The cloud of cynicism eclipsed by the light of love 

The cloud of cynicism eclipsed by the light of love 

Over the last few weeks, my mood has gotten increasingly dark. Hope has proven itself to be scarce, and deep despair has sprung up like unwelcome weeds in my mind and heart. I’ve grown bitter, grumpy, antagonistic, and jaded.  

Part of the cause of my dark season has been pure exhaustion. No one in our house is sleeping well. Part of the cause of my soul-darkness is medication mishaps. Prednisone, psychologically speaking, is clearly not my friend. In addition, my treatment team has been having conversations about their own fear of the potential fatality of my conditions and what long-term prognosis looks like. With all of these factors at play, my typical resilient ability to reframe my daily suffering has been less than stellar. 

I find myself tired of fighting what feels like a losing battle for my body, I feel tired of desperately trying to maintain my tenuous grip on hope in a situation that appears hopeless, and I am tired of living this life of passing out, unexpected and unexplained reactivity,  chronic pain, and total dependency.  I am tired of playing wack-a-mole with 15 symptoms at once, wielding faulty mallets. I am bone-exhausted. 

I wrestle with God over healing, and I read of the “severe mercies” of God: when God withholds something good because He possibly knows something that we don’t (St. Augustine, Confessions XI, 25). 

But really, God? I’m too tired to see good in this. I’m too sick to feel hope.  And, if I’m really honest, I’m almost offended by this “severe mercy” concept right now. It seems a little bit like mockery.  And yet I know that God is good, that He is for me, not against me, that He loves me. 

I know that I will continue to pray for healing, and I know that for reasons that can’t always be grasped by my measly human brain, He doesn’t always heal. And I have my toddler-style tantrums when the medical tests yeild no clear-cut answers, when treatment is a continual crap-shoot because no one seems to know what to do with me. I sit and pout, looking longingly at the sky for that one rain cloud that will bring the much-needed refreshment for my body and soul. And I have snarky, angry comments for God when not even a single measly cloud floats in to give me a sign of possible rain.  

My humble honesty of the past when I approached God in grief on my knees is precariously teetering on the edge of a cliff called cynicism. I am entering into the danger-zone of hostile, accusing, finger-pointing.  The result of humble, grief-stricken, heart-wide-open brokenness is communion with God in suffering. When we come to God with  fist-throwing, accusation-hurling fury, we run the risk of walking away in entitled bitterness, estranged from our life-source. 

In this season, I am tempted to choose to be offended by God and interpret lack of healing as abandonment.  I am inclined to curl in a ball and believe that it is God who continues to hit me when I am down. Worse yet, I start to believe that He has walked away, apathetic to my agony.

But this is my opportunity to employ some sound DBT strategies. I can choose to engage in the opposite-to-emotion tool that I know has carried me through difficult times. God has a host of promises that are unchanging. These are the promises that I can count on:

Never will He leave me or forsake me. ( Hebrews 13:5)

Because of His great love we are not consumed. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease. They are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. ( Lamentations 3:22)

Neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor demons, nor anything else in all creation is able to separate me from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

We are hard pressed on every side but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. ( 2 Corinthians 4:8)

My heart has grown uncomfortably hard, and I am ready for some softening. God’s promises knead my heart and soften it just enough for the fog of disillusionment to lift and for me to rememember the Father’s deep, deep love for me.  

Don’t get me wrong, God can handle our anger and accusations. He will not turn from us when we bring whatever broken mess we carry to Him, even when we are furious with Him.  He also wants to show us how deeply and unbelievably loved we are. And when we cling to the anger, resentment, and offense like they are our best friends, we tend to build walls up against the loving God of the universe (from our side). 

It is time for me to lay down my God-thrashing weapons and come to Him on my knees once again,  open to whatever healing may look like.  It’s time to drop the cold, bitter cynicism.  God wants to wash my offense away with His love.  

What if I’m not physically healed? I will not fear, because I will still have Jesus, and He is more than enough. 

What Really Matters

I continue to play wack-a-mole with my symptoms.  I don’t feel like I am moving forward or backward.  I’m just desperately trying to keep my head and the heads of my dependent little ones above water.  I am exhausted.  I collected a couple more probable diagnoses: Mast Cell Activation Disorder (my body thinks that it is allergic to pretty much the entire world and produces too much histamine. This makes me feverish, achy, dizzy, itchy, and miserable.); Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (my body has too much collagen in joints, skin, and in my vascular system.  This makes me stretchy, which is cool in theory, but not cool in reality. It hurts, really badly, because my body is trying to hold my joints together, and my veins and arteries don’t properly circulate blood).  These two diagnoses often occur with the POTS diagnosis.   So we try ten different kinds of medications, desperately attempting to add a couple pounds, and cross our fingers that my quality of life can start to creep up somewhere above just staying alive.  

I have also completed a series of neurological testing (6 hours, total), which yielded fascinating, albeit somewhat discouraging results.  My short term memory, attention span, word recall, and executive functioning skills are suffering. They aren’t horrendous, but juxtaposed with my actual IQ, they are remarkably low. The neuropsychologist says that this is directly caused by the POTS. Limited blood flow to the brain and times of hypoxia can lead to brain function that looks similar to mine. Interestingly enough, so can traumatic brain injuries. Fortunately, if the POTS symptoms can remain under control, my cognitive function will not continue to decline, according to this guy, but he made no mention of any possible improvement; only coping mechanisms: the same ones that they provide for someone who has a traumatic brain injury.

I like to consider myself to be an intellectual, a deep-thinker, a writer, a teacher, a nerd. This whole cognitive decline thing is a massive blow to my ego and to my self-image. What is interesting, however, is that with this illness that has robbed me of my ability to remember conversations that I just had yesterday and caused me to have to think for a full 30 seconds to remember a word as simple as “book”, I have come to a deeper, more beautiful, profound understanding of my Savior than I ever thought possible. Cognitive decline is terrible, painful, and humiliating, but the “knowledge” of my God who meets me in my sickness, brokenness, and suffering far surpasses any knowledge that a fully functioning brain can attain without Him. 

Ephesians 4:14-19 says,  

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

I love the contrast of the two forms of knowledge presented in this passage. God calls us to an experiential, face-to-face knowledge of Himself, a knowledge that, through the power of the Spirit, allows us the ability to experience the breadth and the depth, and the length, and the height of the magnificent love of Christ.  This knowledge is not the form of cognition that I have lost. I know more of this Christ now than I ever knew before the POTS and the EDS and the MCAD and all the other health issues that are present in my body. 

God’s kindness prevails. His goodness is undeniable. God’s presence is here, in the midst of my suffering, as we wack the mole that rears its ugly head at any given moment.  This is the knowledge of the Holy attained as sickness of earth ushers me into the sacred this spaces of heaven. I don’t know that I would trade it.  Yes, it takes me a crazy long time to write sometimes incomprehensible blog posts. I can’t follow a train of thought as far as I can throw it.  But I know the Christ of my salvation, my suffering King, and He loves me. 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39