Heart of the Paralytic

“17 On one of the days while Jesus was teaching, some proud religious law-keepers and teachers of the Law were sitting by Him. They had come from every town in the countries of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. The power of the Lord was there to heal them. 18 Some men took a man who was not able to move his body to Jesus. He was carried on a bed. They looked for a way to take the man into the house where Jesus was. 19 But they could not find a way to take him in because of so many people. They made a hole in the roof over where Jesus stood. Then they let the bed with the sick man on it down before Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” 21 The teachers of the Law and the proud religious law-keepers thought to themselves, “Who is this Man Who speaks as if He is God? Who can forgive sins but God only?” 22 Jesus knew what they were thinking. He said to them, “Why do you think this way in your hearts? 23 Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 “So that you may know the Son of Man has the right and the power on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the man who could not move his body, “I say to you, get up. Take your bed and go to your home.” 25 At once the sick man got up in front of them. He took his bed and went to his home thanking God. 26 All those who were there were surprised and gave thanks to God, saying, “We have seen very special things today.”

Luke 5: 17-39

Last week I had a relapse. Money got tight again and I began to sink emotionally. This area is my biggest weakness. It cripples me physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is the area of my life where I am prone to doubt God and his goodness. It is an area I allow Satan to rule over myself. I slowly become withdrawn and sad. Then, I feel the waves of anxiety and fear that life will never be different. Finally, all hope is lost and the darkness sets in. Then, I find myself ready to leave this Earth and its suffering. I feel that I can not go on in the state I am finding myself. Over the years, you have head me talk of blessing in suffering, but this time I couldn’t remember my own words. The words I could remember had no power over me. I was void, empty, dead. In fact, most of the memories for that week are all gone. There is a black, blank space in my mind where those memories should be. 

This last week, I became angry at God. This was the first time I had felt suicidal while on my medication. It took more of a toll and struck fear within me. I wanted to withdraw from God. I doubted his goodness that he would allow me to struggle with something that would allow me to nearly take my own life again. I felt that he was truly testing me beyond what I could bear and I feared for the future. I even wrote a note to my family about the future and how this illness would eventually take my life. The burden was too hard to bear and I couldn’t bring myself to the feet of Jesus to turn it over. However, the days have slowly gotten better.

Each day I have made progress and found hope returning. I started to laugh again, smile, and feel love for those around me. However, I still put up my barriers to the Lord. I was angry and fearful. That was until this morning. I began listening to a talk given by David Platt about paralysis and forgiveness. I saw myself in the verses of Luke 5 and I wanted to share some insight with you. 

This man did not go to be healed on his own strength. He had friends. These friends knew his pain and knew his suffering. They also had faith that this man could be healed by the God of the universe. It so struck me because many who are suffering are abandoned by those who claim to know and love them. The years of pain and suffering hang on and people become almost afraid that the suffering is catching. No one can walk the journey of suffering alone.  They need people to really know and engage them, not to sit on the sidelines. It is not enough to just quickly check in or pray for someone in deep suffering. They need strong, deep friendships to lead and sustain them.

Second, these friends did not simply see their friends sin. In these days, people believed that it was the sin of the person or their family that brought suffering and hardship. There was no notion of grace, true healing grace. This is something that this mans friends and Jesus taught and demonstrated to the paralytic.  The were so certain he would be healed that they tore down the roof, just to get him into the presence of Jesus. We need to be that bold for those in deep suffering and allow the Lord to do his great work in and through these people. We need to lead these individuals to the feet of Jesus, even if it means tearing off a roof.

Also, you can pray for healing for those who are hurting but this is not God’s sole focus during seasons of suffering. Jesus healed the paralytic from his earthly malidy secondary to his true healing. Jesus wants to have our hearts. He wants our holiness before our worldly agenda. Jesus forgave this man from his sins before he allowed him to walk. The walking was the evidence of a greater healing. All of us long to be well and in the presence of God but his plans may be different than ours. This had the greatest impact on me. 

I was angry at God for not healing me and scared for the future. However, my future hope is not tied to anything this side of heaven. God is concerned with my spiritual health first and foremost. Now this is an area where I would tread lightly in a season of great pain. However, allow this to be the way you pray for someone who is hurting. God wants our healing to leave us mature and complete lacking in nothing. So, for me to experience true healing, I need to wait on the Lord for worldly healing though my hope is tied to eternal healing and sanctification. I need to trust God that he is with me in my pain and will use me to bring glory to himself. This is true restoration. This should be the desire of my heart and the desire of others. 

