posted on July 04, 2009 04:54
As we delve into the last message of our series regarding Strength for Seasons of Stress and the book of Philippians, we will focus on God meeting all our needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus.
This is always a head scratcher for me because I’m not sure where my needs end and my demands for a less burdensome life begin. I’m not always sure how to define my needs. I’m not sure that I need hot water but I really appreciate having it. I know that there are things I need far more than hot water that God is keenly aware of, even more than I am. I am aware of the “want” needs, or the “felt” needs. What God sees, I believe, are the needs that go deep into the soul that I’ve either buried, ignored, given up on, or determined not to confront. He knows that for me to enjoy peace there may need to be a period of upheaval. He knows that for there to be healing there has to be a day of diagnosis. I don’t want a diagnosis. I want medicine that works quickly and doesn’t leave scars. It is kind of like setting that broken bone that has to be painfully aligned so that you can enjoy a lifetime of fully functioning limbs again. I don’t want that. I want pills and a refill please.
My wife and I spent about three hours with her neurologist and nurse practitioner on Wednesday. This is the first time that she has been seen by him since she came home from her extended care after breaking her legs. After a lot of questions and examinations and evaluations it was determined that her MS was pretty aggressive and she has been worsening considerably since this last period of trauma with breaking her legs but even more so over the last 3 years or so. If you look at her progress graph it is pretty much a nose dive. The options for her aren’t any too exciting.
The main goal as of now is that we’d like to see her maintain the function that she has in her hands and not have any other swallowing issues. About the best thing that they can offer us is a strong chemo drug that has been used in cancer patients but isn’t covered for treating MS even though it has been used in numerous people with pretty impressive results, at least in people who are not as progressive as Tricia. The drug doesn’t make you better. In our doctors illustration you basically know it has worked for you if you don’t get much worse over the next couple of years. There are other drugs for MS on the horizon but if she doesn’t maintain function in these key areas they won’t do her much good or she may not be a candidate for them if they are dispensed in any kind of limited supply when they finally come out.
Not to turn this blog into the New England Journal of Medicine here but I’m getting to a critical point, at least for me in that I don’t want anything to do with any of this. I don’t want to spend tons of cash on chemo drugs that won’t make her better. I don’t want to deal with the potential side effects if they happen. I don’t want to have to deal with the resentment of seeing all this effort go into something that is just hoping to not get worse as fast. That being said, if there is a chance in the world that we can slow down this train I want to take it and I’m grateful that God has provided us with a doctor that is as aggressive as my wife’s MS in his treatment.
What had to happen for us in this season that we would never have chosen is that we had to have someone give us an honest appraisal of the situation. Someone had to say that you are indeed this critical and you need to take some extreme measures here or you will continue to worsen to a point that we don’t even want to talk about. We needed that evaluation. We need that drug. We need to be told and we need to face it honestly. I believe this is how God works with us and provides for us. These are those buried needs that we don’t want to face. The needs we ignore. The truth is we need a strong chemo drug to try to arrest this but without that diagnosis we would have gone home and hoped that one day things would just magically slow down somehow. Spiritually and “Christianly” speaking we all need a major chemo blast but we have to be told first that (as Jack Miller is always quoted as saying) “We are worse off than we think...”.
I believe God is in a constant state of provision. How many times have we had situations in our lives where we’ve said, “That was awful, but if that thing hadn’t happened I would have never been blessed with this thing over here”. That lost job that resulted in finding a completely new and fulfilling opportunity somewhere else. That lost relationship that eventually paved the way for growth and the discovery of a wonderful mate.
I realize that not every loss or life challenge works out quite that neatly. I completely understand how we may never know what God was providing or sparing us in some of these unbelievably difficult chapters this side of heaven. I do however, believe that he is in a constant state of provision as he “gives and takes away”. Not just the monetary and practical needs that happen but the ones that the loss of those things reveals to us. I often realize as I watched my 401k drop to half its value that I don’t need more money. I need to exercise more belief that God really has this in his hands. I don’t need more of anything that I’ve lost. I need to practice putting my faith in what is real. I don’t even really need more faith. i need to place the faith I have in what I know to be truth. We all have faith, we just misplace it or apply it in things that aren’t going to serve us long term.
As we open our time of worship together this week we will read from Psalm 103.
The Call to Worship God - Psalm 103:1-6 (NIV)
Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
We will move into singing Everlasting God, a worship song by Benton Brown and Ken Riley. This song talks about strength rising as we wait upon the Lord and that we can rise with wings like eagles. It reminds us that God is the defender of the weak and those in need (which pretty much covers all of us, I think). We will segue into the hymn text of Ever Faithful, Ever Sure. The verses point out the places in scripture where God showed his faithfulness and the chorus reminds us that his mercy endures forever and that we can be “ever sure” of his “ever faithful” watching over us and that he truly knows our need. We will move from there to the hymn I Need Thee Every Hour. This is a great old gospel hymn that just gives us an opportunity to confess our need for him in many situations.
Our offertory between points 1 and 2 of the message is a song by Daniel Doss called simply enough, I Need You. The song tells the story of the way we orchestrate our plans and how God allows us to experience the bumps to teach us unexpected things about himself and about ourselves. During communion we will hear another Becki Ryan tune (the artist who wrote This Is Why You Came, a song we did during the message a few weeks back). This song is called By Your Wounds. It is fitting for both communion and the subject of need because the song reminds us of our need for rescue and that by those wounds we have been rescued.
Our final song of response for the deacon’s offering will be the traditional hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness. I think it will be a great way to remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness to us as we close out the time together. I can’t focus on my need without remembering the many ways God supplies those for me.
In my own life this study in Philippians has given me an awful lot to ponder. The whole concept of stress for one. I’m wondering if stress isn’t me trying to hold on to something that God wants to take. There is always struggle associated with stress and that struggle may be me clamoring for things that I’m not meant to keep. Being faithful in the moment and not trying to live in the future buys me a little freedom from stress but that takes that faith application that I spoke of. I am also learning that it stresses me out to try to figure God out. I can read the bible and apply what I can apply but trying to work every event of my life like a Rubic’s Cube to discern what I’m supposed to be getting out of it is just as stressful as resisting it. Ultimately trust follows faith. I don’t have to know the whys. I need a diagnosis. I have one. I need a prescription. I have one. I need to believe it. That I go back and forth on. I will pray that we don’t misplace or misapply our faith and that we will trust the process of God’s provision. I will however, have to ask God to let me hang on to the hot water!