Trusting God in the Wilderness

I was sitting at my mom’s kitchen table with my head and upper body weight being supported by my sweet husband. My mom sat next to me with growing concern. I was sobbing because the pain was so great. Five days post-operation, I was struggling to balance my pain with the nausea caused by my medications. As I sat in agony, I thought “what have I done?! I wish I never had this surgery! The post-op pain is too great for me and I should’ve chosen to live with the pain I knew.” And then I was immediately humbled because the Holy Spirit gently reminded me of how the Israelites complained about food while on their way to the Promised Land and how they had actually wished they had remained as slaves by saying “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:4) I was complaining in my heart towards God and not trusting in His provision by wishing I would’ve stayed in my own Egypt. I quickly realized that He was testing my faith by seeing if I’d turn to Him in my need or if I would shake my fist at Him like the Israelites did.

To give a little bit more background, I have a ribcage deformity that causes cartilage to push my sternum towards my spine, putting pressure on my vital organs. I had surgery when I was four to correct it and it eventually failed. Then, I had four surgeries within two years in the early 2000’s to correct it and since then, I have noticed my pain and breath function getting worse. This year, I hoped beyond all hope that my increasing physical difficulties were not due to my ribcage issue and went to see many types of doctors and health professionals, who all failed to get to the root of my problems. I had in the back of my mind the whole time that it was probably my genetic deformity but I was aware of the post-surgical pain the surgery would bring, the agony of effects from pain medications, the long-long road to full recovery, and just how much of a burden it would be on my family. I’d already done this rodeo five times before and I didn’t want to do it again! Yet, it felt like God continually closed doors, while making my pain worse, until I eventually went back to the same hospital of all of my previous surgeries and started the hoop-jumping process to this most recent thoracic correction. It really seemed that God was directing my footsteps on the path He wanted me to go on.

I had been asking God to reveal His will to me. I wanted to follow what Proverbs 3:5 said, to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” I didn’t want to rush into this procedure or think I knew everything just because I had experienced surgeries before. The decision to pursue this surgical revision of revisions was covered with personal prayer, with fasting, with counseling, with my whole church praying on my behalf to have discernment and guidance from the Lord. And now, I’m recovering from my sixth operation on the same issue, confident that this is what God wanted me to do.

These last several months have felt like wandering in the wilderness and a continual testing for me. Would I trust Him to provide me with the answers I needed to improve my health? Would He provide me with an excellent surgeon who had experience in what I’ve been through? Would insurance cover the procedure? Would the Lord get me through the recovery process? Would He provide the help we needed to watch our two young children AND take care of me? There were times where I cried and asked “Why?! Why was God making me go through this whole thing for potentially the sixth time?!” I think the Holy Spirit equipped me with faithfulness to trust in God’s plan though it all just seemed so crazy and frustrating to me. It was perfect timing that the women’s group at my church went through Nancy Guthrie’s “The Lamb of God” book study. It was not a coincidence that every week, our devotional would mirror exactly what I was spiritually going through while I took each new step toward surgery. (I would HIGHLY recommend this Bible study and will leave a link below.)

When I read in our study about the Israelites being led to the Red Sea only to have the Egyptian army close on their heals (Exodus 14:1-14), I was finding all of my attempts at fixing my circumstances squashed while God led me to the Red Sea of finding the correct surgeon. When I read that the Red Sea had been parted for His people to walk on dry land (Exodus 14:15-22), I was able to make an appointment within one week of my calling the office of a highly recommended surgeon who had the very specific experience in the exact surgery I needed. When God reminded the Israelites that He purposefully let them hunger in order to test them and then provide manna (Deuteronomy 8:2-3), I was given approval two days before my scheduled surgery that insurance would cover the procedure. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point! I was encouraged to learn from the scriptures and set my trust in the Lord for every single detail of my journey. I could’ve let the unknowns pile up and steal my joy, but because I was taking all of my requests to the Lord in prayer, I was able to focus on each day and find the peace of Christ that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:5-6).

So, why am I sharing my medical history with you? It’s my way of testifying to God’s faithfulness to me throughout my whole life. I was born with a physical deformity that has forced me to rely on Him and I know that it has been the best thing for me because it has drawn me closer to the Savior. He has sustained me and healed me every single time I underwent a surgery, and really, every single time I went through a trial. He has always been there to strengthen my weak knees (Isaiah 35:3), He’s directed my every footstep (Proverbs 16:9), He’s brought me through the fire and through the flood (Isaiah 43:2), and proved to me time and time again that He is for me (Romans 8:31). These are all the promises that the Lord has given to His children. He has done that for me; He is doing that for you.

I pray that we all would trust in you, Lord, and that our minds would be stayed on you! And because of doing so, you would keep our hearts and minds in perfect peace. Not because it’s a formula, but because we love you! We put our hope in you and consider all trials to be momentary afflictions compared to knowing you and experiencing your wondrous grace in our lives. Amen!

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