Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spiritual healing through my vestibular disorder

"...be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer..."
(Romans 12:12)

I don't normally like to get overly personal about my life on a blog, but I felt led to share how God has worked spiritual healing in my life through my physical illness. Going through my own life altering disease, which I wrote about briefly here, has truly given me a heart for those who suffer.  I long to share with you the spiritual work God has done in my life through this trial so that by it you may find encouragement.  He laid it on my heart to keep a journal of all the ways I was growing spiritually throughout this ordeal and now I want to use those experiences to bring Him glory. 


When I first experienced the symptoms of what later would be diagnosed as labyrinthitis on January 31, joy was not exactly my initial response. Without going into the medical technicalities, labyrinthitis is a disorder of the inner ear where a suspected virus attacks the balance organ in the ear, destroying cells and weakening its function. According to doctors, the damage is permanent. The ears are responsible (as well as the eyes and muscles/joints) for sending signals to the brain to help it know where we are in relation to gravity and whether or not we're moving. Since my brain was now getting mixed signals from my ears because one had lost part of its function, it left me with chronic dizziness.  I had suffered with bouts of positional vertigo for years prior to this as well, but this chronic dizziness was something new. It's not a spinning sensation and it's not feeling light headed, but rather everything around me always seems to be moving slightly even when I'm not, day and night. My doctor prescribed Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy which is designed to help your brain compensate for the inner ear damage.  I am currently in my 11th week.  

Whatever you suffer from today, my heart goes out to you and you are in my prayers.  I am here to share with you that God loves you, He is with you (Matthew 28:20) and He is at work in your life. No one wants to be sick, including me, but if you believe and fully trust in His sovereignty in all of life's circumstances and keep your eyes fixed on Him, He will provide you with the strength, peace, endurance, hope, faith and even joy to carry on. 


JEHOVAH RAPHA - The Lord, our Healer
"...I am the Lord, who heals you" (Exodus 15:26)

Early on in my illness, before I was ever even diagnosed, I cried out to the Lord one night in a mighty way with tears streaming down my face. I begged Him to heal me.  The following morning, during a Bible study I had been working on called No Worries: Learning to Trust our Sovereign God (how appropriate, right?), the assignment for the day was to read the story of King Hezekiah.  He was told to get his affairs in order because he was going to die from his illness, a boil which apparently was fatal. He cried out to the Lord in tears and the Lord heard him. The Lord sent his servant, Isaiah, back to the King with these words: "Thus says the Lord, "I have heard your prayers, I have seen your tears, behold, I will heal you"" (2 Kings 20:1-6). I sat in awe for quite some time after reading those words. Was it a coincidence?  There are no coincidences with God. I believe, wholeheartedly, that this was His answer to me. I prayed, I cried, I asked for healing.  He heard, He saw, He will heal.  Wow. It was one of those moments you never want to forget how it felt. It was as if I heard Him speaking those words directly to me. Never underestimate the power of prayer, or His willingness to speak to you. I had no idea just how powerfully He would answer that prayer. It wasn't in the way I expected, at least not yet, but it was in the way He knew I needed most. He loved me enough to use my pain and suffering to bring health and healing to my soul.  Determined to stay in the word of God, I fought my symptoms of dizziness day after day, staying faithful to Bible study and prayer. I did what I could and rested when I needed. Bible study, prayer and vestibular therapy were my prescription!  It was through my time with the Lord that the real healing began. 

Make no mistake, the Lord is our healer (Jeremiah 30:17, Psalm 103:3, Psalm 107:20, Matthew 4:23, 14:14). That is His name, Jehovah Rapha. Whether He decides to heal instantaneously and miraculously, or use doctors and medicine, He is the one who heals. You might ask, what about those He doesn't physically heal? We just need to trust in His love and plan for each of our lives, which sometimes includes a physical ailment that is not removed. The good news is that in Christ, this is the not the end for us! As His children we have the promise of an eternal home prepared in heaven for us by the Lord himself (John 14:1-3), a place where there will be no longer be any death, mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). Not only that, but we have His grace which is sufficient for us in the here and now, for His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). If He wills for us to live our lives with an illness, He never leaves us to live with it on our own. 