If you don’t understand that truth today, I pray that it will capture you and lead you to a place of repentance. God created us, we sinned and were separated from him, Jesus came to bridge that gap. He was a good man who lived a perfect life free of sin, but he was also fully God. He took the weight of the world’s sin upon himself and died, not just for all of humanity, but for you. He wants you to repent and walk into a life free from the condemnation of sin. He wants to spend eternity with you and with others. Take up your mat and walk. Remember and share where you have been and how far God has brought you. Give your life to him and ask him to restore you to a right place with him, where we can put our hope in the future glory of God’s ultimate healing of our worldly bodies in heaven. 

God Bless 

Ashley

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It’s Not Your Fault

You can’t quite remember the day or maybe you remember it perfectly,
The day that the sun went from bright to dark, The day sweetness left the air
The day every step was forced and nights were long,
The day you lost a piece of yourself and it felt like the others vanished one at a time,
The day you color faded and darkness came in, it was a slow fade

The day he hit you,
The day the drunk driver killed the one you love,
The day you aborted your child,
The day you cheated,
They day you failed at the thing that made you who you are,
The day your self walked out the door,

You lost control that day,
It wasn’t a choice but it began slipping,
You didn’t notice at first, but then it was like a force pulling you in,
The you you had known was swallowed up,

Then pain came,
The locks on the doors,
Friends who never came around anymore,
The shame that grew inside of you,
The weakness that needed help but couldn’t ask,

He has you,
He owns you,
He feels in control,

You fight but without freedom,
You scream but in silence,
You reach but it slips away,
The life you knew is gone,

But God, he didn’t see the broken,
But God, he saw the whole
But God, he saw the whole journey
But God, he didn’t hold back
But God, he picked you up from the mire clay,
But God, he stood you on solid ground
But God, he healed the pain
But God, restores you now

Can you believe that? Can you be set free today? Can the darkness subside as you cry out to him? Can you trust, even if it seems like he won’t respond?

BUT GOD!

A hope and a Future

These next few posts are going to be a look into my past, what came before the depression. My life came to a head the day I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. However, my problems had been building my whole life. What I believed was a normal childhood and the way most people felt was erroneous. It wasn’t until my world came crashing down that I saw that my trajectory toward mental illness was not triggered by a singular event, but had been brewing inside of me all along. The Lord was good always good, however, he knew how he created me and refused to let me stay in my anxiety. He used suffering to begin to show me freedom.

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

I was born in a small town in Pennsylvania. I was raised by two loving parents who loved the Lord with their whole heart and encouraged me to do the same. I, also, had an amazing little brother that was four years younger than I. I mothered him right from the start and loved him to pieces. We fought like normal siblings do, but our bond was different than most kids and became stronger the older we got.

I was an overachieving perfectionist from the beginning. When I was three years old, my daycare went to a gymnastics class. I was in love. My parents were kind enough to enroll me in more classes, and I joined competitive team. I loved it. I was practicing twenty hours a week at one point. Traveling on weekends to meets. I was fiercely competitive and loved that it was an individual sport. I worked hard and did well. It was the played perfectly to my strengths. You put in the work and you see results. You slack off and loose focus and you fail. Works based sports, it was my weakness that I could not yet see.

When I was a teenager, I was doing a tumbling pass, when I heard and felt my fingers snap. I had landed with my fingers splayed apart and injured my hands badly. For the first time in my childhood. I stopped gymnastics. I learned that there was a life outside of the gym that I was missing. There were birthday parties, sleepovers, sports, tv, playing outside just for fun. I decided I didn’t want to continue anymore. My parents encouraged me to keep going, we had all invested so much time and energy into the sport. My stubborn side would not listen, and they let me quit. This was a decision that I did later regret, but gave me a chance to experience parts of life I had previously been missing.

I began to spend time in the youth group and went with them to a summer concert festival known as Creation. It is a weeklong Christian Woodstock. You camp in tents, shower in cold water (if you shower), sit in the heat, listen to bands and speakers. As a teen away from home, it is quite the experience. This is where I first found my love and desire to be a missionary. Compassion International set up a booth where you could sponsor a child for a monthly contribution. They had hundreds of pictures of children that were overseas suffering, and there was something I could do to help. I decided to sponsor a child that summer (I still sponsor her today). It has been a joy to communicate with her over the years, and I highly recommend giving to this organization. That same week, I do not remember the night, the Lord spoke to my heart. The speaker gave an invitation to come forward and give your life to Christ. I felt an overwhelming urge to stand up and walk forward. Hundreds of people were doing so, and I couldn’t resist the feeling any longer, I grabbed a friend went to the tent. A pastor prayed with me and I felt tremendous peace.

