Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Disappointment, Doubt, Discouragement--how do we cope

(If you don't have time to view the entire post skip down to the end for the summary points)

Many of you  dreamed of your baby taking that first bite of food and smearing it all over his face, not a child who vomited every time he tried a new food or got a rash from head to toe.   Many of you imagined a happy go lucky little one, not a screaming colicky baby who is still so fussy and fragile, who seems to be in pain more often than not.  You face daily disappointments and the overwhelming feeling that it is up to you to figure this out.  You spend your sleepless nights holding that crying baby and trying not to cry yourself.  You can't help but wonder why this happened to you and why God allowed this, couldn't you just have been like everyone else who has a baby that eats and sleeps normally?

You feel so overwhelmed every day, trying to keep it all together on little sleep.   You see the piles of laundry and dishes, you see the carpet needs vacuumed and the bathrooms scrubbed.  You need to go to the grocery store for the fifth time this week, that's the one thing you absolutely have to do, because you can't go to a fast food joint to pick up something "easy," you can't just take a break or have a night off from food allergies or intolerance's.  

At the beginning you told yourself, this would be over soon, the baby would grow out of his colicky state, he would eventually be able to eat, this wouldn't last forever.  Two and half years into it, it's hard to keep saying the same things over and over, how are you going to keep your spirits up in the midst of a "chronic illness?"

I say these things with humility, as nurse, I encounter Mom's all the time, who have children who have been battling cancer, have diabetes, are disabled, or will never grow to be self sufficient without the help of their parents.  I have spoken to countless parents who keep marching on in the face of adversity, who put themselves aside every day, to take care of the child they love.   What keeps them from falling into a deep depression?  How do they wake up every morning and deal with doctors appointments, chemotherapy, and caring for children with chronic illness? 

Love. 

The love of a parent is all encompassing.  It is powerful.  It is blind, it is selfless, it is strong.  This love will fight against all odds, to do whatever it takes to protect his or her child, to help him, to give him or her the best life possible.  I have seen this, I have lived this.

We keep on because we have to, for our children.

However, it is possible to allow the chronic to steal our joy, even our very life away from us.  To consume us, to overwhelm us.  We have to fight this discouragement with the same gusto in which we are fighting for child.   Doesn't our child deserve to have a mother who is full of joy and life, in spite of all that threatens to take that from us?  I have seen the chronic destroy the spirit of the caregiver, I have seen the caregiver become so overspent, that she falls into a place of discouragement, or bitterness or depression.  How do we, the caregiver cope with the demands that fall upon us and at the present, have no for-see-able end in sight?

Let's turn to my favorite source of wisdom and help, The Bible, God's Living Word to us. 
What are the two things that often steal from our joy and threaten to weaken us and bring us down as we care for the chronically ill?  I would say for me it is fear and anxiety. 

"Cast all your anxiety upon Him (Jesus) because he cares for you."  1 Peter 5:7

The apostle Paul,was no stranger to suffering, he himself had been imprisoned, beaten, mocked, and even suffered from his own physical aliment which he refers to has a "thorn in his flesh."  He speaks from his own experience with chronic pain and suffering,  and he tells us:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."  Phil 4:6-7

He goes on to explain how we can allow God's peace into our lives, we have to watch what our minds are dwelling on and make an effort to actually think about the following things:  "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.  The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.:  Phil 4:8-9

Paul is one of my favorite hero's of the faith, he knows what it's like to endure hardship, yet he keeps his joy, he keeps his faith in spite of it all.  He has this belief which keeps him going

"And my God shall supply all your needs according to His reaches in glory in Christ Jesus."  Phil 4:19

You may be saying to yourself right now, well apparently God does not know my needs because he sure isn't supplying them right now.  I agree that there are times, when it feels like God is neither listening or near to us.  I do not wish to minimize your pain and suffering.  There were times in my journey when I felt that God was distant, when I cried out to him and felt He was silent, it was in times like these that I needed the help of others to keep me going.

As women, we are not good at asking for help.  We are used to doing it on our own.  In our culture we applaud those who put on a happy face and act like they have it all together.  The supermom who does it all!  In so doing, we do ourselves and others a great disservice.  In general, I feel that sometimes Christian women and mom's are even worse at being genuine.  Rather than admitting we are struggling with something, we try to act like we are the "good Christian" who would certainly never have questions or doubts.  What are we afraid of?  Afraid of being seen for who we really are, human?  We are still imperfect, that is why we need God's help, that is why we need each other.  We sometimes need another woman or older woman to come along side us and pray for us, to build us up, to share her wisdom and her journey.  We need to hear the stories of the older generation, we need to seek these women out and ask them to coffee and ask them how they did it.  We need to be real with each other so we can know that we are not alone in our struggles on this earth. 

Paul himself reminds us of the real secret to his incredible attitude, the real reason he kept going and never gave up in the face of constant adversity.  "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ, more than than, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith . . . I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  Phil 3:7-14

Paul knew, believed more than anything else, that there was more to this life than just the present day struggles.  His primary focus was on God and he says that he counts everything else as garbage that can't even be compared to the future that he has in heaven with Jesus.    He knew that the thorn in his flesh was temporary, though afflicting him in this life, it would have no power over him in the next.   He had his focus on Jesus first, He made an effort to put Jesus and the things of God first in His life, above everything else.

Well, that's all well and good you might say, but I'm not Paul, I'm just a regular person, and I don't have some super faith like that.  Well believe it or not Paul wasn't as different than you as you might imagine.   In fact he is quick to remind us that he was the "least of all saints," Eph 3:8, and that he was not even fit to be called an apostle 1 Cor 15:10 because he persecuted the church prior to his conversion.  If anything, God uses Paul to show us that He can use anyone, that He can change anyone, that if we put our hope in Him anything is possible, that His grace can reach the darkest soul and transform it.

I imagine that some of you may not know Jesus, I invite you to read the Bible, without thinking about what you've heard or imagined Him to be.  But start with the Gospel of John and just read about Jesus and see who He is and His message to you personally. 

As I think of the love that motivates me to keep fighting for my son.  The love and makes me want to be a better mother and a better person; I can't help but think of the sacrifice that God made for you and me.   Think of that love that you have for your child and imagine allowing your child to face suffering and pain, to not intervene on his behalf, to give him up to save someone who didn't even know you or even care for you.  This is the love that God has for you, I hope that you might embrace it and let it tranform you. 

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that who so ever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. " John 3:16

Summary on how to overcome disappointment, doubt and discouragement

1.  Give your anxiety to God and believe that He cares for you 1Peter 5:7
2.  Pray and make your requests known to God  Phil 4:6-7
3.  Make and effort to dwell on the right things Phil 4:8-9
4.  Admit your struggles and your humanness
5.  Seek out other women who can help keep you on the right path and encourage your faith
6.  Know that this life and all the hardships that come with it are temporary Phil 3:7-14
7.  Accept Gods love for you, forgiveness and provision for you to have eternal life in Jesus John 3:16



2 comments:

  1. "Doesn't our child deserve to have a mother who is full of joy and life, in spite of all that threatens to take that from us? " I cried at this. She does...they all do! Lord help us to continually lay it at his feet. THank you for this!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nichole, you are so welcome as you have been such an encouragement to me on this journey and helped me to see His hand through your blog before I ever knew you!

    ReplyDelete