Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lord, Why on Earth Would You Allow This? (The Refiner's Fire Part 2)

First, let me begin by telling you I had no intentions of writing this post anytime soon because, quite honestly, I did not want to mentally and emotionally relive the past feelings of my life where I experienced so much physical pain, long-suffering, hopelessness and times of despair as I walked with the Lord.  I knew at some point the Lord would have me share this part of my life with you, but I did not think it would be written now, in the middle of me telling you about our financial trials!  In fact, every time I’ve thought about writing on this subject matter, I would come to tears.  Just the other day as I was having a hard time coping with the reality that the Lord was going to have me face those many years of brokenness, I cried to Him and said, “Can’t you use my strengths instead of my weaknesses?   I am sure He was probably smiling down on me when I said that!   "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Lord, why on earth would you allow this?  I can’t tell you how many times I have asked the Lord that question.  All I’ve wanted to do since I gave my heart to Him was serve Him.  When I married, I wanted to make sure I lived a life where I brought respect and honor to my husband and that I served him as well.  When I had my children, I desired to raise them in the Lord as I spent time homeschooling them and teaching them to build God’s kingdom.  I did not understand why the Lord would allow my body to have one disease and disorder after another and for so many years.  But God had a plan in all of my pain and there was a purpose for it!

The story below was the beginning of my refining process.  If you missed part 1 of The Refiner's Fire you can read it here, just click on the link.

So because of God’s grace, I will briefly share my weaknesses. 

The pain was unbearable.  When would it end?
It was 1998.  I had been saved for almost 2 years and married for one month.  I received a call from my doctor telling me I had pre-cancerous cells of my cervix and I needed laser surgery.  They were not sure if I would be able to have children as a result of the damage to my cervix.  I was not expecting to hear those words!  Here's God's hand in the midst of the heartache, fears, lost dreams and pain.  About a year later I became pregnant with my firstborn son and 1 year after he was born, I was pregnant with my second child.

However, little did I know that during my first pregnancy, a host of illnesses were brewing in my body and they were about to explode.  Over a 10 year period of time I saw one doctor after another for all of the diseases and disorders that were manifesting in my body.  There were days that my husband would send his assistant up to our house to watch my babies just so I could get some rest.  The night before I did not get any sleep due to severe joint pain, infections or vomiting which prevented me from getting any rest.  Many weeks I saw doctor after doctor for treatment after treatment.  For a two month period of time I saw 4 different doctors per week to help restore my health.  Below is a list of doctors that had treated me over the years:
·       A doctor of internal medicine
·       A rheumatologist
·       An ophthalmologist
·       Several gynecologists
·       A gastroenterologist
·       A clinical nutritionist
·       An alternative medicine doctor
·       A dentist to treat Periodontal Gum Disease
·       A physical therapist
·       An alternative medicine doctor for PMS and thyroid disorders
·       A doctor of Chinese medicine accompanied with acupuncture

