The hours of the night blurred in the dark, the glow of hospital lights a faint beacon in the miasma of pain and nausea.
I couldn’t focus in the mists that swirled in this foreign place. Five nights I thought. Five nights of agony. It’s supposed to be over now, the procedure’s been done.
‘Lord,’ I cry soundlessly.
Earlier I had thrown my toys, demanding my pain be attended to.
“It’s a ten,” I kept telling them. I couldn’t read their thoughts as they watched me, unmoving. At last a doctor. “You have to give me something for the pain. It’s a ten.”
He was more focused on telling off the nurse. “It’s a ten,” I told him again. “And if you aren’t going to give me anything to relieve it, then bring a bullet.”
That got his attention. But nothing helped. The pain drilled on. And on. The nausea overwhelmed. I asked for a bucket. The only way I could find some measure of relief was standing against the wall, my elbows resting on a high windowsill, my companion a bucket that boasted the scant evidence of a lunch I had tried to eat.
The misery continued. I had to refuse one of the pain meds because that was causing me to heave fruitlessly at the swill that mocked at me from the floor.
Where was my Lord, my Father, my God?
I was so knocked on my back by this physical attack that I really was not sure I would come back from it. I was more scared than I had ever been, sad beyond words, wandering in no man’s land, feeling utterly abandoned by God.
The future was as huge a wilderness as any tract of uninhabited land and I had no idea how I was going to live in it, what my Lord wanted from me, or for me. In all the dark places that I have been in my life I have always seen a shimmer of the path I am to follow, but not this time.
The pain finally abated, but not the nausea. That continued for another four days. Days in which the thought of food, let alone the sight or smell of it, had my stomach in total revolt.
How do you live the aftermath of a chronic attack? When you have looked death in the eye and not been able to stand and fight as I have done for 65 years? Too wracked by pain and nausea to want to live – where to from here?
Yet, in that barren desert, far in the distance I heard His whispers. I knew it would take faith such as I had never experienced to creep close to the place where I could hear the words of those whispers.
I found these words in my journal: I can’t walk this next part of my journey. If I am to do it, I need some answers and assurances that I am unlikely to get, knowing God as I do. It has to be by faith, blind faith. That’s all. *“Though the Fig tree may not blossom” kind of faith. And I don’t know if I have enough energy left for that. Maybe that is my answer? It is not energy that is needed, but simply resting in the knowledge that troubles will come, no amount of prayer or “right living” will keep them at bay.
The Lord is never silent for long, and one of those mornings as I opened my bible the marker was in 1 Samuel 2. I had not put the ribbon there. I hadn’t been in 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, in fact anywhere before Psalms for many months. It is the story of Hannah, the mother of Samuel, of her need for a child, a need which the Lord finally met. Hannah then returns her son to the Lord, and she prays her release.
The first gem came in verse 1:
“I smile at my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.”
No matter what the enemy does, how afflicted we are, how desperately lost and abandoned we may feel, we are secure in Christ’s salvation. I wondered if I had really grasped that fact. I read on, and then came the big diamond, the rock of many carats:
“He will guard the feet of His saint,
but the wicked shall be silent in darkness
For by strength no man shall prevail.”
I had tried and failed to deal with my illness in my own strength. It is what I had always done. Brave, tough Glenda! So I got up, sick as I was in the face of amazed opposition from my son, and blurred off to do a job I was totally unfit for, and fell hard. In that falling I did exactly what I was trying to circumvent, causing great inconvenience to those who had to cover for me.
Are you seeing what I finally saw? The pride? The ‘Look at me! No matter how sick I am I will get up and do whatever’ kind of pride?
Oh the mortification of that realisation! Of my arrogance.
A couple of days later, the Lord answered my cries. I didn’t dare listen, I just allowed my hand to write as the Holy Spirit directed. It was a few days before I found the courage to read the words He had given me:
“When are you going to stop fighting? Striving? For who knows what? When are you going to learn to simply rest, and be, in Me? You agitate for that which you can’t attain. I have it all, here, waiting for you and as much as you don’t want to hear this, you are not ready for any of it.
Yes, you went through a barrier, to a place beyond where you have ever been, and I had to cut your loose to go there. cut. You. loose. To confront you. to help you understand that “by strength no man shall prevail”. So what has until now, been platitude: in your weakness I am made strong, becomes reality. It changes, and morphs into faith I can use.
You saw all those books, pages, paragraphs, that was Me, showing you your destiny. You will write the words I have sealed within you. don’t ask, ‘what then?’ Write. Write as if your life depended on it. That is MY will.
Take each day at its own value. Do that which I ask of you. nothing more, nothing less.
I am God. I am your God. I will not leave you or forsake you. But I will demand your best for My service. That is love.”
Tough words. Words through which God showed me powerfully what it means to ‘rest’ in Him, a glimpse of the consequences should I not surrender my innate resistance to trust in His all-encompassing love.
I had a constricted bile duct in my liver, and had to have a stent put in to open it. The procedure could not be done here in Mbombela, so I was referred to a surgeon in Witbank. The stent was not permanent and had to be removed after six weeks, which meant I would have to return to Witbank on a Sunday, spend the night in order to be admitted first thing Monday morning.
This was the second flare up in my liver, and with all the blood tests and x-rays I have blown my Medical Aid allowance for laboratory, radiology, and consults. Now I would have to find the money for a night’s accommodation for me, and a friend, as I would need someone to drive me home after the stent removal which would be under another anaesthetic. More expense, money I really didn’t have.
So I prayed for the Lord to remove the stent, for His healing. It was my first tentative step towards trusting anew. I had been scheduled for a CT scan a few weeks after the procedure to check how my liver was healing. The surgeon called with the results, sounding somewhat puzzled. The scan looked good, he said, no swelling, no sign of stenosis, infection gone.
Just one little issue –they couldn’t see the stent!
Halleluia! My God reigns and He hears the prayers of His children and He had answered the prayer offered up in my newly refreshed state of faith and trust very clearly.
This happened a few months ago, in June. It has taken time for me to heal, to get back to a routine, and to understand that this is a new phase, a new season, in my journey with Jesus. One in which I look to Him first, consciously determined to include Him in all of my life. I don’t get it right every day, but He is patient and gracious and I am at peace in a way I have never been before.
I am learning to stop, and ask, and listen to what it is my Father is asking me to do. I am learning that faith is simple, if we don’t complicate it. Above all, I am learning to rest in Him, to take each day as it comes.
May the blessing of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost be with each of you.
*Habbakuk 3 v17