Is There Anything I Can Depend On?

depend on+

 

In a world of continual loss, what can I count on? Can I trust anything to be unchangeable?

For years, I assumed there were things I could depend on. Things that would be there when I grew old. Things like my marriage. My children. My health and independence. My intellect. Financial security. A fulfilling career. Deep friendships. I built my identity around many of these things, certain I wouldn’t lose them.

But I did lose many of them. Often unexpectedly. Losses started piling up in my early thirties and didn’t stop.

Our infant son Paul’s death was a huge shock, as my long-held assumption that my family would somehow be protected from disaster was shattered. Well-meaning people kept assuring me when Paul’s heart condition was discovered during my pregnancy that nothing bad would happen if I trusted God and prayed fervently. It all depended on my faith. So I prayed and trusted and begged God to give me the faith I needed.

But standing at Paul’s grave, I was jolted into the realization that nothing is certain. A strong faith does not shield me from loss.  God knows what’s best for me and all he brings into my life is for my eternal joy.

I still hold onto that truth, yet it is only in retrospect that I can find comfort in it. In the moment of loss, I feel overwhelmed. I want to cling to what I had.

I’m currently struggling with health challenges and I often find that I can’t do today what I could do yesterday. Even though I see the deterioration, I keep hoping that I will retain the strength I have. I keep thinking that I can protect myself from further loss. But the sad reality is, I can’t.

While I been dealing with post-polio for years, the slow losses are still difficult to adjust to. Just when I think I can handle the way things are, something new comes up and I am forced to reevaluate. Should I try to leave the house less? Should I stop cooking? Should I stop driving?

This uncertainty feels very unsettling for me. I want a guarantee. That I’ll always be able to walk. Or hold a pen. Or even just feed myself.

But nothing is guaranteed in this life. Nothing in this world is sure. Nothing, that is, but God. God is the only constant in life. He is our Rock. He is the only one that will be with us all the days of our life. And he will not be taken away.

The story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10: 38-42 beautifully depicts this reality. Martha was anxious about many things. The dinner. Being a good hostess. Meeting everyone’s needs. Getting help from Mary.

I understand Martha’s frenzy. Hungry people needed to be fed. Things needed to be done. There was no time to waste. Yet Martha didn’t ask Jesus what he needed; she assumed she knew.

Mary simply hungered for Jesus. She needed his food; he didn’t need hers. Mary had chosen the good portion, which would not be taken away.

This passage has become especially poignant as my body weakens. I often feel like a burden as I need help with the simplest of tasks. I can no longer serve others; I depend on them to serve me. I can’t feed a group of friends; sometimes I struggle to feed my family. Hospitality, which I once enjoyed, can be difficult. I used to be a Martha, but no longer.

So Jesus words are more precious than ever. Even with my failing body, I can sit at his feet. I can learn from him. I can enjoy his presence. It is the best place to be and it will never be taken away.

No one is exempt from suffering. All of us will experience loss in this life. When we do, we have two choices. We can fixate on our losses, get angry and even walk away from God because he didn’t give us the life we wanted. We can assume that prayer doesn’t work and that there’s no point to faith.

Or we can accept that this world is full of loss and turn to the One who can fill our souls. The One who gives us “the good portion.” A portion that will never be taken away. That is consumed with loving Jesus and finding joy in his presence. A portion that far outweighs any loss.

Graham Kendrick’s worship song, Knowing You, keeps ringing in my head. Kendrick saw that knowing Christ was far better than anything in the world. He says:

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You’re my all, you’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

I have been given the good portion. And it will never be taken away.

