Stayin’ Alive

As the winter months roll out on my calendar and as the nation battles an unprecedented flu outbreak, I am coming to a hard-won conclusion:  Sometimes all we can do is stay alive; and sometimes, just surviving is sufficient.

I am finding this concept of simple survival challenging to my perfectionist brain that says, “but you were made for more than just survival! You were made to thrive!”  While I believe that this concept of being created to thrive is ultimately true, I also believe that there are seasons where we simply get through breath-by-breath.

Lately, my mantra has become, “Jesus, help me take this next breath.”  Then, “Jesus, help me take this next breath.”

One day at a time”  is an overwhelming concept for me right now.  Heck, taking it one hour at a time seems like too much.  It has to be one-second-at-a-time, or else,  I will collapse with the enormity of the load that each day carries.

I’ve been future tripping for the past few months.  During the week before Christmas, a trusted friend told me that he had been given a vision about my healing.  He said that he had seen me this time next year:  I was healthier, more physically equipped to serve at a higher capacity, and in a position where I could be the giver, pouring out for others.  At first, my heart leapt with excitement and anticipation.  This friend is one who hears regularly from God, has a dynamic and vibrant prayer life, and I trust that he has heard from God regarding my healing.

As the magic of the Christmas season dissolved into the germ-infested, ice-cold, darkest night of January,  my anticipation also dissolved.  Despair eclipsed my hope, and I questioned God, my friend, and the prophecy of healing.  How, God?  How will you heal? No treatment has helped.  We are approaching my treatment at best with symptom containment, and at worst, with an attitude of palliative care.  How many years do I have left?  Are we just trying to keep me comfortable? Or does someone have a plan for actual recovery?  I have yet to find any longitudinal studies with actual prognosis for those suffering from adult-onset hyperadrenergic POTS,  Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, and Gastroparesis.   Is this my lot?  A long life lived in agony?  Or will these disorders eat at my organs until they start actually giving out?  How do you prepare for the rest of your life when you have disorders that are so rare that no one can give you a clear prognosis?  And can you trust a flash-vision given to a friend in the warmth of a Christmas eve service?  Can I trust God with this mess of a body that is flailing around, trying to function?

And then one evening, when I am lost in my labyrinth of “what ifs,”  an old hymn rings out in my heart….

“Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side.

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.

Leave to thy God to order and provide,

In every change,  He faithful will remain.

Be still my soul, thy best, thy heavenly friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end. ” (Von Schlegel, 1752)

The verbs here are pretty passive: Be still; bear patiently; leave to God.

“Let it go”, whispers the voice of the Spirit.    I’m not the first one to go through suffering, and I won’t be the last.  In fact, every soul on the planet shares this cross of grief and pain with me.

“Be still.” Stop striving.  Stop pushing and forcing and fighting. Take a deep breath and release it to your fully sufficient Lord, who offers a light and easy yoke.

“Bear patiently.” This is the moment that you have.  You aren’t promised any more, and in this moment, the Father is bearing your yoke with you.  Let Him bear the brunt of it.  And know that you can “just survive” if you need to.

“Leave to your God.”  Step out of the future.  God is ordering, and God is providing.  Has He yet to have failed you?  Has He ever abandoned you?  In every single change and transition, God has remained faithful.  And He will continue to be faithful.

And I hear the Spirit of the Lord whisper, “Come to me, weary one.  Rest.  Allow me to yoke us together.  You do not have to bear this alone. “

I look at the clock: 7:30 PM.  They are praying.  They have to be praying for me. I really am not alone.  I have dozens of people fighting on my behalf, the war in the heavens.  They have been on their knees, interceding, when I have been too weak to stand. 

The Spirit whispers, “My child, you are not alone.  You are being carried by multitudes who are strong enough to make up for your weaknesses, even when you cannot see who they are. All you need to do right now is survive.  Take one breath at a time.  Let me fill your lungs, and be your strength.”

And in that supernatural moment, the most basic concept clicks in my heart like never before.  Just be. One second at a time. One breath at a time. 

How will my friend’s prophecy be made manifest? It is not up to me to figure out how. I will trust that God is ordering and providing.  When my friend shared this vision with me, it was for encouragement, not as a burden.  I know my God.

God will remain faithful, and I will just keep taking the next breath.

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Pastor Al Gilbert

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