“I loathe my life. I will give free utterance to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul. Your hands fashioned and made me; and now you turn and destroy me. Remember that you fashioned me like clay; and will you turn me to dust again? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit. I am filled with disgrace.” Job 10:1, 9, 11, 12, 15
I had gotten to that point. I felt suspended somewhere between what I was FEELING about my body and chronic disease state… and what I KNOW about who God is and how He administers our existence. I felt distraught. I was distressed and utterly discouraged in the unending barrage of medical complications and manifestations of disease. The thick rope that anchored me steadily with knowledge of God’s goodness and care seemed to be thinning as the weeks passed into months without reprieve. There was no end in sight. Every corner I turned presented another serious complication. I was losing hope.
Disgrace was the theme that wove through multiple domains of my life. My body had been segmented into parts, routinely examined and explored, studied and surveyed. Though the medical professionals treated me with utmost dignity, there was no dignity in what needed to be discussed and dissected. Invasive examinations had become routine. Disgrace describes as well what had become of my vocation. At one time, working in a profession that I loved, using my graduate degree to its fullest potential, my career had finally reached the point I had dreamed of fifteen years earlier when starting out at a small junior college. I had served in leadership roles, administered programs, managed teams of staff. Due to the compromises of my health, I stepped away from my chosen vocation and settled into a position of part-time secretary, for which I was desperately not qualified. I felt grateful for the job but disgraced by what had become of my life’s work. My timeline for post-op healing was written on a “Return to Work” form; yet the reality was that I struggled with the idea of returning to a work that was a symbol of my failure and frailty, a daily reminder of my loss and limitations.
In moments of contemplative truth, I reached out to my closest loved ones to confide my feelings that seemed to close on top of me like a cave-in. Besides compassion and a commitment to pray for me, there was little that could be done. They heard my hopelessness, but with no end was in sight, there was no hope to offer. The circumstances were terrible; no words of insight or wisdom could take the terribleness away.
For family devotions, my husband decided to read “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom. When he chose this book, he had no idea the depths of discouragement and pain that I would be enduring as he daily read page after page of this incredible true life story.
Corrie and her sister Betsie were Dutch underground resistance workers rescuing Jews during Germany’s occupation of Holland in World War II. The sisters had been arrested and sent to prison camp; their arrival at Ravensbruck in Germany was their third place of imprisonment, far worse than the previous locations had been. Upon arrival at their overcrowded, flea infested sleeping quarters, Corrie was feeling distraught by the situation. There was no end to their suffering in sight. The circumstances were terrible. Corrie was distressed and uncertain of what to do. Betsie reminded her that the answer had been given to them that morning through their Bible reading:
1 Thessalonians 5:15-18, “See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Betsie insisted that they immediately turn to the Lord in prayer and give Him thanks. Corrie’s resistance to this idea was almost humorously described in her account. With Betsie’s prodding, she and Corrie took turns naming things they were grateful for in the midst of their terrible and hopeless circumstances. After identifying thanks that their smuggled Bible had safely passed through inspection and thanks for the overcrowding of women who would be able to hear the word of God read each day, Betsie gave thanks for the fleas! Corrie’s reaction was the same as mine would have been. FLEAS?!?! How can we thank God for fleas??? But Betsie’s faith spoke with resolve, reminding Corrie that God’s Word tells us to give thanks in ALL circumstances.
That night, as I laid still, too afraid of the pain to move, I listened to the words of Betsie. My body had become my prison; pain and disease were its evil captors. Beside me lay my Bible. Betsie was right; all the answers I needed to all the questions and longings of my heart would be found in those pages.
I started in the Psalms. David’s passionate cries and emotional outbursts expressed with words the groaning of my own heart and mind. I continued in the book of Job. Without explanation, his livelihood, his family, and his health were all stripped away. The contempt and despair of life became words with which I could identify. I kept reading. Day after day. Day after day. I kept flooding my mind with these words. And this is when hope finally returned.
Hope came because I know the end of the story. After being tormented by the reigning king, David became king. After losing all he had and despairing of life itself, Job was blessed far more than he had previously known. After weeks of suffering from flea bites, Corrie and Betsie realized that it was the fleas who kept the guards out of the sleeping quarters, thus enabling the Word of God to be freely shared every day in their overcrowded barracks. God’s Word became light in that dark prison camp. God’s Word became hope in the midst of their terrible circumstances.
I don’t know if the terribleness of my circumstances will resolve here on earth, but I do know that the end of my story here is a place of no more pain, no disease, no suffering. I do know that the end of my story here means eternity with Jesus in heaven. I don’t know how long the journey will be between now and then, but I will say with Job,
“Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad? The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 2:10, 1:21