Are You Hurting? Pray.

I have a deep love for the Bible. I always have. Not like my favorite books, of which there are many, the Bible frequently comes to me fresh and new. Not new, as in new versions, or a newly purchased copy – no, as in the message therin.

Because I was a church worker for twenty-two years, one might think I have most of the Bible memorized. One might be wrong. I have read it all the way through a few times, and there are more than a few verses stored in my memory bank, but I am no Bible scholar or expert. Actually, as long as we are speaking on assumptions, I should let you know that most church workers aren’t.

I just love the way I can pick up my Bible (or my phone with the Bible app) and find God’s actual words speaking to me today. Not just words written by some man thousands of years ago, but words that are alive, rich, and ready for me to ingest.

I have been dealing with a frustrating health issue for a few months, which has been only getting worse. It’s not life threatening – only exhausting. A few months back, I noticed I was sleeping more and more, longer and longer. I have always been a champion sleeper, able to sleep long hours and through just about any noise, but this was different. Seven to eight hours was no longer enough sleep. I was now needing nine to ten, sometimes twelve hours, and could still take a nap in between. And I have become increasingly forgetful. My brain is foggy on a good day, and murky on a bad one.

I went to the doctor and had a physical with all the blood work. We talked about the usual culprits – I am over weight, have low thyroid function, and I am a Type 2 diabetic. But all my tests came back, showing improved health over the last time. In fact, I’ve been making slow but steady improvements over the last couple of years. It didn’t make much sense to me or my doctor.

I left feeling frustrated, and he vowed to keep thinking on it. Then, this morning, as I read my Bible, these verses came across my page, from the book of James:

“Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven—healed inside and out.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to reckon with.”

James 5: 13-16; The Message

I stopped immediately and prayed. And then I texted a friend and asked her to pray. It’s not that I haven’t prayed about this before – I have many times. But in my frustration this morning of feeling so, so tired, I found myself whining a bit. I started thinking about all the good things I have going on in my life that I am not enjoying to the fullest. I started thinking about the things I could be doing, but have been missing out on. And I whined some more. But while praying over these verses, I asked God to bring healing. I asked God to bring joy.

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in my 30’s. My doctor, at the time, gave me this diagnosis after I had a bad round of mono. It was my fourth time since age 15 to have it. I was exhausted for over a year, but eventually found my stride again. And truth be told, I hadn’t given it another thought since.

This morning, I got a message from the doctor: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I had messaged him about it last week, wondering if that is still a thing, or could be a thing, and it turns out yes, it’s a thing. And it’s my thing. Since he was not the doctor who had diagnosed me many years ago, it wasn’t on his radar. And since I hadn’t thought about it or struggled with it in almost fifteen years, it had fallen off mine.

Now that I think about it, it makes sense. A flare up of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be caused by a virus or physical ailment, but also by emotional strain. In the last twelve months, my daughter and oldest child graduated high school. We traveled most of the summer. Then we had a major electrical fire at our house the week before moving her to college. I spent the next six months dealing with repairs and insurance frustrations. I left my job of 22 years to take on a new role. My husband’s grandmother died. My husband’s car engine blew on his cross country trek to the funeral, leaving him with no choice but to buy a new car. And now my son (and my baby) is about to start his senior year of high school.

I’ve had a couple emotional strains this year.

You may look at the list and think, “She’s such a whiner! That’s nothing compared to what I’ve been through!” And if that were truly your response, I would reply, “I am so sorry you have been through so much worse.” And I would mean it, because that’s the funny thing about life… I have been through worse, too. But for whatever reason, my body has decided, at this point in time, to say, “Let’s sleep this one off.”

So this is what I’ve decided to do:

I’m going to rest when I need to rest. I’m going to sleep when I need to sleep. I’m going to drink lots of water. I will take my vitamins and go for walks. I will swim in my pool when I want to move, and I will float when I want to relax. I will praise God for all the blessings in my life, and I will cry out to him when my heart is heavy. I will call friends and make dates to see each other, because laughter really is the best medicine. And when I am too weary to do anything else, I will ask those same friends to pray for me.

And I will believe, as James reminded me this morning, that Jesus will heal me and put me back on my feet.

Fully Man and Fully God

One of the great wrestles of my faith is the belief that Jesus came to this world as both fully God and fully man. I believe it, but it is one of the pieces of the Gospel that requires me to fully rely on faith, for my brain will never wrap around it.

I have spent much of my life believing that my anxiety is a sin. That, because Jesus tells me not to worry and have faith, when I become anxious, it is because of my lack of faith. And yet, didn’t Jesus, being fully man, experience anxiety in his body like so few men ever have before?

