I have never been one to publicly claim scripture. Certainly not one to declare God’s intentions or timing. I don’t honestly know how God’s actual voice sounds.
This doesn’t mean that I’m not a Christian or that God’s never sent a clear and fortuitous message to me. Until recently, I guess I never thought of myself as one of those people, one worthy enough for God to work through me. I listened for his nudges, but I would never have proclaimed God’s will publicly.
Why would God choose me when there are so many more worthy?
So I study the scripture, pray hard, watch for nudges and signs, and quietly believe.
But this isn’t the route God wants me to take. Over and over in the last month, God has been loud and clear that He is going to heal me and that I must share my small story because through me He is sharing His much, much bigger story.
It sounds very crazy, I know, but here goes…
A few days before Thanksgiving, I put on a coat I hadn’t worn since spring. I slid my hands in the pockets and felt a folded notepaper. The handwriting was not mine, but I knew immediately it was that of my late friend Shelly Kraus. During one of our last visits, she must have tucked it in my pocket when I wasn’t looking.
“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 30:17
It felt like a bear hug from heaven.
The day before Thanksgiving, before the words biopsy and cancer had entered my immediate world, I was in my bed, escaping the sheer volume of multiple hunters each telling tales downstairs. Months earlier I had decided to read the Bible in its entirety in chronological order. Quite the undertaking! I hadn’t been as faithful to it as I’d prefer, but I was enjoying learning so much. It’s ludicrous to consider that I’ve read thousands of books in my lifetime, but I’ve never read this, the most important book, in its entirety.
I had my resources surrounding me on the bed when my cell phone buzzed. A Christian Chronic Illness support group notification popped up. Usually these are urgent prayer requests, so I checked the post. It was simply, “If you need hope today, check out one of these verses.” A list was provided: just the book, chapter, and verse. There were at least twenty, so I randomly chose one, Jeremiah 17:14 and searched for it on my phone. “Heal me, and I shall be healed.” Another nudge.
A week earlier my friend Shelly’s mom, Helen, had given me this beautiful, thoughtful handmade mug with this same verse etched in it. “Heal me, and I shall be healed.” I made the connection immediately, but as with most things, I chalked it up to a happy, warm coincidence and returned to my Bible study.
I had read no more than two sentences when I heard, “When you finish your task, you shall be healed.” What the…..what??? I wondered if that was the voice of God. It wasn’t as deep or as Morgan Freeman-eque as I’d imagined. Maybe it was just my desperate heart coming up with a timeline to ease my angst. Or maybe I was just losing my mind. Was God telling me that when I finish reading the Bible, He would heal me? I don’t know. All I knew with certainty was I had heard this voice. Nothing more.
I brushed it off and continued reading. Sarah and Abraham were being tested by God. Genesis 18:14 asked, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” The obvious answer is, “Of course not!” but hadn’t I just disregarded God’s nudges in the form of a sweet note, coincidental verses, and a clear voice assuring me there will be an end to this illness?? Is anything too difficult for God? This question reveals much about God, and our reaction to it when we insert it into our own lives reveals even more about us.
Is healing me from Lyme disease too much for God??
Is taking this pain away too much for God?
Turning our trials and tribulations into this question reminds us that God is personally involved in our lives, and it encourages us to ask for His power to help us.
I finished reading, my head spinning from what had transpired that evening. Honestly, most of me thought I was crazy. As I fell asleep, a teeny tiny part of me though pleaded for the voice, the words, the nudges to be true.
Thanksgiving morning, I woke with a peace only God can provide and only those who’ve felt it can understand. For the first time in over four years, my first thought before even opening my eyes was “There is an expiration date to this pain! God really is going to heal me. I will be healed!” For so long I had accepted this life with chronic pain as a simple fact. I’d accepted that life would always entail doctor’s appointments, medical treatments, pain and nausea. Until this particular morning, when the prospect of a “normal life” seemed once again attainable, even though I still have no idea how it is possible or when it will happen.
One month later, I still feel this sweet peace and comfort surrounding me. I will be healed, and God has me. I have never believed anything more deeply. There IS an expiration date to my sickness.
I told my husband this whole story on Thanksgiving Day as we drove to his Aunt Martha’s for dinner. We stopped at a red light just as I’d finished the story and I asked, “So do you think I’m crazy?” Teary-eyed, John said, “Look at the car in front of us.” The license plate read KEEPHOPE.
“Okay,” I said, “So I’m definitely not crazy.”
I kept all this between me, John, and God. I was afraid to share it. After all, what if the healing God has in mind isn’t the kind of healing I’m praying for? What if God is planning a spiritual healing or an eternal healing rather than a physical one? I will be blessed with any of those healings, but my children may not feel that way. So, while I believe with every fiber of my being my pain has an expiration date, I have largely kept this to myself, afraid to share.
Then I went to church two Sundays ago. Do you ever feel like a message was delivered just for you? Everyone in the congregation fades away, and it’s just you and God, who is speaking through the preacher. That’s how it was. On what should have been a painful day, the one year anniversary of Shelly Kraus’s death, I watched her beautiful daughter sing and play guitar, worshipping Jesus with a smile on her face. Almost the entire family packed into two pews, embracing, crying, and loving. The people who had every reason to turn from God when they lost not only Shelly, but also her husband Lee a little over two months later, were rejoicing, singing, and praising. They were a testament in and of themselves.
But it was the message that turned my quiet faith into this blog post.
The preacher spent some time discussing toxic shame, shame we feel for something we may not even have done, like being sick or depressed. This toxic shame makes us feel like we are one of those people, misfits, people God cannot work through. Because of this nagging fear, we are shackled by shame and can only cling to a tentative faith. A tentative faith is a safe bet. Privately we believe, but to share our faith publically….
No way. There are two many variables. Too many what ifs. What if we tell people what our God has shared with us and it doesn’t work out the way we thought it would? We hedge our bets. We pull our punches. We accept a tentative faith because if we trust God fully and the rug gets pulled out from under us, we’ll look like idiots, right?
A confident faith says I believe that God has tapped me on the shoulder and wants me to do something for Him. He wants me to do this for Him, and I am not going to keep it a secret. I’m not going to just hope that this happens. I’m going to go public. I’m going let God work through me. I’m going to let Him do whatever He wants to do through me. And I’ll trust Him with my reputation. I’m going to believe deeply, work hard, pray, then pray harder.
The preacher was telling about a surprise visit from Mary, which was intended to bolster Mary’s faith, but what it did instead was give Elizabeth, who’d operated for so long on toxic shame and a tentative faith, a true confident faith.
Elizabeth shouted, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:45)
Yes, blessed am I.
God has tapped me on the shoulder to share the miraculous ways He will heal me. I am done with toxic shame and tentative faith. The shackles are gone. Heal me, Lord, and I shall be healed.
I am all in.