His Comforts

“Just as the sufferings of Christ overflow in your lives, so do the comforts.” (I Cor. 1:5) I am experiencing the truth of this verse in new ways these days. And though this year has brought suffering, it has also brought His comforts.

img_1352His Word. A Bible verse that has brought me comfort me over and over again in this journey is I Tim.4:17: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.” Knowing that He could stand even when I couldn’t comforted me. Knowing that He stood beside my bed brought comfort when I felt alone, as one often does in pain or suffering. He has stood by me through each stage of this journey. What a comfort! (Thankful for friends who gave me this early on in my journey. It continues to hang in our living room as a daily reminder)

img_2285Aslan. Another source of comfort to me has come in the form of a small stuffed lion. It was a gift from my grandson, Jaden. We named him Aslan after the good, though not tame, lion in C.S Lewis’s Narnia books.  Aslan went with me everywhere. During one of my transfers, the ambulance driver asked, “Does he go too?” “He goes wherever I go,” I answered.  As in Narnia, the presence of Aslan makes everything alright. I could imagine Jesus with me, just as Aslan was, everywhere I went. And every time they moved me, I knew that God was with me, fighting for me, standing with me. Aslan is still never far from me. He reminds me that I am loved and “I am His”, and He has been beside me through it all, giving me strength. What a comfort!

Music. Especially in the early days of recovery, when reading was difficult, music was a real comfort. Here is one song, among many, that brought and continues to bring comfort. Chris Tomlin – The Roar

flowersGifts. I am always blessed and amazed at how perfectly timed His comforts are. One example (among many) occurred just this past week, shortly after my fall. I was returning from a doctor visit and feeling particularly tired and discouraged only to be greeted by a beautiful bouquet of flowers from cousins that live on the other side of the world. What a comfort!

img_2280Beauty/Memories of His goodness. Near my chair, where I spend most of my time, I have pictures of the lavender fields from the South of France. They remind me not only of the amazing beauty of God’s creation but of a wonderful long weekend spent in France with my daughter just a few months before my stroke. What a comfort to be reminded of His goodness to me!

I have heard that in the wilderness of the Sinai peninsula (where the Israelites spent so much time) that there are few,if any, signs of life, except for the broom trees that dot the landscape. These trees provide the only shade from the sun and the only cover when night falls. Their wood also provides for fires when the cool of night comes. Broom trees! That’s what God gives us in the midst of the most barren places of our lives. Broom trees like a special verse, ambulance drivers, stuffed lions, grandchildren, family, friends who show up when I need them most, etc. Each brings comfort in His name and encouragement along the desert journey.

I have seen His comforts again and again and have learned not to despise even the smallest of comforts in the midst of trials. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”Psalm 23:4  His rod and staff will and do bring comfort. I pray that we all have eyes to see His many comforts even in the midst of suffering.

Save

Setback

I anticipated it. I imagined it. But somehow I didn’t see it coming. I had been warned, prepared, chided, threatened: “do not to walk alone because you might fall.” I was elated to have taken myself to the restroom, and then I went down – no stumble, no trip, my left side just caved. I went down hard.

After being helped up, I realized that Wilson (my left arm) had acted on my behalf, trying to brace my fall, since I landed on him, having twisted my wrist to buffer the fall. My spirits went down with me. Then I remembered, “just as the sufferings of Christ overflow in your lives, so do the comforts.” (I Cor. 1:5) I have quoted this many times in my life as I do believe that God, our Father, never leaves us comfortless. Even in the deepest losses and darkest valleys He gives us enough comfort and encouragement to get through.

My loss in falling was being calculated even before I hit the ground, as I considered if I could get up, and if so, how much damage, how big a setback would this be. My walking was progressing, even though very wobbly and unsteady before the fall. I was just adjusting again to the timetable that held mobility as still possible in the future, but not anytime soon.