This was not the first time I accepted Christ. I had as a young child and was baptized at the age of eight. I completely meant it then, but something was changing in me. I felt that the first time, I was acknowledging that Jesus was the son of God. That he came and lived a perfect life as fully God and fully man. Then took on the sin of the world as he died as a sacrifice. His sacrifice was for me and for you. He was buried and raised to life three days later, conquering hell and reigning in Paradise until he returns for me again. This time, though, it changed me. It was not just a head knowledge, my life had begun to change. I expressed to my parents that I wanted to be a missionary. My plan was to become a doctor, never marry, move to Uganda and work with orphans. Oh, how God’s plan for my life would point me on a different path.

I returned home with a renewed faith, but still with a loss of identity. Gymnastics had been such a big part of my life, I didn’t know where I belonged anymore. So, I asked my friends what they thought I should do. As a result, I joined every club, group, and sport they recommended. I was in student government, French Club, Chemistry Club, Competitive Color Guard, Traveling Choir, regular choir, Drama Club and productions, and Field Hockey. I was seeking something that I would never find in perfectionism and trying to fit in. I needed Christ to reveal who I was to me and save me from my overachieving self. It would take almost two decades before God would rewrite my identity. One that wasn’t tied to what I did or how I performed.

I graduated high school and applied to colleges. I planned to go to every college but the one my parents wanted me to go to. I was determined to be independent. In the end, I toured other Universities but settled on Penn State. It was where my parents wanted me to go, and I would do anything to please them. They never asked me to. They accepted me for who I was, but I didn’t. These feelings would plague me in relationships for longer than I could imagine. That constant striving to earn others affections, approval. I didn’t realize that path was paved with heartache. You can’t ever be good enough on your own. Satan follows you like a snake in the weeds. He whispers lies. He did it from the beginning. He told Eve that she wasn’t all she could be. He told her she could be better, if she would just eat the fruit. The lie that she listened to only opened her up to feeling like a greater failure. He took God’s word and twisted it. Just like Eve, I listened. I believed that lie that I wasn’t good enough, that I needed to do more to be complete. That lie would nearly break me.

Living Water: a woman’s journey of faith, depression, and becoming whole

John 4: 10,13 – “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water…Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will  become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

This is the story of my journey. The brokenness, the pain, and the joy. A story of redemption. A story of brokenness, healing, brokenness, and rejoicing. This is about being in the hard places, the suffering and coming through with a renewed spirit. This is my story broken, ugly, and beautiful all at the same time.

Jesus met me in my brokenness, just like the woman at the well. He came to see me in the middle of the day, when everyone else stayed away. He revealed the brokenness in my life and healing that lay on the other side. He gave me a new understanding of who he is and where he is in the midst of his children’s suffering. He revealed himself to me in a painfully beautiful way that gave me a new understanding of who he is and what he life he wants for his children. If you are looking for a story that ties up in a pretty package, you need to look elsewhere. That is not my story. My journey is long and hard, and not over. However, I believe that may be your story. Your story may be hanging on a comma. I want to come along side you and share some encouragement. I want to let you know that your best life can be found in the here and now. Living water can be yours today, come along with me and share my journey.

The sliding doors opened. I stepped tentatively inside. They were waiting for me. My husband had called earlier to let them know we were on our way. Their eyes were not kind, filled with compassion, they were distant and separated. I wondered if I had made a mistake. I was told this facility was not like the others, here I would be treated with dignity and respect. I could trust these people, they would bring me healing. Then, the doors closed.

They convinced me that I was just giving my intake information. I left my husband, my baby, and my dad in the waiting room. I gave them my information. “Are you wanting to harm yourself?” they asked. “Yes,” I responded. “Do you want to harm your baby or others?” “Absolutely not,” I said. However, I could understand how someone would, if they felt this way. There was no judgment from me. A door opened on the other side of the room. “Can I say goodbye to my baby?” The doors locked, “No.” “Please,” I begged. Not sure what would happen next. There was no apology, just asking me to follow them down the hallway.

I stepped into a 4ftx4ft room. There was a small green chair. “Take off all of your clothes,” she demanded. “Can I please keep my bra? I am nursing and I need the support.” She inspected it, gropping me. “It can stay.” What a relief. She handed me a gown. “Where are you taking me?,” I inquired. “To a room like this.” Bright lights, a small chair, white walls. I was beginning to panic. However, I knew I couldn’t break down, couldn’t loose it because they were gathering evidence. Wanting to know how sick I was, how long I needed to say. My rights were gone. I followed her out of the room and down to the psychiatric ER. The rooms were padded, there were cameras everywhere. There was a hard bed, and a small chair for family to sit in. There were no locks, not even on the bathrooms. I had to have my husband keep watch so I could use the facilities. I had been in for about 30 minutes, when I felt like I had made a mistake. Surely, how I was feeling before would only get worse, when you add in a dose of terror.