I learned at a young age that God doesn’t make things all right, bad stuff happens. My Mum was diagnosed with Parkinsons when I was only eight years old; my Aunt was killed in a car crash; my uncle married again only to loose his Son in another car crash aged seventeen.
When I came to faith at the age of 14 I knew I wasn’t opting into some holy-phoney insurance system that would make my life safer, happier, healthier. If I had, I would have been in for an even bigger shock when I lost my career and social life due to the onset of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. Twewnty years ago Doctors had no explanation or could give no prognosis. One didn’t even believe in the illness and told me ‘I was just looking for a way out of work!’ It was an incredibly lonely and scary couple of years of my life. It was quite possible that the rest of my life could have be lived in my bed, but improvement came, and over subsequent years I was able to become more and more active and sustain good levels of fitness and energy including running and high impact fitness classes.
When I suffered a full relapse September 2013 I was at least in a new technological era; the internet and social media meant that I could fill in the gaps the doctors couldn’t provide and this time ME was no stranger. This was a mixed blessing. The downside was that I knew that it was unlikely that a recovery would come quickly and I knew I was probably in for a long period of isolation, frustration, heartache and disappointments but on the plus side, I did have experience on my side and if I had recovered once from this illness, surely I could do it again?
My optimism to get fit became a constant stumbling block. It just seemed to invite more and more disappointment as small improvements seemed to constantly crash down in relentless waves over me. Optimism and positive attitude may be admirable but it was costly and my foundation of building my optimism on a past experience soon felt like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand!
I was grateful to be able to vent a lot of my frustrations on God during this time. He’s big enough to take it! With everything else stripped away I enjoyed a new sense of God’s presence. Yes, clouds of doubt rolled in, but God seemed to know just how to deal with these.
The big change for me came from a short conversation from a complete stranger after a Sunday service. She had the courage to tell me that God had a clear message for me! I’ve posted on this before ( The blessing of Weakness) but the message was:
“that I shouldn’t look back and wish for how things used to be because God was going to strengthen me. She told me that this wasn’t going to be a sudden thing but gradual over time and that eventually things will be even better than how they used to be but I needed to be close to God always.”
That was quite some message to receive from a teenager who was new in to town and our church! I haven’t seen her since. Could it have been some freaky coincidence? Yes, it’s possible, yet I really felt it was from God!
Of course, I would have liked to have known how gradually my strength would be restored! It still felt as slow as watching paint dry-and just as it was nearly dry, someone slapped a fresh coat of paint on top to watch! But now I had a foundation to place my optimism onto.
It gave me the extra confidence to step out in faith and sign up for a 10 month discipleship course called Ignite. At the time it seemed like a reckless option. I couldn’t even converse with friends for longer than 2 hours without it wiping me out and sending me back to bed. This was my experience for the first few weeks and I realised that I had to cut back even more of my limited social life. I think it would be fair to say that at this point, my faith in the prophetic word given to me was as small as a mustard seed – it was small but it was still there!
As the weeks and months went by that mustard seed grew. I knew I was being strengthened but not in the way I was expecting. My strength started from within and grew from the inside out. The strength multiplied as I realised that this was what God had promised to me via that random stranger.
I’ve now come to the end of my discipleship year with Ignite. It has been a hard season but that mustard seed has grown deep roots. The whole year has been incredible and totally transforming. I’m so pleased I risked my tentative step of faith, I can’t imagine where I would be now without it.
I’m still a long way off full fitness but I’m also a long way down the road of recovery and have a lot to be thankful for.
Going from strength to strength makes me smile for so many reasons but knowing that God has spoken His promise to me has to be at the top.
Faith, by definition, has no certainties but exercising my faith has reaped far greater rewards than trying to exercising my physical body! It’s an exercise I hope to continue to develop and I hope I will be ready to listen, speak and act on whatever God calls for me in the future no matter how ridiculous it might sound!