I grew up thinking (and I point a finger at no one because I fear it may be a belief I came to on my own) that when we read of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and sweating drops of blood, it was a metaphor. And yet, as an adult, I have learned of a medical condition where the body goes into such extreme anxiety that the brain releases chemicals, causing the capillaries to break down the sweat glands. This wouldn’t allow for rushing of blood, dripping down his brow, but small droplets. Sweat, tinged with blood.

My Lord, being fully God, knew the suffering he was about to face, being fully man. His body, acted as a human body created by God, should do, to relieve pressure.

When I am told Jesus faced every hardship, temptation, suffering that man could face, I am sometimes tempted to think that couldn’t possibly be true. And yet, here is proof that he did. I am never alone in my suffering. While our circumstances differ in many ways, Jesus faced grief, betrayal, abuse, abandonment, and the worst anxiety one could experience.

As much comfort as I take in knowing that Jesus was fully man, it is that he is fully God that brings me the most relief. Being fully God, knowing what he was about to face, feeling the anxiety in his body, he still allowed guards to take him into custody. He still stood before a mock trial. He still took a sentence of a criminal when he had never committed a single sin. He allowed his body to be whipped, tortured, and nailed to a cross. All this because his love for me was so great.

Jesus, fully man and fully God, faced sin and death, looked them in the face, and conquered them.

None of this excuses me to wallow in worry or fret. No; what this does is allow me to go to Jesus and hand over my worries, because he has already conquered them. It allows me to trust that he sees the bigger picture, knows what is to come, and that I am held in his hands.

And it frees me from shame when my body acts in a fight or flight reaction, when adrenaline releases and I shake, when my chest clinches tight in anxiety so great I think I might die. Because this body, a body made by God, a body that functions like my Lord Jesus’ body, knows what to do to warn me of impending danger, relieve pressure, and remind me to call on God to give me peace.

In fact, everything about Jesus’ death and resurrection frees me from shame. He took all my sin to the cross – the sins I have committed and the sins committed against me. When Jesus looks at me, he doesn’t see my wrongdoings, my scars, my history. Jesus looks at me and sees that I have been washed clean by the blood of his wounds. He sees me as a precious, whole, beautiful child of God. Fully forgiven.

An Invitation for the Weary

Weary has taken on a new meaning for our world. The level of weariness is unprecedented and unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight. We know it will end…we just don’t know when. And that is part of what makes this particular weariness so hard.

This morning, as I opened my Bible, praying for a message that would be relevant to my current state of heart, which frankly can change by the hour, God gave me what I needed. He’s got a habit of that.

Matthew 11: 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I don’t know when the fear of Coronavirus will end. I don’t know when we will leave our houses again and be allowed to stand next to each other. I don’t know when I’ll be able to hug my friends or go to the grocery store and find toilet paper with ease. I don’t know how many more lives will be lost.

But God knows.

God knows when it will end and He sees us now in our weariness. He says we don’t have to carry the burden because he will carry it for us. And some of us have been carrying some burden for quite some time.

It occurred to me a few days ago that in my town, there has been an extended time of burden; there have been several years of loads to bear. When Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in August of 2017, our town was flooded in a devastating way. It wasn’t simply from the storm but from a late-night release of water from a lake north of us. People made poor judgment calls in a moment of panic and thousands of lives were sent into chaos. Homes were flooded, lives were lost, businesses shut down, and the way of life in our town was forever changed.

Then in 2019, another decision made by an unscrupulous builder teamed up with never before seen flash flooding and several neighborhoods in our town were flooded. Once again, stress and chaos came to us as schools and businesses were shut down. Families were displaced. It was heartbreaking.

And the only thing that could make the Spring flooding of 2019 any more heartbreaking is that the builder, who had promised to fix his mistakes, did not do so in time for another flash flood that came in the Fall. The same families in the same houses who had flooded in the Spring were now flooding again. Plus some extras; some of which had flooded during Harvey.

So just as these families were all getting their repairs wrapped up and moving back into their newly refurbished homes, COVID-19 hits. And we all know what it has brought thus far.

I want to cry out to God and scream, “Enough!!!!!” And yet I know that things could be so much worse. I can look at areas of the world who are war-ravaged and poverty-stricken and politically oppressed and easily remind myself that we really don’t have it that bad in our town; that we can’t complain. But I also know that there are enough feelings for all of us and that I don’t have to save all my empathy for one place. If I neglect to acknowledge my sadness for my friends because they don’t have it as bad as someone in say, Iraq, it doesn’t make the situation in Iraq better. I could say that I shouldn’t pray for the mom of three toddlers who feels like she’s losing her mind right now because she has it so much better than the mom who is struggling to feed her children in Africa. But saving that empathy and prayer doesn’t bring a miracle to Africa any faster.