My spirits sank until I realized/remembered…

  1. my head had not hit the brick hearth going down
  2. I landed on the carpet in my own living room
  3. two friends were with me who were successful, the first time, in getting me up
  4. there were no protruding bones from my left arm
  5. my left side, which has little feeling, took the brunt of the fall
  6. my brother, who is an ER doctor, walked in shortly after. He was able to look me over and reassure me we could wait until morning to get X-rays. This gave me a chance to recover a bit.
  7. The orthopedic doctor told me that the first X-ray showed the dislocation of my shoulder but the second (CT scan) showed no dislocation, only a simple fracture of the humerus. This made it so they did not have to manipulate and relocate my shoulder joint! Everyone was happy about this, not just me! When the orthopedic doctor asked me how the shoulder got relocated between pictures, I asked him if he believed in prayer, and he accepted this, as did I! With a broken shoulder and two fractured wrist bones, this might seem like small consolation, but it was not, in the moment, I assure you.

Maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better, by being positive. But I choose instead to believe that, while I may not understand the ways of God, I do know His character – the God of all comfort, of compassion, and mercy. So why would I be surprised that, in the middle of something negative, that He would find a way to comfort and show mercy toward me, because of who He is, not because of who I am.

This unexpected setback has me in a splint and sling. I am mending slowly. But I was already mending slowly, so I suspect I am still right on His schedule. And I am no worse for it. Though physical therapy will be delayed for further healing.

We should not be surprised by life’s trials, sufferings, setbacks. Nor should we be surprised by His comforts.

Life is hard. God is good. In 2017, I am even choosing to believe that I will be surprised by joy, in ways I never imagined. That’s the kind of Heavenly Father He is.

New Year

This year we made new Christmas memories. All our family gathered here in KY and I was able to be with them, instead of in the hospital. On New Year’s Day, I was at church, rather than being inside an ambulance headed to Cardinal Hill. Gratitude fills our hearts as we count our blessings this year. While I feel so blessed by the family and friends God has given me, I am also filled with gratitude for a God who loved us so much He sent His Son into our story to suffer and to save, that we might enter into His story. At one particularly low moment of pain and suffering in the hospital, I remember being overwhelmed by the very thought that He left Heaven and took on the pain and suffering of this world, even mine, to offer me freedom from sin and life eternal. Several times during the season, this spiritual reality pressed in upon my physical realities. Recently, when I was feeling quite humbled as my therapist was teaching me to turn over and to crawl, I felt like God was saying to me,”I did this for you, humbling myself to come into your circumstances. Would you now do this for me?”

As we start a new year, I feel both relief to end one year and some anxiety at facing a new one. I have to admit it feels like I’m starting a road trip in the rain, with broken headlights. I can’t see the road ahead. I do not know what twists and turns are coming. What else will the Sovereign God allow in my life? I feel, sometimes, as though I have reason to fear. But then I remember that the same God, in Christ, who led me safely through the darkness of last year’s unexpected trauma and losses, can lead me through whatever might be ahead. I have learned through what He has allowed, that fear only robs me of the joy, peace, courage, and faith I so desperately need. I can either clench my fist in anger and anxiety, or I can open it in utter surrender and submission. Lately, I have been purposefully holding my palm open, especially Wilson, who is inclined these days to clenching not opening. It is a good reminder for me to pry it open,in a gesture that helps me open my heart in fresh surrender, saying with Mary, “Let it be to me according to your word, will, and way.” Mary trusted the One writing the story, without knowing the ending. Because of His Word, I know the ending. How much more can I trust Him with the road ahead? He saw this last year for me, when I didn’t. And while he didn’t deliver me from the pain and suffering, He led me through it and chose to enter into it with me. The way to keep anxiety and fear from paralyzing me in the start of a new year is with this open-handed posture of surrender to whatever God allows – knowing He does all things well and He works all together for good.

Throughout this journey, some have commented on my courage, peace, and patience. These are not things I feel, but they are more states of mind or being for me – because I know all is well, that He does all things well, and is in control of all things. Because He lives and He loves, I can embrace each challenge with His peace. I have not felt brave, strong, patient, or courageous. Yet I have spent much of the last year forced into a posture of waiting or of facing a new challenge that felt daunting. The courage, patience, and peace come from focusing on Him. Author Ann Voskamp says it this way:

“I will focus on Jesus this week,
just Jesus.
The secret of joy is always
matter of focus: a resolute focusing
on the Father, not on the fears.

And when I feel like I can’t touch bottom
is when I touch the depths of God.
If He gave His Son to save me,
will He not give me everything I need?

I will Behold Him everywhere today – and be held.”