I opened up my devotional this morning and this quote was at the bottom of the page:  “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.” -Marcus Tullius Cicero  Little did I know this morning how much God was going to show me today about the importance of living a life of gratitude.

To put this really long story in just a few paragraphs, I have been sick for 8 years.  It has really been a struggle, but I have not talked about it much, especially not before this last year.  I guess there are maybe many reasons for this, most of which probably deal with shame for being weak.  So, if I may step out of my dark little corner that I have resided in for so long, I am going to start to talk a little about my journey.

I have had severe digestive and muscle issues for a long time.  It started with my joints and muscles, but as we tried different medicines to help deal with the pain, it really aggrivated my digestive tract.  The meds caused “multiple multiple tiny ulcers” and all attempts at pain meds ceased for years as we dealt with my digestive tract that would never be the same.  I’ve been to several different doctors, but being the age I was, I determined to “not let it get me down” more than anything.  I continued international travel and I was sick in EVERY COUNTRY I was in to some degree.  I was convinced that if I wouldn’t give my illness the time of day, that it would give up bothering me and go away.  After an emergency flight home from several months in the Dominican Republic followed by a month basically spent in bed, I realized that method didn’t work.  I must not have learned my lesson, though, because after a few more months spent with doctors and dead ends, I gave up on the whole thing for about a year.

Starting in July of this past year, I decided to go back to searching for answers, as my symptoms grew worse and worse.  At times, I could not walk well, and definitely could not stand for very long.  I could not eat anything without severe pain, and no amount of mind over matter could help me cope.  We hit diagnostics very hard, in fact far harder than I ever had.  I saw several different specialists who put me through their series of tests, many of which were very expensive.  There were two tests that were extremely painful that involved very long needles and electric shocks.  I finally paid these all off, and I worked my tail off doing it by working several jobs and whatever I could find.  The doctor decided in November that my issues probably stemmed from a seritonin and norepinephrine issue, and we started treatment on the seritonin side.  Just two weeks ago, we decided that venture went well, and shifted the focus to the norepinephrine side.  We were pretty excited about all this, because it has been an extremely long battle and journey.  We started a two week test for one kind of medication.

The medicine helped with my energy level, but ultimately failed at its intended purpose.  I went back to the doctor a couple days ago (on my birthday actually), and we had a pretty discouraging meeting.  We took a step back and started a new medicine that is notorious for a lot of things, and very hard on the digestive system.  Therefore, I have additional medicine to help protect my digestive tract from the medication for my muscles.  If this medicine works, then it is an inflammatory issue.  If not, then it is back to the drawing board.  I started this medicine today.

So now that we’re on the same page, I can explain a little of what I went through today and you’ll be able to understand the depth of my “pain” so to speak, but I’m not really talking about physical pain right now.  I’m talking about the exhaustion, sadness, and discouragement that comes from dealing with something for a very long time.

I was scared to take this medicine today, but I did it anyway, and I have felt very sick.  Pain has increased and I was unbelievably exhausted all day.  This was the exact opposite of what this medicine was supposed to do.  I left work around 4:00 and went home.  I slept for 3 and a half hours.  When I woke up, I turned on my IPod, and God led me to the song Gratitude by Nichole Nordeman.  I couldn’t believe how much God taught me through this incredible song (and I am sorry that we are just now starting to get to the point of my blog).  Here are the lyrics to the song:

Send some rain, would You send some rain?
‘Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade
Would You send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down
Surely You can see that we are thirsty and afraid
But maybe not, not today
Maybe You’ll provide in other ways
And if that’s the case…

We’ll give thanks to You with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If You never send us rain

Daily bread, give us daily bread
Bless our bodies, keep our children fed
Fill our cups, then fill them up again tonight
Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger’s view this time.
Or maybe not, not today
Maybe You’ll provide in other ways
And if that’s the case…

We’ll give thanks to You with gratitude
A lesson learned to hunger after You
That a starry sky offers a better view if no roof is overhead
And if we never taste that bread

Oh, the differences that often are between
What we want and what we really need

So grant us peace, Jesus, grant us peace
Move our hearts to hear a single beat
Between alibis and enemies tonight
Or maybe not, not today
Peace might be another world away
And if that’s the case…

We’ll give thanks to You with gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need
And if you never grant us peace

But Jesus, would you please?

