I was asked to share a testimony at our church during the Lenten service about how God has worked in my life. I could tell I was pretty nervous about it because I had a dream that people started walking out, and someone yelled from the crowd “Get to the point!” But, I shared it yesterday, and just as I suspected, that was all in my head because I actually received quite a bit of positive feedback. In any case, since I spent so much time writing it up and worrying about it, I figured I would share it with you all and get a little more mileage out of it. So, here, slightly edited, is what I had to share:
I don’t want to offend anyone, but “God never gives you more than you can handle” or the similar “God knew you were strong enough to handle it” are both silly and bad theology.
In April of 2008, I went to bed around 12:30 with a terrible case of vertigo. By 8:30 the next morning, I told Bryan I was dying. At lunchtime, he took me to the ER even though I told him I just needed some water and crackers. And one dizzy month later, I was finally diagnosed with a tumor on my auditory nerve.
This was followed by surgery which led to hearing loss, a bad case of steroid withdrawl, more vertigo, head sensitivity at the incision site, a bad case of acne, and several other symptoms I could whine about for much of the day. Although the time before and after the surgery were times of intense prayer, I never felt that I had a lot of spiritual growth come out of the surgery. Honestly, I was just too busy surviving and doing the next thing. With a 5 year old and a 2 year old, there were a lot of next things without a lot of energy to do them.
However, sometime between then and 2010, the mom’s Bible study group listened to a study by Alice Reeves, I believe, on the 23rd Psalm. It was a cassette tape study, and she had the most delightful accent. We were often laughing just from her style of storytelling regardless of whether the story was intended to be humorous. In any case, God used this Bible study to change the way that I related to Him and His Word. At some point in the study, don’t be overwhelmed with all my specifics here, the speaker related a story about a crisis she had experienced. She said that she had gone home and purposed to read her Bible until God spoke to her. The idea of reading the Bible with the expectancy of hearing from God was just . . . wow. I didn’t know how it all worked, but I knew that that was what I wanted from my Bible reading.
Hebrews 4:12 says “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
I knew this verse, but thinking of the Word of God as something that was living and that interacted with my spirit and my heart was somehow revolutionary to me. I started reading and looking for what God had to say to me in His Word for that day. Sometimes I read a lot, sometimes I read a little, but my reading provided more to me that just head knowledge of what the Bible says, it now fed my spirit as well.
This proved important as I went into my first follow up MRI for the acoustic neuroma. Knowing what another surgery would mean had worried. I was a wreck. Lots of praying, lots of worrying, lots of processing. Still reading my Bible, still hearing from God’s word, getting small reassurances some days, but it was hard to make these reassurances last.
But then, about a month and a half before my follow up, I attended Hearts at Home, a Christian Women’s Conference. I think I was listening to Susie Larson or it was after her session. She was very inspirational, but I don’t even recall any of this being related to her. It was sort of the act of being alone and meditating on God. In any case, I remember the verse “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now, I had been reading Genesis at the time, and this whole picture just started taking shape in my mind. Abraham believed the promises of God. Abraham trusted God. It took a long time for God’s promises to be fulfilled to Abraham and some of them never were, yet God trusted Abraham, and from my long view, I can see that God has proven trustworthy. And that was the key. God has proven Himself faithful. God is trustworthy. He fulfilled his promises to Abraham, to Gideon, to the prophets, to Mary and Elizabeth, to Hannah, to David, to everyone. And he would fulfill the promises in His word to me because I believe in Him. All of His promises are true and can be trusted. I could leave this all to Him. It will never be about my strength, my planning, my positive thinking. It is truly about who God is.
This was a much needed reminder because that second scan did not give me the news that I wanted. It showed growth instead of no change. On top of that, I was packing to go home to Christmas and I had to share that news with family, also, I received 7 spam calls in the span of 2 ½ hours while trying to deal with that. I don’t even really like 2 or 3 calls from people I know. It was more than I could handle. But it wasn’t more than God could handle. He tells us that He is working all things together for my good, that I can do anything through Christ, that in my weakness I am strong because it’s through my weaknesses that He is able to work. And, after the barrage of stress, that is exactly what He did. He provided support and love through Himself and family, strengthening us for the times to come.
And I still have this very tangible reminder every few years as I go in for a check (my last one was great by the way) that I have to trust God with my very life, with everything in it.
But one of the greatest challenges in this all, is when I don’t have an MRI coming, when there is no crisis, when it’s just the day to day living. In those times, will I remember? Will I remember to read His Word knowing that He still has a word for me? Will I continue to grow as a disciple? Will my love for God continue to grow? Will I be seeking to understand Him more? That’s my challenge, and if you are willing, that’s your challenge from me as well. I want to be growing together with all of you who help me to grow up more in maturity of faith and I pray that it will continue to be so.