The Fruit of Pain
Tony had a high fever for several days last week and ached. We decided to treat him naturally and did a fever bath and gave him lemongrass tea until his fever finally broke. It wasn’t but several weeks earlier I was also treating Jax for flu like symptoms, but also praying it wasn’t something more serious like malaria-which thankfully it turned out not to be. We are grateful they’re both now recovered.
Later this past week Jax and I both got (another) rash that we thought we picked up from the field where we had been cutting grass (field lice). Looks like that was the case for Jax, but turns out I contracted some strange fungal infection. At times the infection had gotten so bad that sleep became near impossible as my skin late in the night hours would begin to feel alive with a crawling sensation and uncontrollable itching as the fungus moved from one location to another! All this coupled with having to wash sheets, towels and anything I touched daily to ensure not spreading the fungus left me feeling...in need of a break.
I should mention that washing clothes lately has been its own challenge. Every time we went downstairs to hang or retrieve our laundry, someone would inevitably also retrieve another jigger in their foot. If your not familiar with jiggers, they are sand fleas that bury themselves in your feet, hands or toes and lay eggs that can cause pain and require you to dig them out with a needle. A time consuming inconvenience that makes you want to avoid them at all costs! You can imagine how daily laundry duty could bring a small sense of dread to consider adding jiggers to the other list of ailments.
Now imagine, you are tired from the physical attacks (and emotional attacks that I won’t go into now) and more than anything you want to hug your spouse or child and they want to hug you, but you can’t because you don’t want to spread anything contagious....leaving you with a feeling of isolation. And, there you have it. Exactly, what the devil wants each of us to feel.
Isolation...an inability to feel connected to others at times but often an inability to connect with God. We can become so consumed that we allow our trials to disconnect us from our Heavenly Father. The same attacks the devil leveled against Job in the Bible (physical sickness, isolation, loss of family and friends), he continues to try and use against each of us today (though obviously in varying degrees and ways). Someone else’s struggle may look very different than ours right now, but the devil knows each of our weak areas, and thrives on exploiting them! Our call (James 4:7-8) is to draw even closer to Christ in our weakness so that He alone can impart the strength we need! (2 Corinthians 12:9)
With the deepest sincerity, having only experienced relatively small trials and hardships, I have the utmost respect for missionaries past and present who have served through struggles far greater than our own, many giving their very lives for the cause of Christ. It draws me to my knees and humbles me to think that God feels us worthy for even the small testing we are experiencing. Even when at times the trials feel larger to us, I know we have “not yet resisted to bloodshed,” (Hebrews 12:4) And have to remind myself what God has been lovingly reminding me of this week:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” Hebrews 12:4-6
Yesterday, Tony and I decided to fast and pray seeking God for relief in what has felt like attacks from the devil in our new mission field (and more I have not shared here).
This morning after fasting yesterday I woke still feeling worn from the events of the week. I was in need of encouragement. I needed God’s word. I needed the greatest physician and His medicine this morning!
I was completely amazed...I opened my Bible unable to really even think about what I would read and by chance opened it to Psalm 56 where a notecard was placed from sometime in the past. The first verse I saw was a highlighted verse which read: Psalm 56:4: “In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what FLESH can do unto me.”
Amazing! God gives us the very words we need to hear when we seek Him. I needed to hear and know that these minor trials and attacks to our “flesh,” will pass... I just need to keep my eyes on God and put my trust deeper into Him and His word--He will care for the rest...what peace!
Then I read the following devotional...
“It is a comforting thought that trouble, in whatever form it comes to us, is a heavenly messenger that brings us something from God. Outwardly it may appear painful or even destructive, but inwardly it’s spiritual work produces blessings.
Many of our richest blessings we have inherited are the fruit of sorrow or pain. We should never forget that redemption, the world’s greatest blessing, is the fruit of the world’s greatest sorrow. And whenever a time of deep pruning comes and the knife cuts deeply and the pain is severe, what an inexpressible comfort it is to know: “My Father is the gardener.”
There are many crosses, and every one of them is heavy and painful. It is unlikely that I would seek out even one of them on my own. Yet Jesus is never as near to me as when I lift my cross, lay it submissively on my shoulder, and welcome it with a patient and uncomplaining spirit.
He draws near to me in order to mature my wisdom, deepen my peace, increase my courage and supplement my power. All this He does so that through the very experience that is so painful and distressing to me, I will be of greater use to others.” (From the devotional: Streams in the Desert)
Despite how worn our bodies may feel, or how hard it might be to see our children or spouses struggle through their trials, or tangled at times our minds can get trying to process the whys of why bad things happen...we have to keep looking to the Word of God for strength and power that only it can give. And pray that whatever our trial or “chastening” is for a time that we can bear it with His grace and learn from it the lessons the great physician and healer are trying to impart!
I have also been reminded this week that our family has not chosen to follow this path of being missionaries, neither here nor in our previous mission field of the Navajo reservation to seek an easier path. Just as a soldier fighting for his country knows he will not be sent to a haven of peace and safety but rather to the front of the battle, we too have accepted that the spiritual battle is very real here. It was very real in our previous field as well, as we watched many around us being swept away by Satan and even loosing their lives through drug and alcohol addiction...the battle was real, this battle is real. And, we know and can sense the devil is angry with us now for being in his territory, it’s so real here you can almost feel it some days.
But, today, I choose to praise God through the middle of our trials knowing that He alone is good and faithful to see us through each and every hurdle life can throw our way!
May God give each of us the strength to endure the chastening of the Lord...and to fight the darts of the enemy, that we may be able to grow in His grace and learn our lessons well while there is yet still time. I praise the Lord that He is so merciful to strive and work with me, even if at times it is painful. I can only begin to try to “glory in my infirmities so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and to remember it is God that will work in me and inspire me, despite my trials, “both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) And, He promises He WILL give you the same strength too!
“Use the cross you bear as a crutch to help you on your way, not as a stumbling block that causes you to fall.” Unknown