Category Archives: God
15,000. Give or take a few is the number of opioid pills I’ve taken. I had a diagnosis and a reason. The political climate isn’t favorable towards the opioid industry. Those of us who manage pain on a regular, daily basis find relief and solace in the form of those geometrically, constructed chemicals. Little did I understand the impact those 15,000 pills would have on my entire life. Neither, my doctor nor myself, understood that the drug I was taking was addictive when she prescribed it for pain. However, now gazing 21 years at the future, the medical community knows that the small dose I took acted as an opiate.
I was offered a couple of choices this summer. I could remain on the drug and go to a pain management clinic or I could try to live without it. I chose the latter. I wish I had known sooner the impact that choice would make ricocheting through my life.
Pain has been a constant companion. I fake being well. I’m really good at it. Decades of solitude and platitudes taught me to hone my skills. The basic fear of my personality I’ve discovered is of being deprived and in pain. My fear became my reality for decades. In every life, major markers exist. I can recall certain events in my life with clarity because they forever changed me and the course of my life. The day I woke up sick. The day I got a diagnosis. The day I quit opioids.
One day I was healthy and the next, I woke to pain accompanied by fever and barely able to move. I stymied doctor after doctor. None could figure out the source of my pain. I remained in that unanswered, mind-battling state for a year and a half. Finally, I received a diagnosis. I was relieved and, dare I say, joyful. To have a diagnosis- Heck! Any diagnosis was preferable to the not knowing. My doctor began a round of treatment to fit my particular disease. A short time later, she added the opioid because the pain persisted. Two pills a day every morning and every evening. The new normal. No one told me or warned me that I would have a brain fog that grew steadily worse each year. Or that this inhibiting drug would begin to change my personality and suppress my responses. I lost my effervescence and zest for life.
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country … For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” Hebrews 11:8-10
What does any of this story have to do with faith? Everything. During the time of not knowing, I turned and trusted in God to deliver me and to help me find joy in a life of constant pain and difficulty with no answers. Like Abraham, I was called to enter into a time of traveling with God until I came to the place to which He called me. My faith grew exponentially during that time. I fully relied on His strength to carry me through the valley of the shadow of death. Following the diagnosis, I praised Him for an answer and He carried me into a new journey of learning, growing, studying, and sharing His word. I did it through the pain, the bone-weary fatigue, the setbacks, and the comebacks with tears hoping for healing to which He responded; “No”. He reminded me that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). That girl lived her life serving the Lord with hardship. She had many questions, doubts, hurts, and much was forgiven and healed. She served cheerfully and joyfully with physical and mental difficulties.
Today, I’m on a new journey with God. He carried me through the crucible of withdrawal buoyed by the prayers of some in my church family. Powerful prayers. I’m three months off of opiates and I’m the same yet different. I have new prayers and new horizons.
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life … when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back.” Frodo Baggins -The Return of the King movie
I’ve been talking with someone to help me sort everything out and integrate my old life with my new future. She says it’s as if I’ve awakened from a decades long coma. I thought that my personality had shifted but actually the light just got turned on. The person I’ve been for decades wasn’t exactly me. She was asleep. The person I’m becoming is the me I was decades ago before I woke up sick and in pain. I don’t exactly remember her. Many things I’ve thought about myself aren’t true and I’m having to relearn and rediscover who I am. I’m searching for myself. Those 15,000 pills changed me and how I saw and perceived myself in the world. I don’t know what the future holds. My diagnosis hasn’t gone away. I still have pain. I’m only managing it differently. But this one thing I do know – God is good all the time. I can build my life on that truth.
“But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Then Paul left the synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized. One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.” Acts 18:6-11
Paul established a burgeoning new church in Corinth around A.D. 50-51. The letter, 2 Corinthians, that we began studying this past week in our study All Things New by Kelly Minter, was Paul’s last letter to Corinth. He had written several letters to this church previously following his initial visit to establish the church. As was his custom, Paul first brought the gospel message of Jesus Christ to the Jews at the synagogue. Their acceptance or rejection of the message determined his next course of action. Typically, their action led him to take the message to the Gentiles.
In our first lesson, we considered the benefits and obstacles of being a believer of Jesus in such a diverse place as Corinth. We learned about the culture of Corinth and the struggles these new believers confronted in order to live holy lives. Their cultural environment was quite similar to the one the Western church faces today. This similarity prompted Kelly Minter to turn the question towards ourselves as we gave thought as to how our own culture and its influences impact our own lives of faith.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
I, definitely, identified with Kelly Minter and her introduction to the second day’s lesson. She states that she “once held the idea that if I followed the principles laid out for me in Scripture, if I loved God and made solid, biblical choices, I would be blessed with some version of a really good life, void of heartbreak or catastrophe or sickness…. I somehow felt that if I did my part then God would be obligated to do His: build me the kind of life we covet here in America and protect me from pain.” I once held these same ideas. Maybe you identified with this statement as well. This lesson focused on suffering and the gift of compassion from our Father. We answered questions pertaining to the sufferings of Christ and the action those sufferings take as they overflow onto believers and then flow out as comfort to others. We also focused on how Christ has been with us through suffering and reflected on how we have relied on or not relied on him through it. Our lesson concluded with a message of encouragement to offer others the same comfort that we ourselves have received in Christ.
In our third lesson, we encountered some of the issues that the Corinthians had against Paul. Significant problems had developed in the Corinthian church and Paul was holding them accountable to deal with those issues. He called them to a higher standard of living than the one they were presently living because of his love for them. The Corinthians were questioning Paul’s motives and falsely accusing him. Throughout 2 Corinthians, he defends his position, his ministry, and his motives. We also should consider our own default response when others falsely accuse or misunderstand our motives. We ended our day with filling in a response to two statements: Here are my fill-ins. Because God is faithful, He will do what He promises. Because God is faithful, I will look to Him for help.
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20
Sincerity was the focus of our fourth lesson. What does it mean to be sincere? Do we manipulate or shade the truth? Or are we insincere when we care more about keeping the peace and avoiding disagreement? These questions were some of the ones we considered in this lesson. Kelly Minter included a sincerity test for us to take as well. If taken thoughtfully, the test can be eyeopening. The Corinthian church appeared to have been accusing Paul of not holding to what he said. He reasoned that his message to them had always been that in Jesus Christ all of God’s promises are yes.
“For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.” 2 Corinthians 2:4
Our week concluded with a lesson on holiness as the foundation on which thriving relationships find their footing. Out of Paul’s deep love for the people of this Corinthian church, he wrote hard truths to them, not to hurt them but to lovingly restore them. Paul encouraged the church to restore the one who had been ostracized. He instructed them to forgive and comfort him back into the community of faith. Paul’s wisdom regarding the treatment of the offender is wise advice. Our questions for this lesson dealt with forgiveness, restoration, and comfort. Forgiveness protects the believer from separation from God. Unforgiveness keeps us separated from the protective loving cover of God.
Start the third session lessons for this week. They begin on page 39.
Videos are available for this study and can be found at Lifeway for purchase.