(Today we have our last post in the end of year series! I’m hoping to maybe get an update posted in the next day or two, before I go on hiatus, but we’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, please welcome the awesome Christine EyreChristine Eyre to the blog!
I honestly didn’t know how to write this post (and ended up procrastinating until two days before the deadline)—because for much of the year, I was discouraged, hopeless, fighting bitterness, and haven’t completely gotten over any of that. So what did God teach me? It wasn’t until I began writing this post that I realized that God used this year to show me how frequently my actions are held back—or prompted—by fear.
Most of these fears are grew out of my health problems. I have a condition the doctors call “Benign Neutropenia” which is basically an abnormally low white-blood cell count. I’ve had it since I was 13, and my family and I and countless doctors have no idea what caused it or how to cure it. And while the condition does make me susceptible to infection, the biggest symptom is fatigue. I often struggle to accomplish basic things like reloading the dishwasher or doing bedtime routine. Some days are definitely better than others, but in general, I’m tired more often than not.
I also have a condition called “Restless Legs Syndrome” which means that my body cannot relax. My legs always feel the urge to move—particularly at night when I’m trying to sleep. If I force my legs to hold still, the whole rest of my body feels awake and jittery. And I have asthma; to keep from wheezing during the night, I have to sleep propped up—which provides consistent back pain. By now, I’m just exhausted from pushing myself to function as normally as possible.
Despite this exhaustion, I want to be someone who encourages others, who lifts them up. Who is trustworthy and dependable no matter how I’m feeling. And so for years, I’ve worked hard to fulfill my responsibilities and stay cheerful. I ignore pain and new problems, rebuke myself for mistakes and failures, and push hard to keep those mistakes from happening again. I always try even if I don’t believe I’ll succeed. And my friends and family always come first in my priorities.
Then earlier this year, I accidentally let a friend down while we worked on a project together. I should have been more diligent in my work, but fatigue was a large part of the problem. The whole event confirmed what I’d subconsciously feared for 13 years. That I’m not dependable and trustworthy. That no matter how hard I push myself, it won’t be enough to succeed. That my health problems will affect others no matter how hard I fight to be normal. That these illnesses do hold me back, and that I can’t fully accomplish what I set my mind to.
As I struggled to process this event and failure, the Lord showed me these fears that were hidden in my heart. That I push myself partly from a sense of responsibility—but partly because I’m afraid of failing the simplest goals and of letting others down. I ignore physical and emotional problems because I’m afraid of being a burden. Afraid of what these illnesses are doing to my body. Afraid of how they’ll determine my future—how can I be a good helpmeet to a husband? How can I be responsible for a household and children 24/7 if I struggle to do basic tasks now? What man is even going to want a sick wife?
I honestly can’t remember how I came to terms with all those thoughts. My friend and I reached an agreement about the project (our friendship wasn’t broken because of it), though we both decided to quit collaborating. Then a few months later, the Lord sent unexpected compassion and encouragement through two friends I met at a homeschool conference. During lunch, I ended up confiding in these ladies—both of them young mothers—my fears about having a family of my own someday. Because of my health problems and because I struggle with doing simple daily duties around the house—how in the world could I be responsible for a husband and children 24/7? Like a shot, Mrs. K. replied, “You can’t,” and reminded me that I can do nothing apart from the grace of God. Even a marathon runner couldn’t manage a household and take care of kids, etc. without the grace of God. Which really struck a chord with me—it was something I’d always known, but hearing it put in those terms made the point especially vivid. Mrs. W. also pointed out that you don’t suddenly wake up one morning with a husband and 18 kids—there’s usually time to adjust to new stages of life.
Both of these friends were both sympathetic and didn’t downplay the problem (something I often do to myself). Mrs. W. pointed out that this waiting would strengthen my faith. She mentioned a Psalm (none of us could remember which one) that describes going from “strength to strength”—that the difficulties we face now strengthen us for the future. She quickly added, that’s not to say I should expect suffering or that something terrible will happen down the road, but that God has a purpose for every trial. My own struggle might enable me to help others who are going through similar things; and she reminded me that God has our good in mind. He works everything together for our good and for our growth. The conversation (which stretched through lunch and into afternoon coffee time) was incredibly refreshing, and I told both these ladies how much their encouragement meant to me.
Though this compassion helped, I continued to struggle with bad habits that I knew were rooted in a serious problem. Habits like assuming a problem was my fault on some level; or thinking that if I hadn’t done so-and-so, then such-and-such outcome might not have happened. Handling frustration or grief or disappointment by telling myself to suck it up and act like an adult. It was almost an obsessive refusal to admit that I was hurt, that I was tired, that I felt like a failure (still).
Through the last few months of the year, the Lord showed me, through disappointments and discouragements and shattered hopes, that the root of these habits was still fear. Yet another reason I pushed so hard was keep from failing—to try to control the effects of my health for the sakes of friends and family. I readily blamed myself through fear of receiving criticism and disappointment from others. Fear of being controlled by my emotions and illness. Fear of being hurt emotionally while I’m already exhausted and struggling. Fear of disappointing family and friends.
Getting rid of this mindset of fear won’t happen all at once; and it will be a step-by-step process to un-work from all the bad habits. But every step, however small, is progress. For example, the other day as I made lunch, I remembered despondently all the writing goals I’d set, tried to meet—and failed—the last year. Not for lack of trying, of course, which makes the problem more difficult to bear. And I was not optimistic about the coming year, not hopeful about accomplishing any significant writing progress. I had resigned myself to diligent work but not real fruit; to perseverance, but no reward in this work. Then the question popped into my mind: “So what are you holding on to?” The answer: “That if it’s God’s will, I’ll get this writing progress done; if it’s not, He’ll redirect me somewhere else.”
God is trustworthy whether or not I understand what He’s doing. He sees and plans the big picture; He does have everything under control and works every difficulty and pleasure for our good. And I want to hold onto that no matter how I feel.
Thank you so much for that amazing post, Christine! I really appreciated it, especially your points about trying to balance health and life. What did you get out of Christine’s post? Have you battled with fear before?