Monday, June 9, 2014

Answered prayer: Be still!

I already shared numerous ways the Lord has brought me spiritual healing, as well as answered prayer, through my illness.  You can find that post here.  I felt led to share a very special way He answered prayer one night as I cried out to Him.  I had been struggling with the wait, the time between His promise to heal me and the healing to come.  I had been to doctors, went through tests and got a diagnosis.  However, there are other types of doctors I could see if I wanted to, and I struggled with whether or not I should keep pursing medical opinions, or just wait. 

One night when I was having a particularly bad day with my illness, I was crying out to God asking Him to show me if there was anything more I could do, any other doctors I could see, any other kind of treatment I should seek, anything the doctors were missing, for Him to please show me. I kept saying "what should I do???" over and over. Less than five minutes after that prayer, a friend of mine (who didn't know I was praying) text me and asked me what does "Be still and know that I am God" mean?  As I marveled at the timing of her question I began to search my concordance and commentaries on this beautiful message from the Lord. I knew that was His answer as to what I should "do" and it brought me peace that night. This is just one example of how He has answered prayer through my illness.  There are so many more examples like that where He directly answered prayer, brought me peace, enabled me to endure, that I could write a book!

The reason this particular event came to my mind this morning is because of a Bible study I started a few weeks ago on mentoring.  It's called "Influence: Living and Sharing a Life of Wisdom" by Jan Silvious and Pam Gillaspie. These are the same two authors who wrote the study I was going through when I first got sick about not worrying and trusting our Sovereign God.  When that study was coming to an end, I had asked Pam if they had any other studies in the works because I really enjoyed the one on worry. She told me that it was going to be a study on mentoring.  Well, at that particular time (several months back), I had no desire to do a study on mentoring.  I told myself "well, I won't be doing that one". Fast forward through months of God working on my heart and in my life and creating within me the desire to share Him with other women. I had completely forgotten about the study until I got an email for the enrollment. I signed up and am currently working on Week 2.  

Can you guess what my assignment is for today?? It's to study God's word to see what it says about waiting on Him.  Yes, a study on mentoring other people (that I didn't even think I would be doing) is asking me to dig deep into God's word to "learn to both wait on God and act with kingdom purposes". Interestingly enough, I am also doing a study on perseverance right now and just finished studying the life of Joseph, a young man who endured decades of rejection by his brothers, temptation and slavery before finally ruling over Egypt. That study asked me to exam my own life and how I handle the "wait" just as Joseph had to endure his own time of waiting. He did it all with continued faith and trust in God until one day He could say "what you meant for evil, God meant for good". (Gen 50:20)

Now tell me, is God good or what??  It's not a coincidence that I'm doing these studies right now. At this point in my life I'm struggling with being still and waiting. How could I know that a study on mentoring would ask me to examine what God's word says about waiting on Him?  He put the desire in me to do the study and knew just what I would need to focus on this very day to bring me His continued encouragement and hope.  Praise God, more answered prayer.

I'm off now to do my study on waiting...  :)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Taking thoughts captive

"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ," (2 Cor 10:5)

The Lord spoke a very interesting analogy to my heart one day regarding the therapy I am going through to help my brain compensate for my inner ear weakness, and taking my thoughts captive. 

My therapy, Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT), is "an exercise-based program designed to promote central nervous system compensation for inner ear deficits". My physical therapist developed an individualized treatment plan for me that includes specific head, body, and eye exercises that I perform both in office and at home on a daily basis. These exercises are designed to retrain my brain to recognize and process the signals from my inner ears (the vestibular system) and coordinate them with information from my vision and my muscles/joints. (See: What is Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy? for more information)  

It is crucial to my healing that I perform these same head positioning exercises over and over again, day after day, so that my brain can learn to ignore the mixed signals from my weak ear and compensate. The therapy process is an ongoing battle of taking 1 step forward and then 3 steps back. Just when I think my brain is getting it and I'm feeling better, boom! I have a set back. When I asked my physical therapist why this happens, she explained that it’s just a process that takes time; it’s something new that my brain needs to learn, but over time it will get easier and the bad days will be far less than the good.  

For years (okay, my whole life!) I allowed any and every thought to pop into my mind. I entertained them and fed them, allowing them to grow and take root deep within the pathways of my brain.  It was my norm.  One of the things the Lord called to mind while walking through my illness was that I must confess my sinful thinking and obey His word by beginning to take my thoughts captive. This idea was not foreign to me, I knew the scripture well.  I'll admit that I tried before, in my own strength (we all know how that ends up), to begin the process of taking my wrongful thoughts captive but it was just too hard and I gave up. It was much easier and less painful to just go back to the way I was and not make myself uncomfortable by taking real steps and doing the hard work to change. But this time, I knew it had to be different if I was going to find the kind of real and lasting spiritual healing I believe the Lord is working out in my life during this illness. The Lord showed me that because of the lies I believed, fear was controlling my life because of this illness. In reality, I had let fear of some sort control me my whole life all because of the way I allowed myself to think.  This change of thinking required major attentiveness for someone who was once so casual about their thoughts! The Lord also showed me that aside from taking my thoughts captive, I needed to replace them with truth. I have begun the process of identifying some lies and sinful thoughts I was believing and replacing them with the truth of God's word, and I continue to do so as the Lord reveals them.  However, it's a daily process battle, sometimes minute by minute, that takes alertness (to each thought), hard work and determination.  

So, how did the Lord show me that the two (my therapy and taking thoughts captive) relate in my life?  Physically, my brain was used to my ears doing their job and relied on the information supplied by them to keep me balanced and dizzy free. I didn't need to challenge my brain to take over for my weak ear because it didn't have to. Spiritually, my brain was used to the norm of entertaining any and every thought that popped into my mind, which left me functioning as a person who claimed to be a Christ follower, yet lived the not so abundant life He came to give, devoid of His power and bound up in the chains of fear and lies. Hard truth!  I didn't need to challenge my brain to take my thoughts captive because I let them roam free! Well, it's a new season of challenge for my brain, both physically and spiritually!

The connection is in the challenge. Just like I need to perform my vestibular therapy exercises day after day in order for my brain to keep receiving the wrong signals from my weak ear so that it will learn to function in a new way through compensation, I also need to take my thoughts captive on a daily basis, sometimes minute by minute, in order for my brain to keep the wrong thoughts out and to learn to function in the new way of believing the truth and not lies! As I mentioned above, my vestibular therapy is a process of 1 step forward and 3 steps back, much like taking my thoughts captive has been. It's easy to recognize some wrong thoughts and immediately take them captive, but some days I find myself long into dwelling on the wrong things and wonder how I let it happen. Just as physically my brain slips into it's old familiar pattern of trying to rely on my ears instead of it's new function in taking over for one of them, spiritually my brain slips back into my old familiar routine of letting my thoughts run wild rather than the more difficult work of taking them captive. 

In addition, what I found most interesting, is the literature that claims anxiety (caused mostly in my own life by irrational fear) interferes with the balance compensation process.  As a matter of fact, my doctor even told me the very same thing!  Perhaps the Lord has revealed to me the spiritual healing necessary to bring about the physical one.  

At the end of the day, it’s a process and both my therapy and taking my thoughts captive require trust. After all, Jesus is the one who allows my brain to compensate to bring about my physical healing, just as He gives me the power to take my thoughts captive and has given me His truth to dwell on for my spiritual healing. In both ways, I have to play my active role in the process as I trust in Him.