No, God reminds me to bring my burdens to him because He is big enough for all of it. God can love and care for my town at the same time He cares for Africa. He can see the mom who rebuilt her kitchen twice after flooding twice and also see the mom without a roof over her head. He can provide for the nurse in the hospital in Houston who is short on supplies at the exact time He is providing for the nurse in the refugee camp.

Weariness is relative. There is no comparison to our fellow man. What makes me weary today may seem like a cake-walk to you. And what makes you weary tomorrow may be a dream day for me. Weariness is weariness is weariness. And God can handle all of it. He sees us, He knows us, and He wants to carry the load for us. His heart is humble and gentle and He will not rebuke us for coming to his arms to curl up for a rest. In fact, He has given us an open invitation.

Flicker of Light

When I was a little girl, I was terrified of the dark. I was always certain there was someone or something under my bed. Or in my closet. Or behind my door. I slept with a lamp on for years. And while I eventually graduated from the lamp to a small nightlight, it wasn’t because my fear had subsided, just that I was old enough for sleepovers and didn’t want to look like a baby. I would check under my bed, behind my door, and in my closet every single night before I turned off my overhead light and turned on my nightlight. I had to take action in order to scare the fear away. I had to do it every single night.

The Bible says to, “Fear not,” or “Do not fear” well over 350 times. If I believe that everything the Bible says is true, and as a matter of fact I do, then I have to believe that God really doesn’t want me to live in fear. But that doesn’t mean I won’t ever face fear. If I am to take this world, sinful as it is, then I am most definitely going to face all sorts of things I don’t like, things I don’t understand, and things that scare me.


I don’t like it. I don’t understand it. It scares me.

So I have to figure out a way not to get stuck in that fear. I have to take action to scare the fear away. Fear is a feeling, it’s a real feeling but feelings sometimes lie to me. Like when I felt like I was in love in 7th grade and got my heart broken when the feeling wasn’t mutual. Turns out, I wasn’t in love. That feeling was a lie.

So how do I not get stuck in a feeling? First, I have to look at the facts and figure out what I’m feeling. Lately, I have been feeling fear. And the fear is of a very real thing; a virus that is spreading worldwide. So to begin to scare the fear away, I have to do everything the authorities are telling me to do. I am social-distancing. I have limited my contact to my family. I’m only meeting up with friends via texting, Facetiming, and video conferencing. I am drinking lots of water and getting plenty of sleep. I’m essentially checking behind the door, in the closet, and under my bed.

But fear still finds its way and it still creeps in and whispers in my ear, “You’re never going to be able to educate your kids at home,” or “the government is never going to be able to control or fix this,” or, and this is the one that comes to me the most often, “what if this is all a way for the government to control the population?”

Don’t stop reading just because I unveiled my crazy. I am fully aware I have watched too much Netflix.

But here is the most important part…The thing I have to keep telling myself, the action I have to take, is to remind myself that God is bigger than COVID-19. In fact, he’s bigger than anything I could ever fear. Every time I look out my window or walk through my yard and see a bird, I am reminded that those little birds worry for nothing. I mean sure, they flit and flutter and gather like crazy to make a nest and to find food for their babies; but ultimately, God provides everything they need. And if God takes such good care of the Robins and Cardinals in my back yard, how much more effort will He put into caring for me?

Now, I hear you, sometimes birds freeze to death. Sometimes a big wind comes and knocks down their nest, or another animal comes and steals the baby birds for dinner. It’s true. These things do happen. But it doesn’t mean that God loved those birds any less. It only means that this world is full of things that suck.

God allows a lot of things to happen that I don’t understand. But it doesn’t mean he’s not watching or that he stopped loving me. I don’t have a clean or slick reason for why he allows things like cancer, heart attacks, suicide, or COVID-19. What I do know is that in all the scary places I’ve been, in all the times I’ve ever been afraid, in all the dark rooms I’ve ever sat in, His light has been my salvation.

I have never come through a dark time of my life when I looked back and couldn’t see God’s guidance, provision, protection, and love. And I have been through some really dark times. But looking back, when the memories feel heavy and burdensome and I know that I couldn’t find any hope at the time, I can always, in hindsight, see a flicker of light. I might not have been able to see the flicker back then, but sure enough, it was always there.

And so even though life feels scary right now and I don’t know when it will feel right again, I don’t have to wonder about who will be lighting the path ahead of me -of us. God has already seen the future, He has already been there. He knows how this all ends and He will be there for us then just like He is here for us now.