By Rebecca Vickery
Saturday night I was talking to God about my apprehensions regarding going to Church. Again. The previous Sunday, I spent about ten minutes of the service crying in the restroom. And an additional 10 minutes crying outside of the restroom. I don’t like be a mushy vulnerable mess. Panic attacks in public places are a new thing for me. My medications make my own behavior and mobility unpredictable to me.
I had all the excuses. I had already written to the Thursday night Bible study leader informing them that I was withdrawing from the study. I felt myself pulling back from the few life lines I had left, even withdrawing from the Celebrate Recovery chats. I felt invisible in some ways, too visible in others.
So I told God, “I don’t want to not want to go, but I don’t want to go.” I expressed my feelings to my husband, and he tried to convince me I should go again anyway. This was becoming a familiar dance for us. At one point, I started weeping, and my husband fell asleep. “Well,” I asked the Lord, “Now what?” My desire not to go hadn’t gone away. And then I got the gentle nudge from the Lord.
The devil, your enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
I was allowing the enemy to drive me further from the fellowship I desperately needed. I was reminded of a conversation I had with the Lord earlier in the week.
Still wrestling with the lonely, I was lamenting to Him. “Why did I have to be perpetually alone?” God reminded me of Elijah. Elijah had fled from Jezebel who with her cohorts was hunting down and killing the prophets. Elijah cried out to God. “I have been zealous for you, and they have killed all the prophets. I and I alone am left.” I picture Elijah here so human and vulnerable.
Elijah felt desperate and alone. Boy could I relate. Yet, God didn’t say, Elijah, don’t be an idiot. Instead, the Lord meets Elijah where he’s at. A great mighty wind comes and shatters the cliffs, but it says God was not in the wind. And there was an earthquake and a fire. But God was not in those either. After this, Elijah hears the still small voice, a whisper.
God asks Elijah what is wrong. He listens to His reply. There is such patience and tenderness demonstrated in this exchange. He tells Elijah what he needs to hear. God Himself had preserved a remnant. Elijah was NOT alone.
Even in this, God showed tenderness to me in my frailty. He gently reminded me of His character. He restored my resolution to go to Church where I might cry. Where I might have panic attacks. Where I might be so obviously broken and messy. He would be there with me. He would be yet again reminding me that I was not alone.
My Bible Study leader approached me almost as soon as I entered the doors. She hugged me and asked me to consider trying again. Because of the Lord’s reminder to me I agreed. I cried, and it was ok for me to do so. The Lord met me in the prayers of His people (as He had done the week before, even when I just wanted to disappear.) He met me in warm embraces.
He met me in the kitchen when a panic attack required swift retreat (all the while being aware of how ridiculous it felt to seek solitude when the rest of the time it was solitude I dreaded most). But two of God’s people were there. They were not be content to let me have my panic attack in “peace.”
They were patient and loving, encouraging me to let them walk with me in the midst of it. They were the hands and feet of Jesus. They even walked me in and partway up the aisle when I was ready to try again.
Dear friends, it is so easy to believe the lie that we are alone. Sometimes we miss the ways that God does communicate His love to and for us. Sometimes the lies of the enemy feel so loud that it is like surround sound speakers playing terrible cacophonies of the refrain “You’re alone, you wretched, wretched human. And why shouldn’t you be? Just look at you.” That’s a lot of refrain, but you get the idea.
Alone we are vulnerable. Weak. We need others to remind us to fix our broken gaze so that we are no longer looking at all the obstacles, or the snares and entrapments, but looking to the One who can take us by the hand and lift us up when we stumble to present us blameless before Him at the end of this age.
Our momentary suffering does not always feel momentary. When we are in the thick of things, it can appear to be the ONLY thing there is. Suffering. Sorrow. But Jesus said we would have trouble. He also promised to be with us in the midst of it. Sometimes, we are called to walk forward in faith to be reminded that in spite of what the devil would like us to think, we are most profoundly NOT alone.
He is With Me Still
As I sit and wait for the morning sun
I’m given time to contemplate
God speaks in the midst of a world in complete turmoil
I’m challenged by what I hear
I walk on the paths through our woods
I listen to a song that asks the most important question
Is He Worthy?
