‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ – Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
I accepted Jesus into my heart at a young age, and experienced firsthand his love and protection through the storms of an abusive childhood. But as I got older, I struggled with what my relationship with God meant for my adult life. I knew He’d saved me from a troubled past to prepare me for a better future, but I thought it was up to me to achieve that future.
I wanted a sense of stability in life to make up for my rough childhood, and I secretly believed that if I could get the perfect GPA, the perfect title at the office, the perfect pair of boots, and the best decorated apartment, I’d never have to worry again. For a time it seemed to be paying off. I got everything I’d worked so hard for. But my health had been steadily declining, and in my mid-twenties I became incredibly ill. There were years of tests, a surgery, a partially collapsed lung, lots of infections, too many nights in the ER, tremors, a drooping eyelid, and lots and lots of pain. There were thousands of dollars spent, and after all of this, there was a diagnosis: three infectious diseases – late stage chronic Lyme Disease, Bartonella, and Babesiosis. Then everything came crashing down.
I was physically and emotionally exhausted by a life spent working hard just to keep my head above water and by a body that could no longer keep up with my frantic pace. At that point, I felt as if I was figuratively drowning. I didn’t even have the energy to say the long and unselfish prayers that I thought God wanted to hear from me. So one night while lying in bed I told God that I’d spent my whole life feeling like I was using all of my energy just treading water but still barely keeping my head up to breathe. I cried out to Him for help, telling Him I didn’t want to do things my way anymore. I just wanted Him to save me.
Here’s the crazy part. The part that I hold onto and that sustains me through most days, and the part that I have a hard time putting into words.
As I was crying I saw Jesus. He was there with me, and He was holding me up in the water. And then He said “you might go under, but I’m going to bring you back up again.” It happened in less than a second, but it changed my life from that moment on. I’m completely sold out to a God who loves me that much.
Over the next two years I did get sicker before I got better. But I remembered the peace I’d felt when I prayed that night, and I knew that God was healing me and leading me into a better life. Even though I still wanted to get healthy as quickly as possible, I was no longer afraid of what the future held. Instead I felt a sense of peace and confidence in what God could accomplish in my life. I knew that He had big plans for me beyond a life of illness, anxiety, and fear.
In the years that followed God left no part of my life untouched. He showed me areas where I was being disobedient and poor decisions that I was making and showed me a better way. He went deep into the pieces of me – my habits, my thoughts, my heart, my hurts, my words, my actions, the things I held onto for security, and the things I feared the most – and did His healing work. Not just “bringing me back up again” physically but in every way possible. For lack of better words, I was reborn.
I made the decision to be baptized again as an adult and rededicate my life to Jesus. Since that time God has peeled away the layers of protection I’d built around myself, helping me deal with issues of materialism, anxiety, and perfectionism. And while I still have many issues I’m dealing with, such as the desire to hurry my future or the tendency to want to fix everything when someone I know is hurting, He’s freed me from the stress of feeling like I have to do it all on my own. I feel as though I’ve been set free from my own high expectations, and I’m learning and re-learning all the time how to wait, how to relax and enjoy the moment even when life tries to throw a list of demands my way. I’m finding there’s no such thing as a perfect life or even perfect health, but there is life in Christ, and there’s no other life I’d rather have.
Thank you for being here, and I’m glad we can share life together.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
– Psalm 40:1-3