It started subtly with me: a headache, stomachache, diarrhea all night, just when we started an intense Chadian Arabic class. I was able to get through class Thursday and Friday, but then my two-year-old got a fever, wasn’t eating well, became very crabby… Is it teething?… Or malaria?
Monday night my husband Dave’s lymph nodes started to swell. He had a fever. The rapid malaria test was negative. Tuesday the entire left side of his face was swollen. I consulted friends via internet: Allergic reaction to his anti-malarial medication? Benadryl given. Salivary gland infected? Antibiotics started. An abscess? Warm packs applied. If nothing works, could it be mumps? (Which it was!)
The anxiety increases and God reminds me that even if we don’t figure out what’s wrong, he knows and is in control. I ultimately cry out to him to give me wisdom to know what advice to follow and what action to take.
But I was shaken, rattled, and questioning why God allows suffering in this world. I felt discouraged because I was physically sick, and mentally anxious regarding illness in my family.
It was hard to put forth effort to learn a language. I couldn’t just make these things go away, I couldn’t just tell myself to stop being anxious. How could I cope?
I have found over the years, that when I am anxious, it helps to dwell on who God is, what he’s done, what he’s doing and what he promises to do. God led me to read Isaiah.
Throughout this book he tells us:
“I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand; I will help you; I will make rivers flow; I will turn the desert into pools of water; I will put trees in the desert; I have redeemed you and summoned you by name, you are mine; I will be with you; I am making a way in the wilderness and I provide water in the wilderness to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself; I will pour water on the thirsty land; I will pour out my spirit on your offspring; I have made you; I will not forget you; I have swept away your offenses; I formed you in the womb; I am the Lord, the maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens; I will restore; I will go before you and level the mountains; I will break down the gates; I will give you hidden treasures; I will strengthen you; I speak the truth and declare what is right; I am he who will sustain you; I will carry you; I will rescue you; what I have planned, I will do; I am bringing my righteousness near; I will grant salvation; I teach you what is best for you; I direct you in the way you should go; I will answer you; I will keep you and make you to be a covenant; I comfort my people and have compassion on my afflicted ones; I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; I give you a well-instructed tongue; I waken you morning by morning; I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand; I set the heavens in place and laid the foundations of the earth; my word will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it; I will bring them to my holy mountain and give them joy; I have seen their ways but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort; I have anointed you to proclaim good news to the poor; I have sent you to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release prisoners from darkness; I will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations; I will create new heavens and a new earth that will endure before me and so will your name and descendants endure.”
I love how throughout the book of Isaiah God tells us over and over who he is, not in a condemning way, but with compassion and patience. He speaks about how we craft our own idols, yet he challenges us to compare them to him, The First and The Last, the one who parted the sea and made dry land, the one who stretches out the heavens, who formed us in the womb, who has foretold things to come. He asks us if our idols have done these things, and can they do these things?
As I was reading God’s Word and focusing on who he is, what he’s done, is doing and promises to do, he showed me where I was putting my trust: myself.
Being a witness to suffering and sickness first hand as a nurse and now living in Chad, Africa, I struggle with trusting God to take care of me and my family. If it happens to others, it can happen to me, right?
So I try to figure out what troubles may come and think maybe I can prevent it or, at the very least, be prepared for it.
The fear and anxiety comes because I am putting my trust in me—a weak, imperfect me. Thanks be to God! In spite of our rebellion, idolatry, and lack of trust in him, he longs to be gracious.
“The Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion… How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ Then you will desecrate your idols… you will throw them away” (Isaiah 30:18-22).