During my time with them, they diagnosed me with:
·   An autoimmune disease of my glands known as Sjorgren’s syndrome.  As a result of this syndrome, I was unable to nurse my children but I did not know that at the time.  I had chronic fatigue and chronic joint pain.  I was constantly sick and I was starting to have vision problems.  The doctor told me I had abrasions on my eyes due to lack of moisture because my glands were not functioning, so he plugged my tear ducts.  I was also diagnosed as having border-line Lupus which is also an autoimmune disease, along with fibromyalgia and IBS.  Life long drugs were their answer to all my problems.  (We decided it was best for us to seek alternative treatment.)
·      In the alternative world of medicine I was treated for Candida Albicans which is an overgrowth of yeast in one’s body that can destroy the immune system.  During the course of 1 ½ years, I took over 90 pills a day which were natural supplements and my diet was restricted to protein and veggies.  (It was enjoyable to say the least.) sarcasm noted
·      Along with Candida, I was diagnosed with Leaky Gut Syndrome, because I had microscopic tears in my intestinal lining, and if that wasn't enough, I was also Insulin Resistance which was a precursor to Diabetes.
·       At one point in my life I was rushed to the ER by ambulance because I was doubled over in pain, unable to stand and I was constantly vomiting.  We thought my appendix might have burst.  After an ultrasound, a vaginal ultrasound and a CAT scan, they found that I had a ruptured ovarian cyst.  Little did I know I would experience that pain every month for the next 6 months.  I was soon diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.  My hormones were severely out of balance which caused an ongoing, monthly depression just before my menstrual cycle.  On top of all of that, my entire endocrine system was bogged down and I was functioning off of my adrenal glands which caused a lot of the chronic fatigue, the anxiousness and irritability.
·      In addition to everything else that was going on in my body, for 1 ½ years I had a severe vaginal and rectal infection that greatly hindered my ability to just get through the day.  The doctors had never seen anything like it and they did not know what it was.  (That was comforting to hear.) Just 1 month after my rush to the E.R. for my ovarian cyst, I had a Colonoscopy at age 34 to find out the cause of the rectal infection, yet, they could not see everything because of a blockage in my small intestine.  (Hmmm, I guess all of the years of chronic constipation would create a blockage!)  Again, no answers and no relief.   The medication that the docs gave me for my vaginal infection caused me to break out over my entire body with hives.  It was a Mother’s Day I would never forget.  I couldn’t take any more pain.  I felt like it was killing me.  All I longed to do is go home to be with Jesus.  That Sunday morning, my husband took me to the elders of the church for prayer and oil.   “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”  James 5:14

Throughout those long and painful 10 years, I had treatments that would range from:
·       6 months of nightly enemas with probiotics in them.  (I was 33 years old at the time and I felt like I was living in a body of an 80 year old woman.)
·    Taking natural progesterone that was injected into me rectally 3 times a day for at least 5 years because of my ovarian cysts.
·       I gave myself weekly B-12 shots in hopes that the fatigue would go away.
·     I was hooked up to an IV once a week for 8 weeks for chelation treatments hoping to rid my body of toxins.
·      At one point, my blood was run routinely through an IV that was under a UV ray light in hopes that the light rays would kill off any viruses in my body.
·      Not to mention all the disgusting green drinks and restrictive diets that I had to be on in order to restore my health.  (Eating soup with chicken feet in it was not enjoyable!)

Because we sought alternative medicine, the office visits, treatments and supplements were not covered by our insurance.  For 1 ½ years the cost for my health would range from $1000-$1500 per month.  Over the next 5 years, that number would decrease to $800 and then to $300 per month. There were days that I was becoming healthier.  One day in particular, I can remember the excitement I had as I shared with my husband that I was able to make my young boys lunch!

During year 5 of my health journey, I prayed for contentment.  "Now godliness with contentment is great gain."  1 Timothy 6:6  I was tired of trying to restore my health and I no longer wanted it to be such a huge focus of my life.  I had to come to grips with the fact that I could not have the life that I longed for based on my physical limitations and I did not want my pursuit of health to become my idol.  For a few years my body was stable as long as I was still taking my supplements and limiting my diet, so I timidly stepped out to serve the Lord as we started a new ministry. 

But shortly things got worse and they got worse at the wrong time!  My body started to decline once again and the supplements were no longer maintaining my health.  We were starting to have financial trials, (read The Refiner's Fire to know more about them,) and the cost of $300 a month for supplements that were no longer working did not seem like a wise purchase.

My health trial and our financial trials collided.  I did not know what to do.  I was becoming sicker and sicker and more of my organs were starting to shut down.  We had no health insurance and we maybe had $300 to our name.  Our home was now in foreclosure and I now had more responsibilities due to the new ministry.  I felt like I was drowning trying to manage all that was needed in my home because of the additional financial hardships as well.  Lord, why on earth would you allow this?

It is funny how our journey with the Lord is called our 'Christian walk'.  To me, it felt like a 'crawl'.  I never felt like I was in an upright position pursuing Jesus.  I was so broken and feeble that I daily had to crawl to Him. 