Walking in confidence that Jesus is there for me
Looking through the trees that beckon me
I hear the music in my heart
The water flowing over the stones of life
Whispering and shouting the symphony God is creating just for me
I smile, as the sun peaks through the leafless trees.
My shadow is before me as I walk with the sun at my back
I see new life starting to burst forth before me
So many shades of green, so many flowers coming up out of the ground
Filled with colors impossible to duplicate
Because they are designed by God himself
For me to enjoy
Even the stones in the path glow with joyful glitter
As I continue to walk along the path of life
No matter what was behind me, no matter the losses
I can see God pulling me forth, gently, yet ever so sweetly,
And with sincere determination, all I want is to know God
To know His worthiness, to know my smallness, to seek His great plan
Our world crumbles around us, yet God still IS!
He never leaves us, He is always watching, always caring, always there
I deserve not one moment of His time, yet He is there
As I continue to walk, with a song in my heart, mind and body
Every step of the way, the intensity of the song pounds in my heart
I want it to never end, I want it to drown out the unwanted noise outside
Every moment of every day and night, He is there with me
The frustrations of life pound at my door
But even still, He is there to
He made me! And He grows me! And He loves me!
What more do I need?
I long to share His great love with those around me
Some respond, some resist, some in despair, some in disrepair
How can I tell them that God is here for them just as much as He is here for me?
Will they listen?
Each night I pray that God will be the Lord of my dreams
Somehow, they threaten my joy,
But when I reach out to God, the fears float away
Each new day, I pray for God to lead my steps
As I ponder a new day of hope and promise
I know I cannot do this on my own
Even though the troubles hit me in my face
Illness, death, sorrows, uncertainty, unplanned dismay
“It’s only your temporary home!” says He who made me
I have a choice!
Do I hang onto fear or do I move forward with hope and joy?
Getting back to the song, Is He Worthy?
Yes, my heart shouts, “He is most certainly worthy!”
He alone holds the key to my safety
Truth be told, when we seek to follow in the path He has laid before us
Whatever happens, He is walking with me on this path.
For I am never alone! He’s with me still
By Mary Spence
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
September is recovery month.
Those in recovery know that recovery happens one day at a time! Your lifelong hurts, hang-ups, and habits need to be worked on in twenty-four-hour increments.
In our celebrate recovery we sometimes refer to ourselves as onions. While we are working on what we think he has us there for, before you know it you peel back that layer and behold there is the next hurt habit or hang up. Some days I think I'm going to be a lifer in recovery.
But with each layer I work through God brings me closer to him and uses me in a new way.
And I know that no matter where I am, He has a plan and I can rest in His promises.
Each one of us is dealing with something.
A “hurt” is any life experience that may have damaged your heart, some offense against you that effected your ability to deal with the world in a healthy way. It could be anything that twisted your view of yourself, God or others. Some common hurts include abandonment, abuse as a child, or by a spouse, employer, or the church, betrayal, unforgiveness or hardening of our heart.
Sometimes it's a dysfunctional family ravaged by divorce, alcoholism, or controlling behavior.
“Habits” are unhealthy patterns of behavior that serve a purpose to protect or comfort in your life, but end up turning into a chronic bad behavior or addiction. Habits are the repeat, default scripts you run to when the going gets tough and continually lead to trouble in your life. Some common habits are abusive behavior, drug or alcohol use, bitterness, disordered eating, isolation or spending problems.
And lastly, “hang-ups” are those roadblocks that keep you from progressing further in God’s plan for your life. They are often shaped by some bent thinking you may have received as a child, or some unhealthy attitude you may have adopted as a means of coping with life’s challenges. Anxiety, anger, codependency, fear, guilt, pride and depression are all examples of hangups.
Every one of us can find ourselves somewhere in these lists
So how do we move through our hurt habit or hang up to leave it behind?
Work. Hard work.
But the first step is to give it to God.
Jesus died on the cross for our sins. So we could be in a relationship with God.
Give it to God. And leave it there with him.
There are going to be rainy days. Even downpours. And an occasional thunderstorm.