"But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12)


My first and most important lesson came by way of God assuring me that I was His child. This may seem like a funny lesson to learn, after all, shouldn't this be something I already knew as a Christ following Christian? About 3-4 years ago, a seed got planted in my mind that I might not truly be saved.  I'm convinced now that it was the enemy and not actually the truth, but I watered the seed by letting my thoughts run rampant until I believed it must be the truth. Not being sure of your salvation is a terrible place to be. Without the assurance of God's promises, which only belong to His children, I felt completely powerless. I always felt like an outsider looking in around other believers too, longing to have what they seemed to have, but always doubting. While spending time daily in communication with God and in His word, He had me listening to a Christian radio station in my area called The Bridge. I was also working through a Bible study that referenced the book of 1 John. I knew that book was written specifically to believers, so that you will know for sure that you are a child of God. I began to pray that the Lord would bring me a thorough study on 1 John so that I could know for sure of my salvation. That very morning when I prayed that prayer, I turned on the radio station to find one of the pastors going through a verse by verse study on that book.  I couldn't believe it!  I spent hours a day going through the archives listening to the study from beginning to end. I marveled as day after day the Lord spoke to my heart, changing me in so many ways through that study and ultimately giving me the assurance that I belong to Him. That was a turning point in my life. Knowing for sure and no longer doubting my salvation has drastically changed the way I view myself, my life, the world, my Lord, my prayers, my assurances of His promises, my desire to live for Him and more. The word and my prayer life have come alive in ways like never before.  It was the turning point that allowed for all other healing to follow.

If you're reading this today and don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I urge you to do that right now.  You never know when it might be your last chance. He will change your life in ways you can never even imagine, but most of all, He wants to save your soul so you can spend eternity with Him!  For more information on the most important decision you will ever make in your life, please see this resource: Billy Graham Association.

"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:14)

I have struggled with two issues for almost my entire life: worrying about my health and poor body image. Regarding my health, even after becoming a Christian, I held on tight to my worries, thinking that by them I could somehow control something bad not happening to me.  I spent most of my younger years going from doctor to doctor having test after test all so they could reassure me that my heart, brain, kidneys, you name it, were functioning just fine. I trust in doctors; I also trusted in myself. I spent many, many years obsessing over the latest fad diets too. Whatever the latest research told me about what to eat or what not to eat to not get cancer or some other kind of disease, I jumped on the wagon. Same with fitness, but this obsession related to my body image. As a young teenager, I dealt with an eating disorder. I carried my insecurities into adulthood,never quite measuring up to whatever image I thought I should be in my own mind. Since I work out at home, I wasted tons of money on the latest and greatest home fitness routines which made the empty promise to keep me in tip top shape and looking my best. It was exhausting because just when I thought I had it right, something else came along. New fitness studies would come out contradicting what I had previously read, not to mention the constant conflicting research on nutrition.  This inner turmoil was going on all while being a Bible believing and supposed Christ trusting Christian. 

After my diagnosis was made I spent a lot of time thinking about how I really had no control over my health at all. I couldn't exercise anymore so trying to get or remain "perfect" was out of the question. All I had was the Lord and nothing else to put my trust in that I used to. I remember the day when He said to me, "Christine, clearly you cannot control your health. You couldn't stop your ear damage and nothing but time, rehabilitation and my will can fix it. You can't diet your way back to health and right now you can't even exercise. A 10 minute walk exhausts you and throws your balance system into a tailspin. Your worth is in Me; I don't look at the outward appearance. You're right, you will never measure up to the world because you don't belong to it. Stop conforming to the world, stop trusting in yourself; eat from the bounty I have provided and when you're better, just do some sensible workouts that will strengthen you to serve ME, not yourself, for that is the purpose of a healthy body. Now confess your idolatry and trust Me."