"He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer." 2 Corinthians 1:4-6

God's hand of faithfulness has always been upon us even when I did not understand why God was taking us through this major storm.  When the IRS audited us, they found that they owed us several thousand dollars and the lawsuit that went on for 5 years, the plaintiffs dropped the case against my husband.   See how God works!

The Lord is always with us but sometimes through all of the pain we can't see Him, feel Him or hear Him.  He is with you as well.  He is refining you for a purpose that is just for Him so He can be revealed through you!  Don't get discouraged and don't lose hope.  He is always right there by your side when you are hurting and when you are questioning.  He was right by Job's side when he questioned the Lord as well.  And what was the Lord's response to Job? "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.  Job 38:4  Sometimes we are not going to understand everything that God takes us through.  We just need to be obedient and faithful to Him despite our hardships because God does not owe us anything.  And he (Job) said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."  Job 1:21 (my emphasis)


Carrie said...

Wow. What a courageous, faithful woman you are! I'm in awe of your faithfulness in God and your pursuit of contentment amidst all the physical, mental and emotional pain. Thank you for sharing - it certainly gives me pause and forces me to see my own life through a different lens. I have my health and I should get on my knees every single night and praise God for that. Thank you for reminding me how blessed I am. I'm glad that you chose to write this post now - it came at the perfect time in my life to read it. I'll be thinking of you and praying that your body heals so you can continue your ministry and your homeschooling journey.

Jolene Engle said...

Oh Carrie, you so blessed my heart with your sweet and encouraging words! It helps to know that what God has put on my heart has encouraged other sisters in Christ. Thanks for your prayers...they are very appreciated.

SHALOM said...

I can identify with everything you wrote, yet not to the same degree. But I agree with Carrie. Allot of people dispair in times like this and they give up, but they need someone else who has gone through it to let them know that God is there in the midst of it all, allowing it, and strengthening us through it. Only by God's sufficiant grace, can we be carried through it. Thank you for sharing your testimony.

Dana said...

Wow - your story sounds a lot like mine. It is amazing what God allows to happen in our lives so that we recognize our need of Him. I was always so self-sufficient, until I was faced with a troubled (new) marriage, physical disabilities that left me in pain, in many doctors offices and unable to live the life I wanted to live, and then blessed with a beautiful baby girl who was born with some feeding issues. That left me on my knees and recognizing my need for the Almighty in every detail of my life. Your story is filled with such truth and grace (both pt 1 & 2). Thank you for sharing!

Jolene Engle said...

Hi Dana, so you are a fellow, broken vessel too! Welcome to the club where we cling to Jesus and rely on Him instead of ourselves. It really it the best place to be!

cheryl said...

Jolene, just as Shalom commented, I can identify with everything you wrote, yet not to the same degree. I was diagnosed with cancer in my brain and lungs. But God is sustaining me through it all! I have this peace that only He can give, that everything is going to be alright. Thank you for your encouragement. I will be praying for you. Cheryl

GWaSoN said...

Thank you for sharing this. I am deeply moved by your amazing story. To God be the glory in all things!

Jolene Engle said...

@GWaSoNYou are welcome! May the messes of our lives bring His Message to others.

Jane Hyden said...

Jolene, I know this was written a long time ago, but I just found your blog. I have been touched by your story. I too have suffered from various and sundry (ha!) big word, illness. That is not so funny and some days are much harder to deal with it than others. I thank God for my husband...he is a wonderful caretaker and I thank God for all He is and has taught me. I will be signing up to receive your blog. I chuckled a little when you said that sometimes you feel as though you are trapped in a 60 year old body....I am in my 60's and I sometimes feel as though I'm trapped in an 80 year old body. Bless you and I pray that God enables you to continue your ministry. He is so good.

JM said...

Dear Jolene, I completely wept over your story. While the details may not be exactly the same, there are some meaningful similarities to my own with my husband. Thank you for being so transparent. Thank you for holding on to your faith in Christ. May God richly reward you for it!