 

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  • June 22, 2017 - 7:52 pm

    Dawn - I am sorry for the losses through out your life. I very much enjoy and relate to your articles, (although my losses are nothing compared to yours). Keep inspiring us. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • June 22, 2017 - 8:46 pm

      Vaneetha - Glad my articles are helpful, Dawn! Thanks for writing.ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2017 - 9:14 am

    Julia Lund - Dear Vaneetha,

    Thank you for all you share. I recently read your book, The Scars that have Shaped Me, and it helped me navigate the early stages of huge changes, due to poor health, in my life. I recently lost one of my dearest friends to breast cancer, and she, like you, knew the reality of an utterly good and kind God. Though life is shaken and certainties dissolve, our God does not change and it’s the witness of people like my dear friend, like yourself, that help build faith and keep me focussed on truth. Thank you.

    JuliaReplyCancel

    • June 23, 2017 - 3:18 pm

      Vaneetha - I’m so sorry, Julia, both for your own struggles and the loss of your dear friend. Sometimes it’s hard to keep pressing on in the midst of overwhelming grief. I too am thankful that God doesn’t change, even though the earth gives way and the mountains are moved into the heart of the sea.ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2017 - 11:10 am

    Jann - I am on a similar path to yours, and so appreciate your understanding and encouragement. So much in this world is overwhelming to me now. And, friends often don’t understand. Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • June 23, 2017 - 3:13 pm

      Vaneetha - I’m so sorry your life is overwhelming right now. I’ve been there. Praying now that the Lord Himself would encourage you and bring joy in the midst of darkness.ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2017 - 11:39 am

    Cindy Brown - Thank you Vaneetha. I love your posts because they are so real, so true, so encouraging. Until heaven..ReplyCancel

    • June 23, 2017 - 3:20 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Cindy. “Until heaven…” Love that.ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2017 - 12:08 pm

    Mike R - Vaneetha, you have turned your own suffering into a ministry to others. Today I find comfort for my own trials, only because you have traveled this road longer than I have and you can say, “Look! There is Christ! And he is more than enough.” You comfort others with the comfort that God has given you. Today you described precisely what I am facing as I try to juggle my life with increasing deterioration. Not only am I not able to do what needs to be done, even doing what I can do is too much.

    Here’s an analogy for those who may not understand. Stable disability is like this–you have a daily allowance to spend. Each morning you get your fresh amount of money to spend anyway you wish. Some activities cost a lot. Some just a little. If you manage your money well, you can plan things pretty well. Even creatively spread them out through the week.

    Progressive disability is like a bank account that will never receive another deposit. You don’t know what the balance is, only that everything you choose to do spends some of your remaining money. The more energy an activity requires, the larger the withdrawal. Worse, once in a while, for no apparent reason, the bank advises you that the balance has been reduced by a new fee. Oh, and by the way, they are still unable to tell you how much remains, just that it is less than you thought you had.

    I sit here this morning knowing that the peaches and plums need to be picked off the trees in the backyard, or the fruit will go to waste. My wife cannot pick them but she so loves that fresh fruit more than almost any food. She has poor health, but those silly stone fruit, fresh from the tree, bring her joy in eating and in giving to others. The kitchen sink is leaking and must be fixed. And next week I must go and cut weeds for a few hours at my ranch to reduce the fire hazard. My church members have helped a lot, but they have jobs and can’t do it all for me.

    Oh, if it were it were just the juggling of activities! Each one of those tasks will take a little more away from my failing knees. They will inflame my muscles, something I am told to avoid as it can worsen my condition. And any of them will land me on the couch or bed for a day or two trying to recover. And somehow I need to work things out that they don’t keep me from being able to attend worship.

    I’ve eliminated most of my trips to the barber, tied my trip to the grocery store in with the weekly prayer meeting. Reduced walking to the mail box to every three days. Learned how to waddle up the stairs one at a time. Moved everything but the toilet to my couch so I do have to get up and down to retrieve things during the day. Reduced my wardrobe to jeans and T-shirts to make laundry easy, and have gotten used to living in a cluttered and unkept house. Soap scum on the shower wall is now décor–a natural patina.

    Do I just stop living? That is bad, too. Insufficient activity, the doctors say, is also bad for me. Somebody give me a crazy pill!

