Last Sunday, I was thunderstruck while sitting in church.
And here let me pause to say that thunderstruck is such an interesting word, especially because, in the literal sense, it cannot be true: Thunder cannot strike anyone. Figuratively, it means to be astonished or astounded.
It’s not unusual for me to be thunderstruck in church. Usually, it means that some great spiritual truth has confronted some great spiritual need in my life, and I see a problem in a new light—that is, the True Light.
Back to last Sunday. We were reading from Jeremiah 17. Verse 7 says, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.” In verse eight, it says that this man who trusts and hopes in the Lord is like a tree on a riverbank that does not fear the heat because its roots are well-watered. Even in a drought, this tree stays green and does not “cease from yielding fruit.”
I stopped. I reread that last phrase. Hmm. According to this verse, a person who trusts in the Lord will keep producing fruit in a time of hardship. I frowned as thunder rumbled in the distance.
Seven months ago, our four-year-old daughter had been diagnosed with epilepsy. Initially, we believed we could control the seizures with medication, but she was seizure-free for only two months. She was now on three medications and seizing multiple times a day.
The diagnosis had devastated me in ways I had not known possible. The grief, the pain, all the unknowns piled up on me, becoming a weight I staggered under. I was exhausted and overwhelmed all the time. I lost my joy and my interest in life, and my family suffered because of it.
In the drought, I ceased yielding fruit.
Which means—oh, I could not bear the thought—but I had to face the truth: If I had been truly trusting in the Lord, I would have produced fruit regardless of the season. The fruit I should have had was of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Had this fruit been in my life in the last seven months? Maybe a few shriveled apples clung to the lowest branches, but for the most part, the drought had stripped the boughs of their harvest.
But what about grief? Was it wrong to hurt when my daughter had seizures in public and I saw her shame? Did I sin when I was overwhelmed and joyless? Those feelings were real. What was I supposed to do with my pain? Ignore it? Pretend everything’s fine? I wasn’t choosing to feel exhausted; it was a byproduct of stress and grief.
But God’s Word said I should still bear fruit, regardless of hardship. How could this be possible? What could I have done differently to avoid the spiritual barrenness of the last seven months?
Still frowning, I read the next verse—and that’s when the thunder struck: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
God has not assembled His Words randomly. In a flash, I saw a connection between these verses.
The man who trusts in the Lord does not listen to his deceitful heart.
The heart—the place from which our emotions spring. My heart—that said, This is too much to bear. Instead of drawing from the river of Living Water, I had stood thirsty in a sandstorm of emotions.
God doesn’t ask His children to do the impossible—or if He does, He gives grace enough to accomplish it. What had I done wrong these last seven months?
I had not read my Bible enough. I had prayed. And prayed. And prayed. An ocean of words, a river of pain, I unleashed it all at God. But I had not stopped to let Him talk to me. This, I believe, is part of what God means when He said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” I needed to let Him speak to my heart through His Word.
I had not trusted God enough. I wanted to understand why, to see how, and to know where we were going, but my questions went unanswered. This caused my faith to waver—no, to crumble. My doubt said to God, “Explain why, and then I’ll trust you.” God is Almighty; He doesn’t have to explain.
I had expected too much of myself. The seizures had returned mid-July and escalated over the next few months, the worst of it occurring over our usual late-summer craziness, when food preservation and school preparation and before-it-gets-cold activities cram every waking minute. I don’t regret my full freezer and shelves of canned food, but it’s unrealistic of me to expect I can do all that without facing some consequences. Already wearied by the stress of epilepsy, I had little reserve and stamina. In a culture where food preservation is right up there with godliness, it’s hard to lower my expectations, but I should have.
Was I sinning? I don’t think so. However, if I stayed in that slump of joyless pain, refusing to partake of God’s goodness, then yes, I would be. Because we are frail children of dust, susceptible to grief and suffering, God does not judge us for hurting long and healing slowly. He may not be so merciful if we turn away from the strength He offers time and time again.
Even with this thunderbolt pinning me to the church bench, I still have much to learn. I don’t have all the answers yet and perhaps never will. This frightens me. Another test is coming up.
On Monday, we have an appointment with an epileptologist to talk about brain surgery.
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For the beginning of our epilepsy story, go to A Sudden Onset, Part 1.
To read about our experience with Phase One of brain surgery, start with this post.