Where do I even begin?  How can I start to tell you about all that I have learned from the depths of the valley?  Perhaps I could write many books, however what I want to share with you tonight is how very much I love my God.

To be honest, it makes me pretty angry to hear this new theology that says in essence that a loving God sending people to hell doesn’t make any sense.  Seems to me that we got things WAY MESSED UP.  And yes, the subject of suffering, justice, and judgment is a hard one to reconcile, but somehow we’ve made this story about us instead of God.

The truth is, that truth is truth, whether we want to believe it or not.  Gravity exists, and no matter how much you don’t believe it is there, you will fall and break your leg if you jump off the roof of your house.  Life could not make sense if we did not have this basic understanding of how the world works.  The same is true about spiritual things as well.  God is real and so are heaven and hell, and I don’t see how anyone can read the Bible and come to a different conclusion.  Just because we can’t justify in our minds how God is love and still just, does not make it any less true.  Now with that said, let me talk a little more.

Does a loving God send people to hell?  That makes God out to be a horrible Being.  However, there are two truths in this statement:  God is loving, and some people will go to hell.  However, we forget the most important part of this whole thing:  ALL OF US BY OUR ACTIONS DESERVE THAT.  God, by His grace and love has offered us a way out, and a way to be restored forever in relationship with Him.  THAT’S GOOD NEWS!

The same could be said about suffering.  How can a good and loving God allow people to suffer?  Why do good people get sick?  Why do some people die young?  These things don’t make sense, and in a way, I’m not sure they ever will to our satisfaction this side of eternity.  However, we can’t wrap our whole understanding of God’s goodness around how we perceive Him to be, because if the truth is that God is good, then maybe we’ve turned the story upside down.  If the story’s about God, then it is a priviledge to know Him, to be loved by Him, and to be held by Him.

Heaven only knows how many times this girl has asked God “Why?”  If you really want to know, right now I am at a restaurant.  I am tired, sick, and in pain.  However, I desperately want to tell you about how amazing my God is.  Through all the years of unanswered prayers, unending tears, and even yet today the disappointed hopes, God has been so faithful.

People wonder how I can still trust God and love Him with all that I have been through.  In my mind, how could I not?  My God has been beside me through every moment of suffering, and was the only One who has caught all my tears.  Through the majority of this journey now, I have not lived  close to my parents and have had to face many, many nights alone.  Even tonight, I will go home to my apartment, and I won’t have anyone to cry to but God.  However, though I am by myself, I am never far from the comforting arms of my Best Friend.  My wildest imagination could not have perceived a God more loving and more wonderful.  Yes, God could heal me anytime He wanted to.  However, I am blessed to be entrusted with such a testimony of His grace, and I am filled with gratitude that I would have the opportunity to walk beside the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  He has filled me with greater joy than I could have ever dreamed.

Why am I sick?  I have no idea, and if God hasn’t shown me, then I guess that I don’t need to know.  I was talking to my friend Rachel this morning, and she was explaining how brief our lives really are.  She said it’s kind of like a picture taken of a car speeding by, a snapshot of quick movement and then it’s gone.  When we remember that moment or we see a picture of it, there is usually one thing that really stands out in our minds.  I wonder, what will be the flash of my life?  What will be the one thing that people will remember about me when I am gone?  I would hope that through all my imperfections, wanderings, and questions that they will remember God.  I want the one thing they see to be Him, because that’s what my life’s really about anyway.

I want to live every moment of my life in gratitude to God because I am truly blessed beyond what I could ever dream.  If God never sends the rain, or the bread, or the peace, or the healing that I pray for, then I will give thanks to Him for teaching me how to hunger and thirst for Him, and to trust Him through the questions that I don’t have the wisdom to answer.  Every day I find God to be more good than I found Him the day before, and that is a truth that will never change.  He is my everything, in plenty or in need.  I will rest in Him, grateful for the priviledge of knowing Him and the ability to share with those around me of His goodness in my life.  My story is not my own, and come what may, I will love Him with all that I am.  I only pray that He would continue to give me the strength to hold onto Him, and I know that He is holding onto me too.  Like Job, I will say, “Though He slay me, still I will trust Him,” and I will live every day thankful for the moments He gives and for the chance to show His love.


About the author chelseamaxine

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