When Guilt Becomes Your Primary Diagnosis

Chronic illness of any kind deals painful blows to our self-worth, none of which are deserving.  The longer I live, the more I realize how I have stacked pallets of guilt on pallets of shame and allowed them to sit heavy on the decaying foundation of my self-worth.  How many times have I let an employer, friend or loved one down?  How many times have I been a burden?  How many times have I let my health overshadow the joys in life?

How many times have I allowed the cancer of guilt to invade my healthy mind?

Regrets are real and have a healthy place when they are used to mend relationships fractured by the weight of our illness and the selfishness that sometimes occurs with such.  Let’s admit it,  we get selfish when we are sick.  It is necessary to seek forgiveness from both others and ourselves in order to move forward.  Chronic illness often prevents us from performing as we would like.  Our minds desire to do what our bodies refuse.  Now that my children are grown and I’m more reflectfull, (not a typo….I’m full of reflection at my age), it is so easy to become regretful over the amount of activities my illness and anxiety prevented me from.  I’m acutely aware my struggles overshadowed family times that should have been great fun, and for that, I am regretful;  however, I can not invite Regret to make a home in my heart.  Obsessing over Regret will open the door to Shame, and Shame ushers Guilt right on in.

Without realizing what has happened, Guilt, unchecked, can become our primary diagnosis.  Guilt has the ability to incapacitate us in emotional, relational and physical ways, and she is a sneaky, silent killer.

I felt the sting of Guilt’s nasty right hook just this morning when the side effects from a seizure medication change meant I was unable to get out of bed to make sure my special needs daughter did her therapeutic exercises.  Hubby had to be both Mom and Dad, again.  Score one for Guilt.

An unexpected jab hit when my husband wanted to pop into a restaurant for a quick bite to eat.   Key words here are “pop into” because you know how we anxious CIBS  (chronic illness buddies) hate to not have had the time to plan for every possible disastrous, yet highly unlikely scenario.  Really? C’mon, we need the time to worry, or it just can’t happen.  Can I get an Amen?!  So,  I stated in my irritated, flat voice that there was no way I could handle the sensory overload that was in that place.  Guilt sat in my lap as we ate our drive-through meal.

A couple of days later, Guilt left me bruised and in tears as I had to leave a reception after my sweet grand babies’ dance recital.  The lighting and sounds were firing up my brain waves resulting in a nice healthy aura, the kind that sends you fleeing in some kind of hyper state of flight or fight.

You know what I’m saying.  You hear the edge in your own voice.  You hear the cutting irritation directed at loved ones.  You make the same excuse for the millionth time, and you  feel the sting of shame.  Score another for Guilt.

If you have a story like mine,  many of you do, you went years with no answers but plenty of symptoms.  Like me, you may have been misdiagnosed…a few times.   That in and of itself leads to great anxiety, depression and dysfunction.  Perhaps, even NO function, as in bed, covers over head for days at a time. As if those aren’t enough,  we start to heap on shame as we weasel out of social events, responsibilities and commitments.  We are masters at disguising the fact we really are in no physical and/or mental shape to show up anyway.  This all too familiar scenario sets us up perfectly for Guilt to wage war on that eroding foundation of self-worth.  Hence, Guilt slides into number one spot as she eats away at us like acid on flesh.  She really is that destructive.  Guilt becomes the disease.

I intend to rob Guilt of the power she has stolen from me.

  Let’s break it down and choose to claim forgiveness for what has been, acceptance of what is and hope for what will be.

Guilt robs us of a few things.

  1. The ability to see the positive.  We are oh, so much more than our illnesses.  Let’s count the good moments and take them back from the hard grasp of Guilt.  Is Guilt stealing your joy?
  2. The ability to see our potential.  God created us to do great things! While it may look different from peers, it doesn’t mean our contributions to this world are any less valuable than our healthy counterparts.
  3. The ability to perceive truth.  We can easily transfer our own shameful view of ourselves to others.   We can easily tell ourselves we are failures when others do not see us in that light at all.  We can easily see ourselves as incapable when in fact, we are entirely able.  Are you seeing yourself as incapacitated?
  4. The ability to live in the present.  Guilt is the rock WE shackle to our ankles.  It drags us under the surface of this moment into the abyss of the past.  WE hold the key, Truth, to unlock the chains.  WE choose whether or not to swim to the surface of the here and now.

Let’s choose to kick the curable disease of Guilt.  Let’s choose to burn those pallets of regret and shame.  Let’s choose to use the key of Truth to unlock these chains.   I leave you with this:

…I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to live in FREEDOM!  Leviticus 26:13b (HCSB)

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Dance of the Daffodil

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From brown and barren ground, you make your promised presence known.  Enduring icy frosts and winter storms, your growth’s timing is not your own.

And when it seems cruel winter has spoken its last goodbye, stinging snow falls once again through foreboding, greying skies.

Beautiful, brilliant daffodil, you live not your’s, but HIS good will.  So, bend with grace beneath this season’s unfair weight and kinder times anticipate.

