Excerpted from “What I Learned Lying Down – Hope for the Chronically Ill”
Can our affliction be the source of the fruit God produces in our life and not just an obstacle to it?
“God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:52)
“Spring has arrived once again and with it comes the reminder that it’s pruning time. I love to tend to plants, flowers and for that matter, anything that grows. As my body allows, I’ve been making rounds to each of the bushes around our house trimming, cutting and shaping. Getting rid of the old growth to make way for the new is something I enjoy.
This past winter, however, I made a fatal mistake with my pruning shears. I used to have a beautiful pink antique rose bush that was fairly close to my kitchen window. It was a profuse bloomer with fragrant pink blossoms nine months out of the year. I loved it! As most gardeners know, you never prune until the danger of a freeze has passed, and untimely pruning was the demise of my favorite rose bush.
The Painful Pruning
For a plant to produce more fruit or flowers it must be cut–and the same is true for us. In John 15:1-2 we read, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” In my case, the Lord did a lot of pruning with the sharp shears of suffering.
Discovering My Purpose
One night, while lying in a hospital, I read in Genesis 41:52 that “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” That night, the Holy Spirit whispered through His Word telling me that my life would bear fruit even through illness. [pullquote]That night, the Holy Spirit whispered through His Word telling me that my life would bear fruit even through illness.[/pullquote] From that moment on, I knew this was not time wasted. It gave me a sense of purpose knowing that I could be useful to God.
For example, whenever doctor appointments took me away from my children, I reframed the situation by thinking I was on a mission for God. I would load my purse with gospel tracts to hand out to nurses, doctors and staff. Just to tell people that Jesus loved them seemed to lighten their loads, and bring a smile to their faces.
In those times I was able to share with patients the real hope that Jesus offers; even when medically, there is no hope. I also brought along Christian magazines, small Bibles, and other books to give out to people as the Lord led. I placed tracts in unusual places like bathroom stalls, praying over them before leaving the restroom. This provided a much needed distraction and it brought me joy in the midst of endless appointments, tests and procedures. For me, it became a way to pass the time with a purpose.
Why We Can Trust God, Our Pruner
We can trust in the Master Gardener’s careful hands as He molds and shapes us, cutting off that which does not bear fruit. The Lord makes no mistakes like I did with my former rose bush. He knows exactly what to allow and what to remove for our continued growth. He wonderfully orchestrates the timing for sun and rain along with the duration needed. Pruning is painful, and frequently it comes in the form of trials, however, your wilderness or desert experience can become a fruitful place where hidden streams in the desert emerge (Isaiah 43:19).
To be fixated on the pain that accompanies a chronic illness is effortless-the challenge lies in looking for the treasures that are hidden in the midst of the pain. For instance, when going in for a dreaded test or procedure, I would ask God to show me something good as a result.
Sure, I had my moments where I could see nothing good, but these were more the exception rather than the rule. When you train yourself to think this way, it changes your focus so your eyes are open to riches stored in secret places. It keeps your heart turned upward in thanksgiving as well.
We Will Bloom Because of the Pruning
The Lord, our Master, has a divine purpose in affliction and it can be of great benefit to us. The good news is that we can be broken and still bloom. [pullquote]The good news is that we can be broken and still bloom.[/pullquote]This may sound silly, but I learned this lesson from a geranium! One of its branches had broken almost all the way through. Yet, in the next few days, I noticed that this branch started to blossom. It amazed me that it could still flower under such conditions.
We can be broken and beautiful as well! Our hardships can open doors to share the beautiful love of Christ. . .”
Father, help us to bear fruit for your Kingdom, even though we endure chronic pain and other disabling symptoms. Remind us that our suffering can be a powerful platform to demonstrate your glory and unfailing love. Your Word tells us that You use the weak things of the world and that Your Power that is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinth. 12:9)
Help us to take our eyes off our sickness and see those who are lost and dying without Jesus. May we be faithful to share words of life and comfort that You have given to us. Thank you that new, glorified bodies await us when you return to take us home. These are just temporary tents, Praise the Lord! One day we will be forever free from pain, pills and infirmity! Lord, give us strength, hope and grace to trust You for the days ahead. In Jesus name, Amen.
Angie Dugi is a wife and mother of three, residing in Texas. She has battled RA, lupus (SLE and CNS) and fibromyalgia for more than 13 years. She has a passion for sharing Christ and is the author of a new book: “What I Learned Lying Down – Hope for the Chronically Ill”. Angie also serves as an online missionary for Global Media Outreach, helping make disciples around the world through the power of the internet. Her book is available at angeladugi.com, amazon.com and other internet retailers as well as through her personal website: www.be-encouragedonline.com
The above is an excerpt from “What I Learned Lying Down – Hope for the Chronically Ill” by Angela Dugi, published by Advantage Books (TM) October 2010, ©2010 Angela Dugi, Reprinted with permission.