But hardship is an opportunity to trust Him.
There will be days that you will just wish for today to be over. In reality that's the easy way. To shut down, pull away, retreat. Numb the pain somehow, anyhow.
But the way to walk through those days is to grip onto his hand tightly. To stay close to Him. Because He will carry your burdens with you. You are not alone.
The same God is the God of the mountains and the God of the valleys.
He is not just there on sunny days.
Pray for Him to show you the love He has surrounded you with. The sun streaming through the clouds, the birds singing outside your window waking up in the morning.
God can use those hard times to work in us, to grow us.
This world can be hard, it can be difficult to see light in the darkness but God can awaken your heart. We need only lift our eyes from the darkness that surrounds us to the light.
Help us remember we are not alone.
Please open our eyes to the wondrous love we are surrounded by.
When we are overwhelmed by the loss and the suffering, help us to look to you.
Show us your presence as you walk with us through the valleys.
Surround us with your peace, a peace that doesn't make sense to those around us because it is there despite our situations and surroundings.
A peace when our ship is being tossed by the waves in life's sea. A peace from the knowledge that You are here. That we are not alone. Walk with us through our hurts habits and hang ups to recovery.
By Rebecca Vickery
After decades of chasing symptoms and putting out fires, I received the diagnoses that I fought so hard to achieve and started the treatment. All the things I pushed through to keep the family running, all the tasks I was so hard on myself for not completing, scraping through the last bits of my energy with a prayer to DO. But now, medications, supplements and the nitty gritty not so pretty grind of treatment aggressively demanding my attention right now, my body has finally gotten the memo to rest.
As unpleasant and awful as things are, God has prepared me my whole life for this battle. I am well acquainted with long suffering. He has trained me in endurance. Physical pain is my marathon. But whatever I have learned along the way, nothing is as valuable as this; I know that my redeemer lives. More than that, I know that He is always with me. I have spent countless hours speaking to God. He has been with me in the greatest moments of my life.
He was with me through all my speech robbing migraines. He was with me when the doctor told me I might never carry a child. He was with me when I was bent over crippled from pain at 20. He sat with me in my grief when I had miscarriage after miscarriage, never saying the wrong thing as He ministered to my sorrow wrecked heart. He has helped me recover through heartaches and victories untold, true to His word, never leaving me, nor abandoning me. Along the journey I have come to know that He is faithful, and His Word is true. I have had the privilege of knowing without a doubt, that He is always there. Anything else might come into question, but my access to the the Father was paid for by the Son.
Since my treatment began, pain can be so severe, the fight so brutal that my body will entirely shut down. I could be frozen, locked in by migraine-like symptoms. No speech. Little to no motor skills. Sometimes locked there until the pain would subside. I cried out to the Lord in my distress.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
In my mind, I pictured a cave at the mouth of a waterfall. A shelter amidst the torrent. I had no one else capable of climbing up into that pain with me. No one else could manufacture the rest that I needed. But God did. He stayed with me in the middle of the dark places. He continues to stay with me.
Sometimes, I need to remind myself to go to Him. I am easily distracted and set off course. Pain is a VERY good (bad?) distractor. But He reminds me of His faithfulness. And sometimes I testify to my own heart. I am an extrovert living forced introversion to the point of not even being able to type, write or speak. It is a great temptation to despair at my forced solitude. I cannot even always sing His praise out loud in this season. No energy for instruments.
So I rest in Him. And I sing deep in my soul when my heart wants to praise but my lips cannot.
He never doesn’t understand me. My external words may be unintelligible, but He knows what I mean to say. With Him I do not have to worry about my frizzy hair that stands on its own, my swollen puffiness, my metal breath, my complete inability to do or be anything resembling productive. He isn’t undone by my telling Him I’m not alright. He knows exactly what I’m going through. He has faithfully fought for me to get this far.
Even if treatment doesn’t fix everything that is wrong with me, I have this hope. He is there with us in our fiercest battles. He is our Champion. He provides us a resting place where we can go and hide in Him. He renews our strength. In the meantime, even minute by minute when necessary, I can seek Him for refuge. I can let me heart be still and know that He is God.