Trust in the One with whom you dance.  None of this is happenstance.

Bow your head and take this rest.  Accept the trials, accept you’re blessed.

One day the sun again will shine.  You’ll lift your head and find it’s time, to raise your weathered petals high and sway in praise to Adonai.

Yes, Adonai (our Lord and Master) provides so many lessons in nature.  We can stand in awe of his might and grand design, or like today, we can identify with the tender plant being assaulted by a heavy, late Spring snow.

Is this you?  Are you a tender daffodil emerging from crisis, trying to heal from pain, redefining your life after loss, facing an unknown future?  Please know that with your full cooperation, God will redeem it, meaning he will purchase your pain, disillusionment, fear, whatever you are holding, and he will present you with His peace in its place.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

We get to choose whether or not we accept what he gives when he purchases our pain.  We can stand there at the cash register of life with our arms folded, shaking our heads no and demanding what we think we should receive; or, we can hold out trembling, empty hands extending from battle-weary bodies that house trusting hearts.  We get to choose to  believe what he places in those hungry hands is what we need to grasp for His glory to be displayed in our weakness!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

daffodil in snow

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So today, see your storm as His power being made perfect in your weakness, and see this weight of your circumstances as a spiritual workout preparing you for an eternal weight of glory!!  Doesn’t that twist the tears of sorrow to Yes, Jesus! tears of joy?!

 

 

When God says No

What is your no?

Maybe a dream job?  A relationship?  A desired goal?  Maybe it’s that negative pregnancy test.  Maybe it’s the confirmation of disease  delivered in the hard words on a pathology report or bottom line of the MRI?   The slow shake of a doctor’s head?

No is never easy.  No angers us.  No disappoints us.  No devastates us.

Sometimes the reason for the No will show itself in time, and we are blessed by the insight and wisdom we gain through being able to capture the whole process in our minds.  We can see exactly why God said no and we are all about praising Him for working it out on our behalf.  Much of the time; however, the bigger plan for the greater good is cloaked and in this life, goes unrevealed.   Unrevealed because the beauty in the No would be lost on us.  It’s infinite, extraordinary, eternal and we are finite, ordinary, and so temporal.   Yes, it would be lost on us.

I would be amiss to not address what I will call the Consequential No.  We are sinful, “stiff-necked” people. We come from the original “don’t tell me no” folks.  Some of the No’s we get are a direct result of our poor choices and/or the sin of others. While God wants to lavish us with all things amazing, we continue to exercise our free will and that gets in the way.  Natural consequences in this natural world result in a hard, cold No!

This is not heaven and there will be injustice and heartache and plenty of No.  This is just our temporary home.

It’s the No that comes after prayer, seeking, searching….. The No that comes after we have been obedient to resign our desire to God’s will.  That’s the No that we mourn over.  The one we long to find understanding in.  We think if we can just find God’s reason, it will somehow be an easier pill to swallow.  That is the No we have to resolve before it dissolves our spiritual and emotional well-being.  So what do we do with this heavy-weighted No?

First, know this:

You’re not at war with No, you are at war with Acceptance.

Secondly:

The burden isn’t on God to provide you with detailed, palatable explanations. The burden is on you to eventually, after appropriately grieving the No, acquiesce.  Please hear my heart – There is a time for grief, for honest conversations with the Lord,  for torrents of tears, even for anger, but only a time.  Eventually, living in that state will destroy you.  

We have some options.  We can throw ourselves on the ground kicking and hitting like a 2 year old.  We can scream until our voices fail.  We can even bang our heads on the floor, but none of that changes the No.  What it does do is further hurt us and drag those in close proximity into the scalding heat of our rage.    After the ashes from the volcanic eruption settle, No is still No.

We can beg God.  Moses did.  He got one of those consequential No’s.  A devastating blow.  In an incident during his 40 years of leading the whiny, stubborn, demanding Israelites through war after war, hardship after hardship,  He disobeyed God, bringing glory to himself instead of the Almighty.  God right then and there said No seeing the Promised Land for you and your brother.  Nope.  The time came when Moses begged God to change his mind.  “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to my any more about this matter”.  (Deuteronomy 3:26)  No was still No.  Moses died only seeing the Promised Land from a mountain top miles and miles away.

We can run from God.  Jonah did.  He ended up in the belly of a whale before doing exactly what God had asked him to do in the first place.  In his case, Go was still Go.  Jonah’s No was an answer to the old do I have a choice question.

We can test God.  Gideon did.  If you are really going to do what you say you will Lord, I need a sign, and then another.   We can do that.  Intellectually, we can find every reason why blind trust is for the stupid when really, a simple mind is exactly what we need. Choose trusting not testing.

We can imitate our Lord.  Knowing all that was bearing down upon him, Jesus went into prayer.  Let his words settle into the corners of your mind and the hurting parts of your heart…”My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”……. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.  Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:38,39).  No begging for a different outcome.  No running away from his purpose.  No testing the trustworthiness of the Father’s plan.  Acceptance.

