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Tell Me Your Story—God is Enough, Part III

DSC_3703_2Dear Readers,

This month’s column, contributed by Denise Nash, is the last in a series of interviews with Debbie Glibowski. Following the death of her three children, Debbie faced ongoing serious debilitating health problems. Here she shares the great hope and encouragement she gained from many years of walking with her Lord through the valley of suffering.

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

flowersHow would you encourage others to live a life pleasing to God when they are in circumstances similar to yours?

First of all, I would assure them that God is not punishing them. You are not the only one going through the furnace of affliction. Suffering is a normal part of life and some people experience more than others. But some suffering is more obvious than others. God loves you deeply and He sees the big picture of your life as well as what this suffering will produce in your life now and in eternity.

The trials and tragedies that came to me almost destroyed me, but I made a choice to bow down to God and say, “Whatever it takes to make me into the person You want me to be, I am willing”. There is purpose to suffering. It causes growth, development into the character of Christ, faith that is genuine and more precious than gold, perseverance, and hope for what is to come.

Illness takes an emotional toll on us as well. How did you find healing for your heart?

After getting over my anger at God for being so ill, I made a choice that I wanted God to heal my heart—all the grief, wounds from the past, regrets, bitterness, anger and anything else that needed pulled out by the roots. He is faithful and is carrying it out. I’ve just gone through a time of deep struggle and discouragement due to ongoing health problems.

In those times of discouragement and despair, I am thinking troublesome or negative thoughts and allowing all my problems to rattle around in my head. I need to act upon Phil. 4:8— whatever is true…honorable…just…pure…lovely …commendable—by saying “no” to negative thoughts and telling myself out loud that God loves me, He is always with me, He has forgiven all, and He delights in me.

What have you learned about your identity in Christ over the years?

If you have given your life to Jesus Christ, then you are “in Christ.” He has given you a new identity. He’s given you His righteousness. Faith is believing what God says is true, especially when you don’t feel like it’s true. God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2) so what He says is true.

The new identity was more important than ever to me twice in my life. First, when I had lost my last child and wondered who I was now: I’m not a mother or a caregiver; who am I? I then remembered something I had learned shortly before his death. We are a mother (CEO, athlete, engineer) second. Our first and main identity is being a child of God. I was a child of God who happened to be a mother, but no longer a mother. I still had my main identity of being “in Christ”.

The second time was when I was too ill to do anything. I felt worthless and useless. Again I remembered that I am deeply loved by God. He knows all about this and He is more interested in who I am inside than what I do. I am still His child. (I Sam 16:7, Tit. 1:2) so what He says is true. I must not let disability of illness define me.

Would you give some survival tips to those who are struggling and may wonder how to go on?

The following are some things I did that helped keep me sane, and brought me closer to God. Not all of them will fit your situation.

  • Find out what God says about your new identity. You will find several things in Ephesians 1.
  • Surrender your life and your illness to Him. Ask Him to heal you or show you how to live with it. Seek to know Him more intimately, more deeply and more fully than you ever have before.
  • Desire for your heart to be healed (emotions, wounds from the past) and to glorify Him in what has been dealt to you.
  • Believe who you are in Christ. Believe what God says about Himself. (Ps. 103:8 “The LORD is merciful and gracious; He is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love.” NLT) Believe His promises. (Phil. 1:6 and Deut. 31:8 are good starters.) Have someone get you a little Bible Promise Book and find a verse to think on throughout the day and sleepless night. Find a promise to hold onto and believe.
  • Pray the Psalms: find a psalm with words that express your feelings and pray it to God. Ps. 31 is a good one.
  • Think on what is true and real and good (Phil. 4:8). Think on what is in the moment, forgetting the future and the past. Recognize what your mind drifts to and say NO to thoughts that bring you down. Think on the truth of Who God is what He has done for you, who He has made you in Christ. Find things to be thankful for.
  • Practice the ABC’s. In your sleepless nights, go through the alphabet thinking of an attribute of God that begins with each letter. (For example, God is all-knowing, bountiful, compassionate…) Or consider what God has provided for you. (I am accepted, blessed, cared for by God…)
  • Journal. I rarely did this due to pain and debilitating fatigue, but I found writing helpful when I was able. Write out your feelings so that you don’t have to keep thinking them. Write out what you’re learning about yourself or God. Some people write out their prayers because the mind is more focused when writing.
  • Be proactive regarding your illness; if I had listened to and been content with what doctors told me prior to finding a good Lyme doctor, I’d be dead by now. You must be your own advocate. Google, Google, Google. For a long time I could only spend twenty minutes a day on the computer, but during that time of seeking answers to my health issues, I found a clinic that was able to diagnose me correctly. Talk to people experiencing the same symptoms as you, and find a support group, even if it’s online. Find Christian fellowship, even if it’s with only one person. Get chiropractic help, massage or physical therapy for your pain.
  • Laugh. Have a good, hearty laugh as often as you can. Find funny movies, jokes, humorous stories. Laugh at the silly things you do because of your illness. Since people with chronic illness usually have low functioning adrenals, be careful about things that would get the fight or flight going, such as certain things on TV and stressful situations. Proverbs 17:22 says “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (NLT).

So, I would say to lean hard on God, let Him be your strength, your joy, your life, your companion, your source of compassion and care. He is there when all others have failed you. He will redeem the past and turn this time into GOLD. Ask Him the hard questions; the answers will come, but in His way and His time. Remember that He cares deeply about you and He will never fail you or abandon you. He holds you by the hand. (“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Is. 41:10, NIV)

Any last words of wisdom?

In the darkest times, He is there regardless of how you feel. Start right away to develop that relationship and interaction. (“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34:18, NLT) (Is. 61:1 is a prophecy of some of the things Jesus came to do. “…He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;” ESV)

When I was in the depths of dark depression, I felt like a captive and a prisoner in my own non-functioning body. My spirit is now free, even if my body doesn’t work right all the time.

You came up with a great insight on what it means to focus on Jesus in your pain. Would you explain?

As hard as it is, only glance at your pain and then fix your eyes on Jesus. It is like when you are reading a good book. Your focus and eyes are on the book and you are only a little aware of what is going on around you. In the way you focus on the book when reading, focus on Jesus. Let your problems be in your peripheral view. All this is a process and takes time. You will find Him to be enough.

To see Debbie’s chart on our identity in Christ, click here.