Two years ago I agreed … actually sought out … to have a surgery that I had always considered as a “last resort.” However, my health had reached a point where it now sounded like a dream.
Since my second spine surgery in 1995, I had lived with severe complications due to nerve damage done to several vital organs. The damage was irreparable. For years, I have followed a brutal and exhausting bi-weekly regimen to compensate for my body’s limitations. Physically, it had become unbearable. I did this regimen through high school, college, into marriage, through pregnancy (the worst), until our daughter, Promise, was six years old.
So in November of 2015, after much testing and discussion with my surgeon, I had a loop ileostomy procedure. It has been a life-changing procedure that (even with its challenges) I am abundantly thankful for.
Yet, recently further complications have launched us into a (sooner than expected) discussion of when to go back into surgery to create a permanent ileostomy. As I worked through the questions and emotions of removing these organs and my body changing, yet again, I felt tired and weighed down.
I cried. I slept … a lot. Then I woke up and I knew that crying and sleeping were beneficial for a time, but I also knew they couldn’t be my long-term solution for working through this grief. Another loss to face. Another life-changing debilitation that would fix one issue, but totally compromise my life on so many other levels. My hope in anything good at all was waning big-time!
Promise, my daughter, was at an impromptu sleepover and Chris was out of town. It was 11 p.m. (but I had slept all day), so I turned on my “Meredith Andrews Pandora Station” as loud as it could go and began doing the dishes. Those of you who have struggled with the heaviness of depression can understand what a huge step this was. All I wanted to do was crawl back under my covers, but I thought I’d try praising and thanking God, not even for the situation, but simply for who He is.
I realized in that moment, even if I couldn’t thank Him for this new hurdle yet, I could still thank Him for His character and His promises. Those are not affected by my circumstances.
As I sang, I cried some more, and then I felt His peace and joy wash over me. There is a reason that “praise” and “thanksgiving” are mentioned as commands so many times in the Bible. They are vital to our health and can change our perspective when our situation is unchangeable.
According to author Mel Lawrenz, the book of Revelation is a “revelation (in Greek, apocalypse) from Jesus Christ” or a prophecy recorded by John. In Revelation 7:9-13, it describes the saints that have endured suffering in the name of Christ, have come out of the tribulation, and have had their robes washed white by the blood of Christ. And they are on their faces before the throne of God saying, “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 7:12, NASB).
I was reading Matthew Henry’s commentary on Revelation and there are two powerful observations about this group of verses:
- They acknowledge the glorious attributes of God — His wisdom, His power, and His might.
- They declare that for these His divine perfections He ought to be blessed, and praised, and glorified, to all eternity; and they confirm it by their “We see what is the work of heaven, and we ought to begin it now, to get our hearts tuned for it, to be much in it, and to long for that world where our praises, as well as happiness, will be perfected.”
Pastor Stuart Briscoe also reflected on this idea of “getting our hearts tuned” for Heaven while here on earth, in his recent book, Improving with Age: God’s Plan for Getting Older and Better. He says, “Consider this possibility: Could it be that wasting away physically and being renewed spiritually are equal and opposite realities? Could both these processes be preludes to, and reminders of, the physical return to dust and the spiritual return to the Creator? Are we living now in processes that will be completed later in eternity?”
Praise and thanksgiving towards God in the midst of our suffering will transform our perspective to that of an eternal one and give way to chronic hope.
Republished with permission from Just Between Us Magazine, winter 2016 edition.
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Adriana Hayes is a freelance illustrator, professor, writer, and speaker who finds joy in helping others discover how God can bring “chronic hope” into their lives. She lives in Milwaukee, Wis., with her husband, Chris, and daughter, Promise.
Photo courtesy of Robyn Vining Photography.