Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pain Brings Desire

by Donna L. Watkins

With the long battle I've had with the rheumatoid arthritis eating up joints and organs, I now know that it's important to take these opportunities ... or may I reword ... it's important to take these circumstances and make them opportunities.

©2010 Donna L. Watkins - Great Blue Heron
Savannah River National Wildlife Refuge
Instead of cursing them (like Israel did the bitter water when they came to Marah), we need to seek the Lord as to what He wants for us during this season. Or, like Israel, we'll keep making one more trip around that mountain. It was a 40 day trip turned into 40 years. I wonder how many times they came back to Marah before they appreciated that bitter water.

I've let too many years go by trying to fix things and getting frustrated and wanting something else. Too much of what I wanted and not what God was molding into me for His good and purpose in my life. He created me with plans for my life. My free will can allow those plans to never come to pass because I can choose to keep 'having my own way' and missing my true joy and destiny in life.

Health issues are just resting places in the desert journey to the promised land. If we don't see them as that and REST while we're in them, we don't get through them to our promised land (healing). All of that sounds really good, very spiritual, but it's not easy to apply those words in the middle of the circumstances.

In the last week I've been having wisdom tooth problems (a guess since the pain is in that tooth). I had horrible experiences with dentists as a child but as a young adult the dentists I found were great with all the work in those 30 years done without any real discomfort during the process.

Here in Virginia we found a "country dentist" and I enjoyed him for cleanings but got a filling a few years back with the experience being like when I was a child. One of those where you believe you understand how levitation is accomplished since you are no longer lying on the dental chair, but seem to be suspended in mid-air with pain and a great desire to vanish. I haven't been able to imagine going back and have had no real problems to consider it.

Since I have a scaling tool and don't develop much plaque, I keep my teeth in good condition, but this recent challenge adds another pain challenge to life. God's grace has truly been sufficient with the rheumatoid arthritis as I await total healing. I don't believe in trading one problem for another, so I don't use the prescription drugs, nor the over-the-counter pain pills since all come with side-effects I'm not willing to swap out for comfort.

©2010 Donna L. Watkins
Common Moorhen with Glistening Drops of Water
Savannah River National Wildlife Refuge
With that belief and desire for no drugs, grace has provided a layer of faith that has amazingly sustained me through about 24 years of dealing with the disease. There are great and awful days, but all days are good.  However, I can't say I've always considered them that way ... and each day before me will have the same challenge ... how will I react to these circumstances.  You can't store up grace.

"A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God's boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it." -- D.L. Moody

It's amazing how a bit of pain will put you quickly at the foot of the Cross and in the arms of Jesus, so looking back, I would have to say that I would not change anything, other than my slowness of surrendering my own will to His, which has been a major part of this journey.

When we say we truly want more of the Lord, we enter into sharing in His sufferings. The Apostle Paul desired to know the fellowship of His suffering so that he would share the triumph of His resurrection (Phillippians 3:10-11). So, we gain much from leaning into our health issues rather than trying to find ways around them. God always wants more of us since He made man for fellowship with Him. Sometimes we don't appreciate the way our prayers are answered.

Does God create the pain and suffering for us? No, the devil is ever ready to torment us as long as we have a jot or tittle of sin within that we have not confessed, giving him an open doorway. God desires our comfort (My yoke is easy) and offers many promises in the Bible for us to have a life abundant, but we must surrender all to Him as a disciple. We must literally take up our cross and die.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." -- John 12:24

If you look up your favorite Bible promise, you will always find that there is an "if clause" for it. In Deuteronomy there is a lot about what God wants and what obedience looks like. The Ten Commandments are still God's covenant with us. Jesus came to fulfill the sacrificial law that required lambs/temple/priest to be involved with our sin. In Jesus, He provided One sacrifice for all of mankind for sin forever. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming, he said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

Grace doesn't allow us to keep sinning without consequence. The Commandments and all of God's laws were placed into existence to protect us, as we protect our own children by making laws that set boundaries on their life for their own good. The problem is that the devil still comes to tempt us with deceit as he did Adam and Eve, who gave away their dominion of the earth to Satan by their disobedience. We have free will to choose as they did. Will we choose to obey God .. or our own fleshly desires.

The world shouts all around us to "have it our own way" and "get all the gusto" and "do and be your own thing." Sin becomes so common we consider it normal. When you can't tell the difference between Christians and "the world" we have a problem and it's obviously one that we're not seeing without digging deep into our spirit and soul. That's a whole other topic ... back to the subject at hand.

©2010 Donna L. Watkins - Wetland Trail
Chattahoochee Nature Center - Roswell, GA
In the midst of all our bad circumstances, the devil screams at us to give up on God, and tells us that He doesn't care and that we should "curse God and die" like Job's wife told him to do.

But through it all we must remain strong knowing that God would not allow it unless it was something to produce much greater good for us. Something we desperately need more than comfort, and would actually choose to have regardless of the pain if we had a chance to know the future.  The path to our God and Creator of our very body that we treasure so highly.  The creator of something always knows best how to make it all work.

Our mindset and heart on the matter is what God's looking at to see if it matches with our prayers of what our heart and spirit truly desires. For Him comfort is not the true priority (as it is with us when we have to discipline our children). As good parents it's character that we desire to produce which will be long sustaining for any circumstances ... and it's what He knows will make us most joyful and at peace so we can shine forth a difference that the world will see and desire in Christ.

We've been having communion every morning with Jesus individually and it's been a special time (see Wade Taylor's article ). Today I couldn't imagine drinking grape juice or chewing on anything so the devil said, "why bother!" and "He's not doing anything for you."  Well, I don't bother. It's an act of love and worship and desire to be with Him.  If I'm expecting something from it other than time with Him, then my heart is not right.  God doesn't make deals.  He's already sacrificed His One and Only Son to show us His love for us.

My choice to overcome the enemy's suggestions resulted in a real sweet time with the Lord .. mostly of me surrendering more of myself (goodness ... how many layers are there of that?) and finding more peace than I've had before.

And the end result? All the pain went away. There is a place, there is a joy, there is grace ... uncomprehendable to our finite minds ... that truly sustains and matures us into what He desires us to be ... and what the inner core of ourselves want to be. Something that lasts longer than comfort food, a movie, a shopping spree or a day at the spa. His presence truly fulfills and invades every cell and pore of our being so that as we look back at all the "bad" circumstances, we see "great" times of our desires being truly fulfilled in Him.

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