    But then there is God. Each day brings me to him as a beggar. Despite all of this I can say that it is good that I have been afflicted. Vanity Fair has been shown to be a false God. Suddenly the salvation of my neighbors and relatives becomes more important than anything in this life. Heaven becomes something to be yearned for. God becomes large. Jesus becomes real.

    Prayers for healing become prayers for mercy, which become attempts to bargain, which become despair, which leads me to bow my head before God. Suddenly I find myself in Psalms, tears in my eyes, understanding what the psalmist meant when he wrote, “It is good that I was afflicted.” When this life becomes impossible, there is only Jesus. And he is enough. He is more than enough. He is life.ReplyCancel

    • June 23, 2017 - 3:07 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you so much for writing, Mike. Your words are always so poignant and encouraging. The bank analogy is exactly what they use for post-polio, so I deeply resonated with it. Praying for you as I write this that God would give you wisdom to know what you should do, and grace for all you can’t do. And joy in His presence.ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2017 - 12:55 pm

    Elaine - The losses heartache all wake us up to living a real and authentic walk with the Lord. No matter how difficult the walk is we wouldn’t want any other way. You are one of the real, authentic and honest believers and enjoy what you share. Blessings on you, around you, over you dear Vaneetha.ReplyCancel

    • June 23, 2017 - 3:09 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Elaine. And I agree that trials make our walk with God much deeper, and in retrospect we see their Value. And it is precious.ReplyCancel

  • June 23, 2017 - 1:05 pm

    Martha Enns - Vaneetha, thank you for sharing honestly and openly. Praising God He is the constant and never changes. Loss and suffering are so difficult, but I thank God how He uses you because of what you have gone through, to encourage others and continually point them to Christ. He is all we need. Often praying for you, keep persevering dear sister. Much love and blessings.ReplyCancel

  • June 24, 2017 - 6:38 am

    Cindy Lewellyn - Your life has been full of pain and suffering, but God has used this to bring you closer to Him, and to be a beacon of hope for others. I appreciate your honesty, that you have struggles, find it hard to cope with it all, yet also have found strength and purpose in the Lord. Your writing is your ministry, and it helps point others to God, the One in whom we have hope and strength to endure life’s hardships. I do not understand why God allows His children to experience so much suffering in this world, but am thankful that this world is not all we have! I have been overwhelmed after the deaths of my parents, 12 days apart, layers of hurt and betrayals, and my husband’s progressive MS that has taken such a toll on his body. Some days I feel like I am barely hanging on to my faith, so your words are more encouraging than you know, helping me refocus on the Lord and not just on the pain and hurts of this life.ReplyCancel

    • June 24, 2017 - 5:11 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Cindy. I’m so sorry for all you are dealing with, which I can imagine has been beyond difficult. When struggles almost flood us with their frequency and intensity, its hard to understand what God is doing. But thankfully He is doing something, something beautiful and good, that one day we will see fully. In the meantime, you, me, all of us, must walk by faith and not sight…ReplyCancel

  • June 24, 2017 - 12:31 pm

    Arnette Bargabus - Dear Vaneetha — As I read this article, it rang true for me — almost everything you express is true in my life. Thank you for putting into word your heart’s desire to give it ALL to Him – it is mine as well.

    “But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD. I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand; Psalm 31:14-15

    Praying for you as your journey and journal.

    A sister in Christ,
    xxxooo ArnetteReplyCancel

    • June 24, 2017 - 5:05 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Annette for your prayers and encouragement.ReplyCancel

  • June 25, 2017 - 3:54 pm

    Michael Anderson - i too have experienced loss and pain with bad health and divorce after 26 yrs of marriage-i have screamed at GODReplyCancel

    • July 6, 2017 - 11:45 am

      Vaneetha - I’m so sorry for your losses, Michael. I am sure they have been painful and continue to be. Praying as I write this that God would comfort you as you pour out to Him all of your pain, lament and questions.ReplyCancel

  • June 30, 2017 - 9:12 am

    Sharon overstreet - Looking forward to your bookReplyCancel

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