calamity, pain, stress, worry--well, all the things of the last 24 months of our lives--are chief among his hooks. And often we play right into his hands.
Years ago, a very wise woman told me that one of the best ways to defeat satan at his evil game is to laugh at him. He loathes this reaction. His goal is to make us fearful, doubtful and angry. He wants us to lash out at our circumstances, each other and God about what is happening to us. So to laugh at what he does, to find his ploys ridiculous is to render him impotent. The hysteria we are sometimes helpless to stop? I think perhaps that is Holy-Spirit-aid. It's the help He brings to cut the enemy off at the pass, right as he's about to strike. That laughter allows us to lean away from the pain of the moment and say, "Of course, this is ridiculous." And next, "Of course, only the enemy would think up something so ridiculous as a way to tear me from my Father's hand." And just like that, yes, just like that, that enemy is back in his box, and the King is on His throne, in the place of pre-eminence in our lives. Because that's the other point.
Oddly, when life gets overwhelming, when the pressure is beyond our imaginings, in terms of what we have to endure, particularly when the circumstances are not of our own making--like illnesses or lost jobs, or the dying of loved ones or life-and-death worries about our children, we cannot possibly imagine the strength needed to endure. If we are to survive, God must do it for us. He must shore us up. At the end of our strength, there He is. That's what we learn in overwhelming struggle and loss. There He is, at the ready. When I'm over my head, He never is. I'm telling you right now, what life has brought Beve and me in this season of our lives is beyond me. If you'd have told me a decade ago that I'd be able to write these words about it, I'd be in a heap. Telling you that I could not do it, pleading with God not to make me, and calling you a liar. However, He has led us safely through every twist and turn on the road, through every disease of every loved one, through every loss, and our own infirmities. He has been light in the darkest moments with our son and is hope even now. And is surely leading us through theses final days with our beloved elders even in our own weaknesses. If He is for us, indeed, the one who is against us has not a hope in hell of overcoming us!
I guess that's the point: we didn't ask to be the caregivers. We had other ministries in mind for us. More exotic sheep to feed, as I've often said. But God is in these days. He put us here purposely, has a plan for this season that is rich and full and we would not miss it for the world. For all that the enemy wants to rob it from us. But...the enemy is outmatched. Even when he tries to pile on the pile of this season, he has already lost. Yes, he is outmatched. satan might have had a fighting chance with me but he has none with God. So I laugh. In the name of Jesus, I laugh.
However, let me say this in the name of Jesus as well. I also know more could be lost. I also know this. We are essentially whole and healthy and safely kept in Him. And believe me when I say I earnestly ask for protection from that prowling enemy who tries to get in. For a hedge around my beloveds. I cry 'uncle' to all this. Enough is enough (which, is, of course, redundant!).