As I wrote last night’s blog entry, Annie was sound asleep on the couch behind me, hooked up to the drip. I was not sure how long the sleep would last, but determined not to disturb her. I was really surprised that she went to bed without being sick.
Both of us slept really well through the night only to be rudely awakened by an alarm coming from the distributor unit attached to Annie’s drip feed at 5am. 5am is not a good time to collect your thoughts and deal with the shrieking beep of a machine that you don’t understand. The little LED screen was warning us that the tube had become pinched and that we needed to call the nurse which – once I was conscious – I did. Not the best way to start the morning but at least there was the hope that things could only get better!
Annie managed to get a bath and avoid being sick but then as soon as the district nurse arrived (for the second time that morning) Annie began to throw up. The nurse promptly arranged a visit from the GP on call who decided to keep Annie on the drip but changed the drip-fed anti-sickness medication to something else. I am not convinced that the health professionals are trying to find out what is causing the sickness, the GP on call didn’t even examine Annie. Instead he arranged for a change in the combination of the same medication options which have now become an every day part of our vocabulary; sometimes I get so confident with the jargon I feel like I begin offering the doctors my suggestions!
Although Annie continued to be fragile, the new cocktail did appear to take better control over the nausea. The GP’s aim was to see how this worked over the next two days and then focus on dealing with the pain Annie has. A few weeks ago Annie had a lot better control over the pain by using standard paracetamol and ibuprofen but as I understand, prolonged use of the ibuprofen does weaken the stomach wall which doesn’t help when nausea is rampant (see, I sound like a pharmacist!)
Of the terrible trio that Annie wrestles with (fatigue, pain and nausea) it was fatigue which really wore Annie down most of Friday. She was able to eat and drink better than she had done but she was so terribly exhausted. She awakes and within the hour she says it feels like she never slept at all. While the nurses were changing her medication that afternoon, I prayed that the Lord would give Annie a little window of time again – like He did a few weeks ago when the girls came to visit Annie – just during the evening, so that she could come along to the Christmas choir practice we had arranged. The chances seemed slim as right up to as recent as half-an-hour before, she was sleeping on the couch. But you know, the Lord allowed that little break again and what a blessing it was. We spent a lovely couple of hours in fellowship with a good number of our family from Manor Park. Again, for me, witnessing moments like that are like witnessing mini-miracles. Annie played piano and was able able to enjoy more wider fellowship in that couple of hours than she has been able to in some time.
A few days ago our dear sister, Fran, dropped round a photocopied page from a book she had been reading entitled ‘Strengthen Yourself in the Lord’. In the little extract the author focussed on a few words from the Exodus story.
I don’t know how well you know the story, but you might recall that God used Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery under the Egyptians. Numerous time Moses confronted the Pharaoh, insisting on behalf of the Lord to let the people of Israel go. Each time Pharaoh refused and consequently a new plague gripped and ravaged the Egyptians at God’s command. Eventually, following the plague of the angel of death, Pharaoh gives his order to let the people go. I’ve read the story many times but I don’t remember picking up on a little sentence in a verse in chapter 13.
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” – Exodus 13:17
Israel would encounter a long and difficult journey on their way to the promised land. At the beginning of the journey we are reminded that there was a shorter route God could have had them take but He planned the beginning of that journey otherwise. Sometimes, God allows room in His plans for His people, for things which we would not welcome; things we would reason were not the best. Sometimes He allows what appears to be the harder and longer route. In fact, Jesus consistently emphasised this in His life and His teaching.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matthew 7:13,14
Jesus said that following Him would be a narrow and difficult route that was overlooked and often avoided because there was a much broader and easier route that could be taken in life; a route that was popular and could be enjoyed in the company and confidence of the majority. But the underlining reason He had for taking the narrow way was that it would ultimately end in life whereas the broader route would end with destruction. Underlying every difficult thing that God allows, does and plans for us, is His great love.
To go back to the Exodus reference, God’s reason for avoiding the short cut was because that would have thrust Israel right into the land of the Philistines where they would have met war and conflict. God knew that it was simply too soon for that. Israel was not ready for it. They were fresh out of Egypt which they hadn’t escaped by their own skill, strength or wisdom; all they had needed to do at that point was be still and trust the Lord to take care of their oppressors. At that stage, they were just like sheep; all they knew to do was follow whatever instruction God gave Moses. But God wanted them to grow stronger. There would be a time when He would prepare them for the conflict and the battles that they would encounter but right then, at the beginning of their journey, was not yet the time. In the extract from the book, this is what the author (I believe, Bill Johnson) writes:
“God kept the Israelites away from a challenge they were not prepared to face. The corollary truth is that the battles and tests He led them into were ones for which He had prepared them. God is a good Father. He never sets us up to fail, but only to grow. Just as I would never send my own children against a challenge they were unprepared to handle, neither does He. God never sets us up to fail – only to grow!” – Bill Johnson, Strengthen Yourself in the Lord
As I write this I am reminded that there are two things that every Christian ought to remember every day. I don’t believe this daily exercise will ever get trite or tiring. The first thing we ought to always remember is that God loves us. As Christians, the underlying theme of our relationship with God is that He absolutely loves us. We need to meditate on those three words a lot more: God loves me.
“…there is nothing we can do to make God love us more…there is nothing we can do to make God love us less…” – Philip Yancey
The second thing I think we ought to daily remember and meditate upon is that God is love (1 John 4:8). God not only loves us entirely and absolutely, but He loves us perfectly. Our understanding and interpretation of what love is, is imperfect and often marred by the second and third rate examples we often see in this world. In this world love is often expressed selfishly – even in our own lives. There was a movie out recently called ‘Friends with benefits’. I haven’t seen it and I don’t know what it’s about but that’s a good description of the way we often choose the friends we say we love. We ‘love’ them because of what we get from them and when they stop benefitting us we go from loving them to liking them to losing them to replacing them. It’s because we fail to recognise that God is love that we end up asking questions that begin: “How can God be loving and yet allow x and y…?” We gauge how much God loves us against our standards and on our scales and then end up questioning His love when it doesn’t match our standards and expectations.
Love and God are not two separate things that sometimes converge. God is love. Without God, love would not exist. Do you remember the lyrics from that famous Foreigner song?
“I wanna know what love is; I want you to show me!”
When we look at God we know what love looks like. When we listen to God we know what love sounds like. When God acts, we see what love does. God is love.
Each difficult day and hour Annie and I try to keep those two things at the forefront of our minds and in the hidden chambers of our heart. God is love and He loves us. And we know that through this difficult chapter, God is in control and lovingly intends us to grow stronger and closer to Him through it. It does make the burden a lot lighter.
We are still learning and still discovering and still growing. Annie said to me recently:
“In the last few weeks I feel like I have only just begun to understand that God is love.”
Maybe she is right, but my guess is she is probably wrong – or at least not entirely right! The amazing thing about God’s love is that it keeps wonderfully surprising you. You think you’ve fathomed its depths and then you realise you are still just up to your ankles! You think you have felt the fulness of His embrace and then you realise He is still not done with hugging you.
“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me! Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love. Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!” – S. Trevor Francis
Growing more in love with Him by His love for us,