By Bethany Kelly
After an intense period of work a few months back, I had been looking forward to taking some time off. I knew I needed to think about my future and plans in conjunction with changes around me that would affect my career and living situation, but I also looked forward to sinking my teeth into a personal project that I had been excited about for months but had been too busy to devote much time to. I felt passionate about this project and hoped it would be a starting point toward realizing some of my dreams and goals.
I don’t know what triggered what came next. Perhaps I had overdone physically and strained my already fragile state of health, but I suddenly became very ill. Crippling exhaustion was the dominant problem. The fatigue I suffered from was so deep and overwhelming that on a bad day the kind of decisions I faced were things like, “Do I wash my laundry today, or do I wash my hair?” I simply didn’t have the energy to do both, let alone anything more.
On top of the exhaustion, other strange symptoms presented themselves: nerve pains, muscle pains and spasms, digestive problems, an inability to concentrate on work for more than a few minutes at a time. As the weeks turned into a month and then two, I found myself at an all-time low.
Worry nagged me constantly. What if I never get better? What if I remain weak and infirm for the rest of my life? How will I be able to support and care for myself and my daughter as a single mom in poor health? I felt like Mother Teresa must have when she said, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” My daily prayer became, “Please just help me through this, Lord. Make it stop. Help me survive!”
Things came to a head during a heated exchange with my 14-year-old daughter. “You’ve believed in God for all these years,” she said, “but it doesn’t seem like He’s taking care of you. You’ve been praying and asking God to heal you, but He hasn’t. You’re still sick and you’re still struggling!”
I realized that her words, difficult as they were to hear, were actually a vocalization of some of the same issues that I was battling with. Why wasn’t God helping when I asked?
I’ve often equated faith with being able to take adverse circumstances calmly. The problem with that for me has been that when things weren’t going well, I didn’t always take them calmly. And it showed. I took that to mean that I didn’t have much faith.
It was when I read the poem “I Will Not Doubt” that it clicked: Faith is not a feeling. I can have faith even if I am “weeping because my sails are battered,” “grieving because of my losses,” or “writhing beneath my crosses.” In fact, that’s when I need faith the most, and that’s when I can’t afford to lose my grip on it. Having faith doesn’t mean I have to appear to have everything together. It’s an inner belief and confidence in spite of not having it together. It’s knowing and clinging to the fact that God loves and will care for me, regardless of circumstances, disappointments and battered sails, losses and crosses; regardless of how I feel.
My health is improving, and I’m thankful for that, but I still don’t have everything figured out. Every day I have to make conscious decisions to shift my focus and my thought processes from fear to trust in God, from doubt to belief in His love and unfailing care, and to stand on His promise, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
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I Will Not Doubt
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox
I will not doubt though all my ships at sea
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails,
I shall believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil worketh good to me.
And though I weep because those sails are battered
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered,
“I will trust in Thee!”
I will not doubt, though all my prayers return
Unanswered from the still, white realm above;
I shall believe it is an all-wise Love
Which has refused the things for which I yearn.
And though at times, I cannot keep from grieving,
Yet the pure ardor of my fixed believing
Undimmed shall burn.
I will not doubt, though sorrows fall like rain,
And troubles swarm like bees about a hive.
I will believe the heights for which I strive
Are only reached by anguish and by pain;
And though I groan and writhe beneath my crosses,
Yet will I see through my severest losses
The greater gain.
I will not doubt. Well anchored is this faith,
Like some staunch ship, my soul braves every gale;
So strong its courage that it will not fail
To face the mighty unknown sea of death.
Oh, may I cry, though body leaves the spirit,
“I do not doubt,” so listening worlds may hear it,
With my last breath.
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