It has been several months since my last post. Mostly this is because of my medical process–and the fact that I have been in no shape to write these posts:-). But there is another reason. It has to do with where I am in my faith, and my ability to talk to you about it. So, here goes.
Before my stem cell transplant (SCT)–and more to the point, the extraordinarily toxic chemo I took to prepare for it–I talked a lot about faithfulness. I asked you to pray for me to be faithful. I talked about what that looks like in different situations. And when I entered the hospital, I prayed for that faithfulness constantly.
My first two weeks in the hospital went reasonably well. I experienced effects from the chemo and the treatment approach that I wasn’t prepared for, but I kept focused and constantly asked the Lord to let me be faithful.
Then I entered the darkness. Some of you are aware that my last few weeks in the hospital are mostly lost to me. Between the chemo, the medications, and some unexpected conditions (like over a week with pneumonia), I have little memory of this time. Most of what I do remember is dark. I lost the ability to distinguish reality from delusion or hallucination. I went days without sleep. And my ability to think clearly–even enough to remember to ask the Lord for help–was gone. I literally have never experienced anything as terrifying, and I am still affected by the terror of that time.
Then I came home from the hospital and spent the first week in excruciating pain, and dealing with some side effects I was never warned about.
So what does faithfulness look like when you are literally terrified? Not of death. Not of pain. But of the undefined and nebulous terror that has been embedded in my emotion and my mind. And how do I encourage others when I am searching for faithfulness, and experiencing flashes of terror based in something I don’t understand?
As the weeks have progressed, I have come to the conclusion that faithfulness hasn’t changed. The Lord let me experience these horrible things for a reason. He broke down my pride and belief that I could stand in my own faith. He gave me a glimpse of the darkness we need to warn people about–the darkness of separation from God. And he has made it clear that I can run to him without understanding, without figuring out exactly what I need, and with no strength in me at all. I can just run to him because I need him, and will be there.
While my experience is unusual, and I hope you never have to go through it, in the end, the goal of faithfulness isn’t different in the darkness than it is when we are actually doing well. We all go through very hard times–some of you are right now. Here are some things to remember that are so simple we tend to forget them–or assume they are happening.
- Admit to yourself and to God that you aren’t strong enough, and you need him. It is helpful to be open with a few other people as well, but this starts with being honest with ourselves and God.
- Call out to the Lord (out loud if need be), and tell him how much you need him. No other requests, just ask him to pull you close to him.
- If you don’t understand what being faithful looks like in what you are going through, ASK HIM.
- As he reveals the answer to you (I have experienced this through others, through the Word, through conviction–but never in an audible voice), do what he says. Whatever he says. With or without understanding the “why”. And knowing that, in the end, he will produce in us righteousness and peace.
Each day the darkness fades away a little more. It happens as Jesus’ brilliance forces it away. And it will. So, Know Jesus, and Be Faithful. The darkness will not win.