Thursday, June 16, 2011

Content in Every Situation

I was sitting on a blue leather couch with George in the darkened living room of a close friend couple of ours who are like family to us. I had shared through tears that I had been experiencing extreme uncontrollable anxiety lately that had been overwhelming.  I was a bit embarrassed at what I was describing, but the truth was the truth and I needed our dear friends to know what we’d been going through.

Looking at my lap, I listened as George’s best guy friend validated my situation.  He knew what to say. He described all the ick I’ve been going through over the last many months and iterated that he knew I go through more suffering than even he would know I go through.  Talking to my friends, I felt like I had been wrapped in a warm blanket of validation, something we all need as chronic illness sufferers but don’t often get. Actually, my friends helped me to start to grasp onto why I was having day after day anxiety attacks.  

Daniel Hurley, M.D., a physiatrist, which is a doctor of physical medicine who works with chronic pain patients helping them to restore their quality of life, wrote a book called Facing Pain, Finding Hope.  A few years ago, I found his book randomly when searching for books on pain and hope and when the book arrived on my doorstep to my surprise I realized I had just bought a book that had been written by a doctor I was currently seeing! Dr. Hurley was my physiatrist from 2007-2009.

In his book Dr. Hurley wrote, “Even as we acknowledge the power of positive thinking and presence of true grace, our human spirit can endure only so much before it is beaten down from its long-suffering.”

Beaten down. Yes. That is how I feel. I saw my therapist, counselor, psycho-analyst, life coach whatever you want to call her just days after I shared about my terrible anxiety with our friends. I told her how I’m completely unable to function. This physical transformation of anxiety takes over my spirit and my body and I react accordingly. She mentioned the word trauma.  Trauma is a strong word. But if we apply her word to my experience, I have being going through so many “traumas” over the last eight or so months, my spirit could not endure anymore.

It sounds weak, doesn’t it? And you know what, it is weak. I am weak. Weak is okay. I think strength is a word that is so overrated in our culture. Strength implies we can do it on our own. But, we cannot do it on our own. I don’t know about you, but I need people around me to lift me up, to validate my experience and encourage me. I also need God.  God is not looking for the strong people who can do it on their own. He is looking for the weak, which just so happens to be all of us.

I read a devotional recently which had a verse at the top that said “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” Philippians 4:12 “REALLY!?” I wrote next to the verse on the page in big block letters. That’s a pretty incredible thing to say. And as Paul, the writer of Philippians, had gone through much suffering in his life and was in jail when he wrote this verse, I was curious what this secret was. The devotional did not give me a satisfactory answer, so I went to the Bible to read what Paul wrote after claiming something so inconceivable. Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.”

Click click click. My brain began turning and I pondered this for a long while.  Paul was not saying Christ makes me stronger so I’ll be happier. He’s saying, in any situation, even when I’m beaten down, I can be content because Christ gives me strength. Thankfully, I do not have to have the strength, because honestly if that was the solution, I’d throw the Bible across the room. (Yep, I’ve done that in the past).  But there is someone who I can rely on to hold me up with strength when I need it: Christ.

This week I have taken a daily sabbatical during the majority of the day by disconnecting from the computer, television and phone.  I’ve sat in a brown cushioned chair with beech veneer armrests, and told God through journaling how beaten down I am. I have been spelling it out. Every detail. Every item.

Content? Well, as I'm pretty fickle, that depends on the hour you catch me, but when I'm deep in my journaling and reading my nine books from Maya Angelou (who I call Mama Maya) to Henri Nouwen to a book called, Keep Calm and Carry On to an application commentary on 2 Corinthians, even when I'm crying, I'd answer, yes, I'm content. I don't gotta worry about being strong cause Christ is being strong for me.

I'll leave you with a quote from Mama Maya from a her book I'm reading called Letter to My Daughter.
The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed.