Yesterday (January 4th) marked three years since I was diagnosed with ALS. However, I had definite symptoms one year prior–slurred speech, drooping head, fatigue. So, I’m actually entering Year #5.
With this post I invite you to listen in as I talk to myself.
I’m like a wild mustang if left to myself–kicking and bucking, breaking every harness, resisting every restraint, biting every hand that tries to touch me and flailing away at anything that attempts to control me.
But God has tamed me with his love. He has taken every measure necessary to calm me down, to extract the poisons of anger, self-rule and self-pity from me.
A late friend of mine, who now walks the streets of heaven, invited me to accompany him for several days in the 1980’s as he visited the top thoroughbred farms in Lexington, Kentucky. He was considered the #1 thoroughbred broker in America. His visits were to negotiate the best terms for pasturing and placing in stud his thoroughbred–a once in a lifetime stallion. As we drove from one farm to the next I asked what would happen if one of the stallions broke through a paddock fence. “The horse would self-destruct before nightfall,” he said.
Thoroughbreds are intended to live inside fences. As humans we are intended by our Creator to live inside his fences. Only inside his paddock can we benefit from his innumerable gifts–so innumerable, says the psalmist, that if they were to be counted they would outnumber the grains of sand (Psalm 139). Or as the Apostle Paul says, “God has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
One great gift I have received from God is his peace. I have no anxiety, no focusing on ALS, no anger towards God, no bitterness, no self-pity, only God’s peace. But that’s not unexpected. Peace is what he has promised.
- The message of the angels in announcing the birth of Jesus was, ““Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 1:24).
- Jesus described what he would give to his followers upon his departure. From all of the gifts he would bestow, he chose to mention just one–peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Peace, the kind that God gives, is first of all the result of his taking the initiative to reconcile me to himself. The warfare is over. The alienation is wiped away. Reconciliation has been established through the death on my behalf of his son, Jesus, on the cross. Peace now colors his relationship with me.
“But wait–there’s more!” His peace is also a dynamic. It functions within my mind and my emotions. It energizes me when things seem to go all wrong in my little universe–things like illness, losing those I love through death, inability to do many things I used to enjoy doing, and yes–contracting ALS.
There is promise about God’s peace residing in me that I recite to myself several times daily.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).
Question: How can I and why should I be “gentle” and calm in dealing with the frustrations of ALS?
Response: Because the Lord is near me. He is over me, around me, under me, inside me, surrounding me. When people around me say that I’m handling ALS surprisingly well, my proper response should be, “No, it’s not me. It’s God in me who you see.”
Question: When I look like a dunce in family photos taken at Christmas (with ALS facial muscles weaken and its difficult to smile), how can I be anything other than anxious?
Response: By praying with thanksgiving and by presenting my requests to God “in every situation,” knowing that God is in control.
Question: What can I count on from God, who never lies to me and never deceives me–even when I doubt him or get frustrated by his program or timetable?
Response: “The peace (φρουρέω) of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus” A little bit of study shows me that the verb used here “to guard” occurs four times in the N.T. and by definition means “to guard, protect by a military guard” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, φρουρέω).
Question: How then is it that I can have ALS, free from anxiety, fear, anger, depression?
Response: It’s quite simple. God posts a guard at the doorway of my mind (intellect) and heart (emotions) and he prevents those interlopers from entering!
On my part, even though the doorways into my mind and emotions are guarded, I am to do my part as well. I am to pray with thanksgiving for all he blesses me with–my wife, my children and grandchildren, my extended family, my friends, adoption into God’s family, eternal life. And away with the negative thoughts that can drive me to despair. I am to fix my attention on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
Photo of mustang above is used via license from Shutterstock.