Acceptance is your burden, not the answer No.  Pick it up, carry it, embrace it.  Offer it to others.  Show them how to do the same.

Acceptance must be invited.  It is the beginning of God being glorified through your No.

Acceptance is letting go of control, even when there are no answers.

Acceptance is an offering of praise.  When I am at the end of my angst over the No, when I’m exhausted from the search for answers that cannot be found,  it is then I can rest in Him.  It is there where I find my peace.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters,  I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through  the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  Isaiah43:1b, 2

Seven ways to minister from the sidlines – Staying active in ministry from home.

We all fight it.  The feeling of  uselessness.  The hollowness of helplessness.  The longing to live unhindered.  Depression quickly consumes hope and all our focus becomes inward.  We start to lose any other-minded thoughts we should act upon, and we can sink into despair. We have nothing to offer.

It is a lie. 

No one ever, ever loses their value or worth in ministering to others just because it looks different.  Nor, are you off the hook because it’s “atypical”.  We may adjust how we carry it out, but it’s just as important as corralling toddlers in the church nursery or running casseroles to the sick or grieving.  Grab your Bible and read Paul’s story.  I would venture to say the thorn in his side caused some “adjusting” of how he ministered.  God didn’t say he couldn’t use the weak and weary, the frail and fragile. If we believe otherwise, we are believing Satan’s lies.  Take a moment to ask the Lord for forgiveness for not trusting him to use you where you are in whatever shape you’re in.  Ask our Father God to show you the ways HE has in mind to use you.  I’m starting you off with seven ministry ideas.

1.  Pray.  The greatest help you can ever be to another human being is to approach the throne of God on their behalf.  I  cringed as the words tumbled out of my mouth, “I’ll be praying, I wish there was more I could do”.  How dare I, a mere human, think any of my efforts (i.e physical work) could equal or surpass that of carrying another’s burden to the Lord in prayer.  Don’t be fooled into believing a plate of cookies is more beneficial than the prayer of a sincere heart.

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:6

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:15, 16

2.  Hand write a note of encouragement to someone.  A good old fashioned, penned letter that someone will find delightful  when sorting through the bills and junk we retrieve from our mail boxes.  Those notes are keepsakes, heirlooms.  Hand written encouragement has a way of turning up months and years later, often at times when we need it the most.

 I thank my God every time I remember you.

  Philippians1:3

3.  Choose one thing to be thankful for and start to praise God for it.  Obsess on it.  I promise it will lead to another praise and another.  Today, before the day is done, share it with your family or caregiver.  They will be BLESSED by your positivity.  It is impossible to be angry and downcast while praising the Lord!  Be contagious.

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings(I) and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

Psalm 150

4.  Get on your social media and be the bright spot to all your contacts.  Facebook, Twitter, whatever it may be gets pretty ugly.  I think the green-eyed monster lives there.  It’s where comparisons start and harsh words flow.  Grab your phone or computer and set out to bring The Light of the World to some of those dark posts.   Maybe it will be in the form of your favorite scripture, a recognition of your gratefulness for the friendships, or a picture of a kitten.  Seriously, who doesn’t get a smile out of a baby animal. If a thread has gone sour, be the person to stop the flow of poison.

 A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones

Proverbs 17:22

5.  Phone a friend.  Yup, old fashioned phone call. You are blessed with the time to listen. This form of ministry helps you to stay in that other-minded frame of mind as you must engage in their life story.  Don’t you sometimes get tired of people asking you how you are fully knowing they probably don’t really want to know, and they would need a medical degree to understand?  Here’s your chance to minister through authentic interest in another person’s life.  Ask, listen, engage.   Maybe there is an elderly relative you rarely see who lives far away or maybe there is an elderly shut in your church or neighborhood who knows the heavy grey of long and lonely days.  Break up their time with an unexpected treat of attention.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:27

6.  Minister to your family by putting your household in order.  Yes, it is ministry to those who help care for you when you organize the tasks you can no longer do.  Make a menu and the shopping list to go with it.  Organize it so your shopper can efficiently get through the store.  When chronic illness takes hold of our physical selves, we tend to allow ourselves to believe the lie that our usefulness and vitality have walked out the door with our health.  Do not fall into Satan’s trap to trick you into complacency or total dependency.  Put that brain to work and minister to your family by overseeing!

She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”

Proverbs 31:27-29

7.  Prepare yourself for more ministry by storing up God’s word in your heart.  Open up that Bible, friend!  Read!  Soak it in!  Suffering people are often drawn to other suffering people as we look for understanding. What a gift!  What a responsibility!   You will need to have scriptures ready to roll off your tongue or fingertips at a moment’s notice.  Hurting people need the hope we find in scriptures.  While our words are helpful, they are nothing in comparison to our Lord’s.

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path. 

Psalm 119:105

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Psalm 55:11

Pray and ponder how God might use you in ministry from home. Look for ways to become other-minded.  Because we are all uniquely created with individual gifts, I’m sure many of you will have awesome ministry ideas.  Join me by sharing your experiences and ideas in the comment section.