The sound of Annie retching and heaving has been a common and unwelcome audible intrusion over the last year. Over the last few weeks, it’s become so common that silence feels like the intruder – a more welcome one, of course.
Hour after hour, Annie’s stomach refuses anything and everything. Not that she’s been able to introduce anything and everything to her body. The staple in her diet recently has been shop-bought, ready-made ice cubes; and apart from their shape and size (and origin of the spring water), there’s not a great deal of adventurous ways in which they can be served and savoured. At least they give her the pleasure of crunching and chewing something which – occasionally – has the effect of fooling and satisfying that connection between her mind and stomach. But even that pleasure is short-lived and her stomach will not be fooled. Very soon, her body objects angrily, as if she had over indulged in some rich and complex, booze-fuelled banquet.
“It’s hard to be joyful when you’re nauseous.”
Those were Annie’s words to me as I just lay next to her in bed this afternoon.
But, we hold on to the promises of God’s Word. In particular we’re holding on to His promise to us that through weakness He is more powerfully manifest within us and through us. We may both be weak right now, but the Lord has seen to it that we have the strength and the faith to hold on to that particular, precious promise – and all the others that accompany it – with ever increasing grip and expectation! If that strength could be manifest in our physical arms, we’d challenge Schwarzenegger and Stallone to an arm wrestle!
Our ship may be sailing the choppy waters of nausea, but Christ is in this vessel; He’s the Captain, the Master and Commander. This ship takes its course at His will, by His map and command. These are not unchartered waters. We did not fall into these troubled waters by mistake; Jesus knows that they are the best route for the glorious journey He is taking us on. I know it’s easy to coign interesting phrases or borrow from the maritime vocabulary of ancient hymn writers to illustrate this, but this is manifested in more than our words. It’s the air we suck in right now. It’s the breath we breathe out in prayer and praise. We are slow learners…but we are learning to earnestly and sincerely say – like never before – “Not my will but Yours.” We want His Will. We desire His Will…
There have been many times when I simply cannot begin to understand why Jesus would not allow Annie the enjoyment of a simple meal; why He would allow passage through such horrible nausea; why He won’t allow us to moor up at that harbour which looks so much more salubrious for rest. Perhaps, I still don’t completely understand – I’m sure that I don’t. But I’m less paralysed by the frustration of not entirely understanding. I’d say measurably so.
Just the other night I prayed in tired desperation over Annie again during a heavy bout of sickness “Please, Lord! Please! Take this nausea away! I don’t understand how it can be Your will for Your child to suffer like this!?” At the last punctuation mark of my “Amen” – which was probably as much and as many a question mark as it was exclamation mark – Annie, in gentle and frail rebuke, reminded me as she slumped over the bucket “Ry…you need to pray God’s Will through God’s promises. He hasn’t promised that in this world we would be free from troubles.” And at the fullstop of that sentence, the Lord reminded me of those promises again:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. – 2 Corinthians 4:7-12
I don’t know which words stand out to you when you read those verses. But from where we are lying, it’s the words ‘…to show that…’ and ‘…so that…’.
The nausea and the pain and the weakness and the sleepless nights and the weariness are for a good and glorious purpose – ‘…so that…’, ‘…to show that…’. They are not simply to be endured as the awful side effects of The Fall. They are to be embraced. There’s a world of difference between the words ‘endure’ and ’embrace’. God is teaching us to endure great affliction with great purpose. That’s when and how we embrace it. God is doing things right now – right in this very moment – this side of eternity, this side of the grave, that is showing His all surpassing power through all encompassing weakness within us. He is proving the incomparable treasure of His Promises and the power of His Resurrection Presence.
Annie is right. It is hard to be joyful when you – or the one you love – is nauseous. But her gentle rebuke following my prayer the other night has left me with the realisation that God is supernaturally making us – particularly Annie – confidently more hopeful in His Will, more willing for His Will – even during relentless nausea.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” – Luke 22:42
In the garden of Gethsemane, our Lord Jesus sweat drops of blood as He faced the agony of the cross. He endured the cross and the long, lonely and painful way to it. But He embraced the Will of His Father because He was confident of the certain incredible victory that would follow. And did follow.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. – 2 Corinthians 4:10-12