I recently told my story to a new friend – a fellow writer and chronic illness warrior out there in the blogosphere. Over the phone, she said she cried no less than four times in 13 minutes. That was not my goal, but it felt like almost an out-of-body experience, retelling how in four years we walked through infertility, pregnancy loss, the sudden loss of my mom, my own near-death experience, and miraculous delivery of our son. Followed closely by the diagnosis that shook us to our core.
My good friends tease me that I get excited for a “new audience” to whom I can tell our story. The truth is, I love telling about all God has done for us, but the details bring up a tsunami of emotions and it’s hard to keep it to a polite length without overwhelming my…uh…eager new listeners.
It feels strange, because for the most part, we are not living in the survival mode of life-and-death decisions at this moment. I’m very thankful, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I choose to forget – or conveniently ignore – this diagnosis of Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. I plan my days with normal activities and go on my merry way.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss
However, when I’m reminded of the frailty of living with this condition and life itself, I am rocked. I fret and fear and forget God’s goodness. I forgo any previous lessons that God has grounded deep in my soul.
My blissful denial meets the very foundation of my security head on. Am I truly at peace or am I ignoring the possibility that life can – and probably will – get hard again?
Since my diagnosis six-and-a-half years ago, I realize that I have often been living with the mentality that I’m resigned to life with VEDS; I’m not resting in the Rock who holds all things together. Resigning is the path of least resistance. Resting requires fierce determination to trust God’s goodness no matter what.
Moving from Resigned to Resting
When my “resigned” comfort zone is challenged, I don’t want to go into reaction mode. I want to fight for the right frame of mind, to be brave in the face of adversity. And I must prepare in order to find peace in the middle of the mess. I’m learning, and maybe you can, too.
Is there a situation in your life that you’ve resigned yourself to? That’s beyond your control and you just raise the white flag and say, “it is what it is”? Something that’s too hard, where escape and denial are the easier path? A broken relationship. A sick child. A diagnosis. A choice made for you that you can’t change. Every day challenges that seem to never end.
Here are some tools I’m putting into practice in order to renew my mind, to find true rest when the world around me is spiraling or I am facing circumstances that I cannot change. If I practice these things in my daily walk, I can have confidence in the Rock of my salvation instead of defeatist resignation to the world around me.
- Quote God’s attributes.
Find two or three that apply to your circumstance and put them on repeat. I’ve done an entire study* on God’s characteristics – and the result is a notebook that I’ve pulled out time and again when life is hard. If I stop focusing on me (or stop living in denial), then I can actively pursue God and the result is a changed heart and His abundant fruit (which includes rest).
Because God is my Rock, I can rest secure.
I have set the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. Psalm 16:8-9 (NASB)
From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2 (KJV)
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:3-4 (ESV)
- Remember God’s purpose.
Again, having scripture memorized and etched on your heart and mind is life-changing. God’s word tells us over and over again to do so – why is it so hard? I honestly draw a blank when I’m hurting. I’ve been known to carry around tattered pages of typed verses in my purse to pull out when things are tough. I’m a paper kind of gal, so having something tangible is key for me. You can keep them on your phone, too. Bind them around your neck, Scripture tells us. Just get His Word into your head and into your hands. Here are a few verses I cling to – I need to keep these close not just in trials, but in periods of calm as well.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. Psalm 138:8 (ESV)
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Col. 1:16-17 (NASB)
- Read good words – and keep a notebook of them.
I recently talked to a retired Air Force Colonel who said he writes down meaningful quotes and scriptures in journals as a legacy for his kids – a record of words he thought were important enough to copy by hand. My fellow VEDS warrior Heather Dixon over at The Rescued Letters calls this her “code red file.” I’ve done this haphazardly for the last, oh, 20 years or so. I feel like I need to categorize these at some point (this can get filed under “long-term projects” scheduled for probably 2025). But for now, I write down quotes in my prayer journals or snap a photo on my phone; it’s even easier now to download beautiful images from social media.
“Our present circumstances do matter. But in the scope of eternity, instead of determining our happiness, they offer opportunities for our growth and ultimate good. When they threaten to overwhelm us, difficult circumstances can remind us to look to God, our Rock and our Redeemer, who is our solid and lasting happiness.” Randy Alcorn
“I was caught up in God’s thoughts about me, not my thoughts about him. I was lying in a stream of sunshine, consumed by his compassion for me, not by my anger and doubt about him. My thoughts didn’t even matter now – only his did. Only his mind, his heart…And he was saying, ‘Come unto me. Let me give you rest.'” Joni Eareckson Tada
- Listen to songs of hope and promise.
Again, my mind often empties of anything valuable when I’m hurting, so song phrases replay over and over in my head. (I blame all of the scans and anesthesia I’ve had in my lifetime, but I digress.) Some people are music people, so they can whip out a playlist faster than I can say iTunes. In addition to some great hymns (Great is Thy Faithfulness and Because He Lives), my recent go-to songs include Even If (Mercy Me), Rejoice in the Lord (Ron Hamilton), and Does Jesus Care? (Galkin Evangelistic Team).
Friend, God loves you dearly. He does not want you to live in a constant state of struggle or denial. We must work to know Him and His character – to find that perfect peace when our mind is stayed on Him (Isa. 26:3). And then we can say with confidence, “Oh, His goodness!”
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