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Tell Me Your Story—God is Enough, Part II

DSC_3703_2Dear Readers,

This month’s column, contributed by Denise Nash, is a continuation of the August interview with Debbie Glibowski, who has faced many years of serious debilitating illness following the death of their three children. She has so much wisdom and depth to offer hurting people, that I’ve decided to run two more columns. This is part II of a three part interview. Debbie also includes some great advice to those who want to help the chronically ill. My prayers go out to all who may be suffering health issues. May the Lord strengthen you, comfort you, and give you hope.

Do you have a dramatic or unique story that would encourage others in their walk with the Lord? Send an email to Ruth with subject line “query” and include a paragraph summarizing your story to ruthywood@gmail.com.

God is Enough, Part II

fruitYou moved far away from family and friends for the benefit of your health. Then you found yourself surrounded by a city of strangers who knew nothing about you or your needs. Your husband, Robert, was still working at that time. How did you survive?

Life didn’t work out as planned because I thought I needed more sunshine and a drier climate. I didn’t know my real problem was Lyme disease.

God provided wonderfully for us in a city of strangers. We made it a priority when we moved to get into a church and a home fellowship group right away. Before I became nearly bedridden, I was able to go to the fellowship group and the church we’d chosen for almost two months. There were some wonderful people in that home group. They came bearing gifts and cleaned our house on Christmas eve because I had been unable to do so for quite a while.

In what ways were you helped?

A few weeks later I woke one morning feeling worse than I’d ever felt, and I knew I was going to need help. While I prayed and searched the phone book for a home health agency, the phone rang. One of the ladies from the home group called for the first time and asked how I was doing. When I told her how bad I felt, she offered to come do laundry and make me lunch. I accepted her offer, as Robert was at work and I really needed assistance. I couldn’t get out of bed because I was so weak.

When she saw how ill I was, she came to help every day Robert was at work. She was a tremendous blessing! She’d sit on the bed and stroke my arm and pray for me and let me talk. She cooked, did laundry, mending, shopping, picked up prescriptions, drove me to appointments and loved me. Her husband came weekly to clean the bathrooms and floors. He’d come in singing praise to God, and sang while he worked. He told me it was fun for him. For me, he defined joy, walking into our house and filling it with joy and praise.

When they were no longer able to help, after almost a year of coming daily, God provided someone else from the fellowship group. She has become a very good friend.

Do you have a life verse or section of Scripture that you particularly cling to?

As a young Christian I did not know that God loved me, but I knew He was Sovereign; so I viewed Him as a demanding dictator to Whom I was accountable. Later, I came to know Him as a loving Father and a compassionate God. My life verse became Phil. 3:10 (“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection…” ESV). I wanted to know God for Who He really is and what He’s done for me, to know Him in Truth.

When I became almost completely bedridden, I clung to several verses, some for dear life. One is Heb. 13:5b (“…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”) because when I was going through the worst of my illness, it felt like God was not there. My husband printed out that verse in very large font and taped it to the wall near my bed. When I felt like God had abandoned me, I would turn my head to that verse. It comforted me, reminded me of His promise that, though I did not feel His presence nor His activity in my life at the time, God never leaves me. I held onto that promise as though my life depended on it.

Any other verses come to mind?

Chuck Swindoll said the hardest part of a trial is the silence of God. That gave me comfort that I was not the only one who’d felt that way. Will we believe Him that He is there when it feels like He’s not?

Another is Micah 7:7-8 (“But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.” ESV) “When I sit in darkness” summed up the deep depression I was in, and it must have been about as dark as one could get. I would say this verse out loud and with conviction when I felt despair, and it helped me. Other encouraging Scriptures include Deut. 7:7,8; II Chron. 20:12, 15b,17; Ps. 27:13,14; Ps. 43:3; Ps. 86; Zeph. 3:17; I Cor. 10:13; II Cor. 1:9-11; and II Cor. 4: 16-18.

What would you say to those who have never experienced a chronic illness?

To those who have never experienced illness lasting longer than the flu, I know they have no concept of what it’s like to be sick, limited and isolated year after year after year. I would say be compassionate with those whose illness you don’t understand. They are not being lazy. They want so very much to be well.

Telling them that if they would just get out and do something is hurtful, not helpful. They have lost their abilities, their confidence, their lifestyle and some of their friends. They have a sense of worthlessness, inadequacy and feel helpless and hopeless. Include them somehow. Let them know you care, but don’t try to ‘fix’ them.

What is your philosophy about trials?

The best way to be prepared for a trial is to have the Word of God in your heart and to draw close to Him into an intimate relationship with the God above all gods, the God Who knows all and can do all things. Our God is a relational God. His desire is to be in a relationship with you. Any relationship needs tending to. If you just let it slide, you slide apart. Memorize and meditate on His Word so that when the difficult times come, the Word of God will be in your heart. Be assured, trials will come to all of us.

How would you encourage a friend, family member or caregiver to approach those in need and compassionately care for them?

There are many, many people who are in desperate need of help due to chronic illness. Those in greatest need are not able to go to church or a fellowship group. They have very little energy to pick up the phone to ask for support, and don’t look forward to trying again due to disappointment in the past from rejection or lack of response.

If you know someone like this, what they need most might be someone to buy groceries, pick up prescriptions, and provide a listening ear without you trying to ‘fix’ them. Believe me, they have already tried whatever you are going to suggest. They need conversation without being judged due to their illness. They need just a little spiritual encouragement, not a sermon, and certainly not a pat answer. Give them one verse they can hold on to. Assure them that God loves and cares for them just as they are.

As it says in Psalm 103:14, “…He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” (NIV) God knows our frailty and He doesn’t expect anything from dust. Since I heard that, it has brought much encouragement to me. It helped me go from trying and striving to be able to relax in His love. Remind them, too, that God uses the weak for His glory (II Cor. 12:9).

Any other advice for those who’d like to help someone in need?

If you are someone who has spiritual gifts of mercy or helps and would like to assist one of these individuals but don’t know anyone, look for a support group in your area for something like Lyme, lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, ALS, MS or other debilitating illnesses. Attend a meeting and let someone know that you would like to help. Offer something specific. Don’t say, “Let me know if you need anything” because they probably won’t respond to it. Instead, if you are able to do house maintenance or repairs, offer that. If you are willing to just sit and listen with your gift of mercy, offer that. If you would like to do errands, state that. If you have time to do laundry or make a meal, it’s always needed. You will be blessed! Remember that they may have food sensitivities or be unable to deal with fragrances or loud noises, so ask about these things. You may discover a rewarding ministry.

Don’t forget about the healthy spouse and children. They need care too, and need to feel some normalcy. The healthy spouse has a huge burden of caring for their mate full time, working, doing all the household chores, feeling the strain on the marriage and the budget, and worrying about what is in their future. Provide some meals, or mow the lawn once in a while. Lend some time to talk and listen, to allow the family member to vent without judgment.

Next month Debbie will share how God healed her heart, “all the grief, wounds from the past, regrets, bitterness, and anger.” She has special words of encouragement for those living through similar circumstances.