Wow. I cannot even put into words what a heavy load has been lifted by my repentance of this idolatry. You may wonder how food and exercise can be an idol, but for me food was everything I put my faith and trust in to make me healthy and exercise was something I used to find my worth. These are things that rightfully belong to Christ. My worth is in Him. My life is in His hands. He alone deserves praise and worship. This is something I have struggled with for about 20 years. The most amazing part about it is that freedom from this bondage is something I actually prayed for weeks before I ever even got sick! I had asked the Lord to take these burdens from me at times before, but I never fully gave them up. I was just too afraid of letting go of control. I was determined this year to change but had no idea what it would take to get me there. Here is a prayer that I wrote and saved in my email drafts on January 1, 2014. I don't normally type out my prayers but God knew I would refer back to it in complete amazement at His transforming work.


Dear Lord, I can't change myself but when I commit to offering my life to you and renewing my mind through your word, You can and will change me. I want a healthy lifestyle of eating what's best for me and exercising, but I can't seem to stick with it on my own and it's discouraging. I know that I focus on healthy living for the wrong reasons and I pray that I care less about how it will make me look, and focus more on having a healthy body and mind that can better serve you. Help me to let go of any negative thought patterns and idols that stand in my way of living in your truth and the best life you have for me. I desire more than anything to spend time with you daily and to do the good works that you have prepared beforehand for me. Please help me to accomplish these things, in Jesus name I pray! - January 1, 2014


Amazing! This prayer was written weeks before I ever got sick, the same sickness He used to remove these burdens from my life. So, setting aside the sin that so easily entangle[d] me (Hebrews 12:1), I asked my husband to put a block on our computer from a fitness site that I used to spend hours reading. I also began to purge my life of all my workout DVDs. All my prized workouts that I put my hope in to satisfy me (meaningless to God!), were now either sold or trash bound. The only ones I kept were workouts by a Christian company set to Christian music with scripture throughout. I also deleted all the food blogs I had bookmarked on our computer and got rid of any cookbooks that preached superiority in their way of eating. It may sound silly to some, but this was a huge step of obedience and subsequent freedom for me! “I consider [it all] garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8) I asked the Lord to give me the desire to eat foods again that I had formally forbidden myself because of their alleged negative health effects and He was more than happy to do so. It didn't take long before I was eating normally again, no longer afraid of certain food groups. What freedom.

"The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all" (Psalm 103:19)


At first I thought that my illness might be a spiritual attack. What I learned through studying the scriptures was that regardless of whether it was an attack from satan or God allowed it, that He was in control. He either causes our circumstances or allows them to happen (Deut 32:39).  Have you ever read the story of Job? All of the heartache Job faced through the loss of his family, all of his possessions and even the loss of his health, was caused by Satan, who needed permission from God to lift a finger against him! (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-6)

I used to be afraid of the devil. Sad, but true. I used to think if I prayed out loud and talked about my fears, he would know them and use them against me. As it turns out, he does know my fears and does try to use them against me, but praise God for being my El Elyon, the God most high and sovereign!! I learned this name through one of the Bible studies I worked through while being sick, a book I highly recommend!! (Lord, I Want to know You by Kay Arthur). Knowing that nothing can touch my life without His divine approval or will has given me the assurance that everything that happens to me has a divine purpose. It gave my suffering more meaning. Whether He caused it or He allowed it, He clearly has a plan in it all and it’s not to harm me, but to somehow make me something better, more like His Son. So take that devil (who I’m no longer afraid of by the way).  

