June 09, 2010

What does fear look like?

For me, fear is a sin I am familiar with. I have to choose to deny myself the “pleasure” of camping in it.  If I don’t, it consumes me and swallows me whole at times.

What is it?  According to the dictionary, fear is to be afraid or feel anxious or apprehensive about a possible or probable situation or event.  Basically living in a mental state of “what if”.  This is what my mental state had become.  And where did it leave me?  In a place of self focus, self centeredness and distant from the very creator of my being.  Fear is the opposite of faith.  When I was reading through some of the definitions I came across one mans description of fear and it was, “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.”  At first I thought, “No it’s not, the secret is to know and love Jesus.”  But then as I thought about it, really, it’s true.  Knowing and loving Jesus requires faith and fear is the opposite of faith.  So existing without fear is existing in faith…the secret to existing for HIm… believing in Jesus, who He is and believing in what He can and will do to bring Himself glory. 

Over the past year I’ve come to the realization that those that have not walked through chronic pain and illness cannot empathize with those that have.  Accepting this has allowed me to let go of my expectations of others…I say this because those that have not sat through a few months of medical appointments like I just have wouldn’t have the experience of understanding where this fear comes from. Over the past few months I’ve been told I need to take my poisonous medication (which causes heart attacks and cancer), I’m heading into premature ovarian failure, my bones are becoming brittle and I need to think about osteoporosis medication, I need to have a mammogram and skin exam to get a baseline because of my risk of cancer (from the meds), I need to start seeing a cardiologist in case I begin to experience signs of a heart attack…I’m 33!  As I write this I am laughing, it has become quite humorous!  It is so over the top to me that all I can do is laugh at this point.  All this is falling on the ears of someone who feels great, experiencing no symptoms of anything! 

So from the worlds stand point, I have a good excuse for camping out in fear all day long.  And there are times when I do and the immediate result of this is distance from my God and that makes me sad.  At these moments I plead to experience His presence again but fear and faith cannot co-exist. For me, walking in faith at times is a choice regardless of how I feel. 

I know circumstances don’t define who we are or determine if or when God will use us.  But fear of these circumstances will keep us from experiencing life with Christ and the freedom we can have in Him. 

Doctors can instill a tremendous amount of fear in a sick person.  But they are man.  The do not know what my God knows.  Nor can they do what my God can do. 
They are physicians but my God is the Great Physician.

“Thou they slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  Job 1:4-5

2 Comments So Far...

June 11, 2010 Carol

This is so well-written that I feel like printing it out and using it as a daily devotional. Yes, a one-page 365 day devotional. LOL! Fear, the anxiety that churns its way through your insides, ever present. The phrase that has helped me many times is Elisabeth Elliot’s “Do the next thing.” It was one of the first lines she remembered when she was despairing over the sudden death of her young husband, and was the mother of a small child. It helped her through just a bit, just enough. Sometimes that helps me snap out of it; my husband, too. Just put one foot in front of the other. That’s the only advice I really trust other than the Bible—the advice from someone who has known deep suffering or hardship of some kind. Everyone else has advice that comes too easily, that sounds good but doesn’t have the experience behind it. You’re also so right that people who haven’t experienced chronic pain and illness don’t understand. There’s only so much that many of them can tolerate. They don’t get it. When the woman down the street found out that she had lung cancer (fortunately it was accidentally caught pretty early) I, someone who hardly knew her, turned out to be one of her 3 main support people. That’s astounding. Why did it happen? Because I was truly interested in what was happening and how she was doing and always ready to listen, and even laugh with her, and to validate what she was feeling. That was it. I was shocked later to hear her tell me that I was one of the three. She would go to an appointment and actually think on the way home about what she was going to tell me. It tweaked her experience, changed it just one iota, but made such a difference. It saddens me…and at times made me angry, that there weren’t more people around her to simply do the simple thing I was doing. But maybe it was because they hadn’t been through the horror, didn’t get it, didn’t understand what it is like to have something that you can just not think about. I have just started reading your excellent blog. When I had my diagnosis (not lupus) it wasn’t long before I realized that my diagnosis radically changed my husband’s life, too. Something BIG had happened to his life. (And now, unfortunately, he’s had his own awesome diagnosis.) I guess you can’t write about that exactly, since you met your husband after you already knew. I’d be so interested to hear what went through his mind, from your perspective. Was he in denial and just madly in love? smile Or did he need to stop and seriously ponder what he was getting into? What goes on in his mind now? Is he able to not think about it? Does he lack the anxiety because he isn’t immersed in the experience himself? Or, does he struggle with anxiety himself? It’s amazing how much more objective you can be about someone else’s situation. In the case of other people, they can afford to be objective and think positively. But it can rapidly turn into not really caring that deeply, no matter how wonderful they may be. They don’t have that sense of urgency. Of course, it’s more immediate for a husband. But, I remember Christopher Reeve saying something like he wanted researchers to be working on a cure for what he had, not like it was just another ordinary day, but like it was an emergency, like they were EMTs. He was hanging on by a thread, and the thought that researchers were calmly having their morning coffee, laughing around the watercooler, or doing ANYTHING other than dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to their work was almost too much to bear.
Anyway, I’ve already covered too much ground. My main message is to let you know that your blog posts are exceptionally good and that you do have people listening and appreciating.

June 14, 2010 Danika Stokes

Hi Carol,
Thanks for your comment!  I love to hear from about others life experiences too as it encourages me.  Your comment gave me some great thoughts to ponder as I’ve considered as post on my husbands perspective.  Yes, it’s probably a bit different since he married me with my diagnosis.  I remember him asking for my hand in marriage and my parents sat with him and explained to him the responsibility of what my life looked like with lupus and asked if he was willing to take that on. He hadn’t even thought about it weighing in on the decision to marry me and maybe part of that was being in love!  When I doubt God and what He is doing at times, my marriage is one area I can look at and remember God is in control. I say that because it amazes me when I see how He chose my husband for me.  He has the gift of faith which has blessed me richly. I have never heard him use the word anxious now have I ever seen him experience anxiety.  He does not walk by feeling or emotion and I of course do from time to time.  Our first two years of marriage I experienced serious anxiety and panic attacks out of fear of all that could happen to me yet he stood by praying for me daily, out loud at his job mostly. So I am blessed by a very steady man.  That’s not to say that he doesn’t think about things or care but I think he intentionally doesn’t let me see those things.  We’ve had discussions in the past about how this, at times, makes me feel he doesn’t care but over the years His faith in who God is and what He can do has increased me faith ten fold and allowed me to remove my expectation of what I think he should do and act like for me.  I think you are so right about others not having a sense of urgency as well as they have the privilege of being removed from the reality a bit by not having the dianosis so they can be more objective and positive. I have seen this in my husband from time to time but again, over the years, am realizing that I can’t expect anything different because they just don’t get it.  By my Lord does and I’m trying to learn to only expect this from Him.  It’s hard.
I was so encouraged by your dedication to your friend with lung cancer.  You were being Christ to a woman that needed to experience Him in the flesh.  I have been praying for increased compassion and empathy for hurting people because like you mentioned, very few will come along side these people.  And God has given us the privilege to pour out compassion as we experience it from Him and others.
Thanks for chatting and for the insight and encouragement!

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