I already shared my assurance of my salvation above, but I wanted to touch more on the assurance that Jesus is mine and how it has changed my life. My favorite hymn of all time is “In Christ Alone”. As I used to sing the first verse, I would always get sad and sometimes even cry because I never really felt like I knew Jesus as the person He was being described as in the song and it was something I longed for. Another prayer of mine has always been to know Him this way, the way He is described in the song, more intimately and to experience Him in such ways that I never had before. I used to fear I would get to heaven and hear Him say “depart, I never knew you” (Mt 7:23). I didn't know it would take this illness to answer this prayer as well, but answer it He did! Throughout this whole illness I've spent countless hours in prayer and in Bible study. I have heard from the Lord many times, He has encouraged me, answered prayer, carried me, helped me, filled me with peace and hope. Now I long to see Him, to run into the arms of my creator, all-sufficient one, provider, healer, shepard, strength, strong tower, peace, helper, Lord and Master, my all in all. I know Him and He knows me and will never tell me to depart. And now, I can confidently sing with tears of joy that He is all of this to me personally, and more:


In Christ alone, my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song.  This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.  What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease.  My comforter, my all in all, here in the love of Christ I stand!





"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31)


Through my study on 1 John that I mentioned above, the Lord really worked on me regarding the condition of my heart. How can I love God yet hate my brother? (1 John 4:20) While I couldn't think of any Christian brothers or sisters I “hated”, I could certainly bring to mind some others. The Lord brought to mind all the times I was offended, hurt or a miscommunication occurred and I let it turn to bitterness, anger and actual hatred. I tried to justify myself by telling God they weren't brothers or sisters in Christ that I hated, so was I off the hook? I knew better, I was just reaching. It was undeniable, I was walking in darkness and needed to confess my sins and be cleansed (1 John 1:6, 9). Right then and there, in my room and on my bed, I remember it well, I asked the Lord to forgive me of all the anger and hatred and bitterness. I sought forgiveness from those who I needed to ask. I asked the Lord to give me a heart for the people I did not get along with, to love them and to pray for them. I have been able to do that to this day and it is only by His transforming work and the work of the Holy Spirit that this is possible. 






As you can see, the Lord has done so much work in my life spiritually through this illness that, although I don't want to be sick, I wouldn't trade how He has changed me for anything. Letting go of all of the idolatry, bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness and lies I was believing, and being assured of my salvation, has completely transformed my walk with the Lord. I had no idea all this work needed to be done, but He did. My prayers used to be half-hearted as I was unsure if He would even hear me, but now they are bold. I used to pray in my mind but now I pray out loud, and I pray scripture. My communication with God and my understanding of His word are completely alive and unhindered now. I know He hears me and loves me and all I want is to serve Him. I know I don’t deserve His love and faithfulness and nothing I can ever do or say this side of eternity could ever express my gratefulness to Him for changing me the way He has. It took an illness that forced me to have no where to turn but to Him and to lay aside and repent of all my meaningless idols, wrongful and sinful thoughts and behavior to show me who I am to live for.  It also gave me a deeper faith and understanding of His character. My heart just overflows with love and gratefulness to my Savior and King who I can never repay.


I used to pray when I first got sick that the Lord would please just put me back the the way I used to be, you know, not dizzy all the time! Now I shudder to think that prayer be answered. Instead I pray: “Dear Lord, please don’t ever let me go back to who I used to be. I don’t want to be physically whole but spiritually deficient”. That was who I was. When my physical healing comes, it will be a new day for a new creation. When the day of my complete physical healing comes, it will be a beautiful day! I can just taste it!! But it will mean even more now. It has been an incredible 4 months with spiritual growth I could have never imagined. And yes, I can find joy in my suffering not only because I have His joy in me (John 15:11), but also because my Lord loved me enough to cause my temporal body momentary pain and suffering in order to bring health and healing to my soul.



Now I'm not saying that everyone who is sick has sin in their life that needs to be dealt with. I'm not even saying that I believe I got sick because of the sin itself. I believe that God is using this illness to deal with me spiritually in ways I needed healing. Regardless of the reason, there is always a purpose in suffering that is beyond ourselves.  I read an article about trials recently and really liked their comparison of how God uses our suffering to make us whole just as a doctor re-breaks an arm in order for it to heal whole. The re-break caused temporary harm and momentary pain to the patient, but in the end, it was for his greater good. 


" Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)



"After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." (1 Peter 5:10)



"And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)


"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)


"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ." (2 Corinthians 3-5) 

I’ll be honest and say that of course I still have my days where I feel discouraged and upset that I’m still sick and I surely let God know it!  But the truth is that I am getting better. The truth is that the Lord commands me not to be discouraged (Joshua 1:9) so I cry out to Him for encouragement and the strength to go on, and He always provides it. I also know there is still more spiritual work to be done and that I am not yet perfected. In the words of Paul “but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me… forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12-14)

I hope that by this post you have found encouragement knowing that God loves you, He hears your prayers and answers them; He never leaves you alone to face your trials!  Look at all the work He has done in my life!  He wants to be a part of every part of your life too.  Just surrender to Him!  Use this time of illness, this season, to glorify Him any way you can. Keep looking to Jesus, above the circumstances.  He will give you the strength, peace, perseverance and joy to go on.  So many times I felt like I could not go on and I have, but only because of Him. He works best when you've come to the end of yourself, and He gets the glory!

If you're going through an illness right now, please feel free to share any prayer requests you might have.  It would be my honor and privilege to pray for you.  Please share any praise reports as well!   To Him be the glory!


9 comments:

  1. Christine - thank you for pointing me to this posting on your blog. I have appreciated reading through all that you shared and have been able to relate to much of it.

    I am reminded ( not that you said this ) but often there are well meaning Christians who will say, "If you had enough faith in Jesus you'd be healed." I have come to believe that the Healer is more important than the healing; there are many kinds of healing ( as you have expressed regarding what you have gained spiritually ); and that it takes a LOT of faith to persevere and keep trusting the Lord when we want the physical healing now and it is delayed.

    Wonderful thoughts you shared - all of them. Continue to hold onto the word you got when reading through Hezikiah - those promises are there for a reason and when they come personally during times of prayer, we know they are from Him.

    Lynn :)

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    1. Hi Lynn! Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post and for all of your encouragement! It's hard to believe the Lord did all this work in my life so recently, as now it feels like ages ago, but I am thankful that He laid it on my heart to share, not just to encourage others, but to be a reminder to me of His faithfulness and work in my life.

      It's true, how can anyone say we need more faith when faith is what has been getting us through this illness!? All we need is a mustard seed, right? ;)

      I'm so thankful to the Lord for our new found friendship. :)

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  2. The Lord has brought me to your blog. Praise God for what you have shared. I really can relate from the beginning til end of the article. Thank you so much!

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    1. Hello, BG! Thank you for your comment. I am happy to hear what I wrote touched you. To God be the glory! God bless!

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  3. Christine - I got BG's comment in my gmail account this morning and "have found you" again.

    I don't know why over these last couple of years I have not had notices about your blog postings but I have not. I have felt badly we got out of touch but looking through what these last two years have held for you - you have barely had time to breathe. I am grateful you have blogged and praise God for the remission in the Lyme's Disease. What a torturous road but a new one opens up as we begin a "new year".

    You've remained on my daily prayer list even not knowing for sure what was your need - trusting that God did.

    God bless! Grateful to start the new year with this unexpected connecting back to you!

    Lynn

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    1. Hi Lynn! It's so good to hear from you! I have thought of you often and also felt badly we lost touch. You are right though that I have been through a lot, but persevered just as the Lord promises! Thank you so much for your prayers, I have needed them in many ways. I'm happy to reconnect too and perhaps we can write more over email! I pray you are well!

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    2. Ah - so glad to connect.
      I still have your email address - or the one I used before - and will do a catch up "soon".

      It is a nice way to start the new year!

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  4. I been suffering from constant vertigo 24/7 for 8month now and stomach issues ear popping and crackling ,even when I close my eyes vertigo is horrible please pray for me God Bless Pili

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  5. Pili, I am so very sorry for what you are going through. I can sympathize and I know how awful it is. You can be sure that I will be praying for you!

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