Thursday, June 18, 2015

Helping my unbelief

Yesterday was full of sweet gifts. Tea in the backyard while reading the story of the widow's offering in Luke 21. Then lunch on a bench in the sunshine. Turkey, quinoa, and spinach tossed in peach vinaigrette and olive oil, with homegrown blueberries for dessert. I'm grateful for these quieter moments. By evening, however, my symptoms grew loud and ornery, and I felt too sick to blow-dry my wet hair. My mom offered to dry it for me, and although her touch was soothing, I felt disappointed by my body's continued limitations. When I climbed in bed, I was trudging through thick layers of muddy discouragement.

A few weeks ago I read Mark 9 in which a father brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus for healing. The disciples try healing him first. No luck. "This kind needs prayer," Jesus admonishes them. I'd always thought Jesus was classifying demons in this story, as if some exorcisms need prayer while others don't. But one of my pastors said Jesus was making a point about all exorcisms: they all require the power God; without his involvement, the demons ain't going nowhere.

The disciples were relying on their own power to heal the sick boy; that's why Jesus admonished them: "How long will I put up with you, you faithless generation?" The boy's father isn't exactly demonstrating hall-of-fame faith, either. "If you can help me, please do," he says to Jesus. "If?" Jesus asks. "All things are possible for one who believes!"

"I believe," the boys father cries. "Help my unbelief!"

I've prayed this prayer a number of times over the years. When I do, I typically expect Jesus will answer by pulling out his scalpel and cutting the unbelief out of my heart in an act of merciful yet painful surgery. But there are no scalpels in this story. Instead, Jesus turns and heals the boy. A gracious act to buoy the man's faith.

I like Jesus's answer to this man's prayer, so a few weeks ago, I started echoing the prayer more persistently: "Lord, help my unbelief on this long journey of sickness." I wait expectantly, hoping for a miracle. And then, days after I start asking God to help my unbelief, the doctor I've been waiting months to see cancels my appointment. I spend hours researching and calling other doctors but can't find a reputed doctor who will see me before the end of July, just weeks before summer's end.

So much for an imminent miracle.

Last night I knelt at my bed before going to sleep. "God," I prayed, "I really need you to help me trust you. I’m having trouble believing you’re attentive to, involved in, and care about this journey of sickness. Please help my unbelief by teaching me your tender care for me." 

This morning I woke up to a text from a good friend. She'd sent it last night, 45 minutes after I prayed and climbed in bed:

Thinking of you so much tonight. My bible study of young adults are all praying for you. Jeff, our bible study leader, prayed for you powerfully this evening. He's so kind. About 6'4", deep voice, gray haired man. About 65. Thought you might appreciate the visual :) Powerful prayer :) 

The text was from my friend, but it felt like it was from God, as if he was saying, "See, I care. While you were on your knees praying last night, I was moving in my people to come before God's throne on your behalf. You'll know my tender care through my people."

Seconds after reading the text, the doorbell rang. I walked upstairs and found a large vase of summer flowers on the step, waiting just for me.

Later, I discovered my former piano teacher left them. She had a recital for her students last night and these flowers were part of the decor. "Who shall I give them to?" she wondered as she drifted off to sleep last night. This morning, while she was walking with a friend who also struggles with chronic illness, my name came up. Just then, my piano teacher heard the Holy Spirit say, "Sarah!! Take the flowers to Sarah!" So she did. 

"See, I care; you'll know my tender care through my people." 

Gooood morning, Sunshine!

In his book about the dignity of work, Every Good Endeavor, Timothy Keller discusses the different ways God answers the petitions of the Psalmist for food, shelter and clothing. God uses farmers to provide food, tailors to provide clothing, and builders to provide shelter. He provides for us through other people. This morning I've been taking stock of all the ways God has cared for me through his people this month. The list is long. 

1. The friend who also sees Dr. N. and, upon learning about my canceled appointment, called him to see if she could give me her appointment. (She couldn't, but the gesture was lovely).

2. The other friend who sees Dr. N., whose mom, upon learning about my canceled appointment, called Dr. N.'s office to say, "You NEED to see Sarah Jackson!"

3. The friend who offered to drive an hour out from L.A. to ensure I got safely on the airplane two weeks ago when I flew to Washington. 

4. The friend who offered to drive 1 1/2 hours each way to help me pack. 

5. The friend who offered to bring her baby over to keep me company while I was in bed.

6. The friend who called her doctor to see if she treated lyme, and then emailed me her doctor's contact information. 

7. The myriad friends and strangers who have emailed me with doctor's names, articles with helpful information, and words of encouragement. 

8. My parents and siblings, who ensure I'm not alone on this journey. 

9. The friend who's battled lyme for ten years and has talked me through a number of hard spots over the telephone. 

10. The friend who's battled lyme for four years and called me before my flight to give me suggestions for surviving in one piece. 

11. The new friend who took me to the airport early Sunday morning. 

12. The scores of you who have upheld me in prayer.

I'm currently reading Eric Metaxas' book Miracles. Regularly, he reminds me that the whole point of miracles is for Jesus to prove his deity and message his love to us. I'm still waiting for the healing miracle, but in the meantime, he's using you all to message his love to me. Thank you. The healing miracle may not happen this side of heaven, but your compassion sure does make life on earth rich and meaningful. I'm grateful for your participation in God's answers to my prayers for help. 

Praying for you all today. Do let me know how I can pray.

Cheering for ya, Skillets,


© by scj


  1. I'm so sorry for your health struggles. I am always so encouraged by how you seek the Lord and see his goodness in your circumstances. I found it interesting that you got sick after eating quinoa. I used to consume quinoa quite regularly. I mean, after all, it was a super food, the perfect protein--not a grain, a seed, right?!? However, after a period of time, I started to notice that I never felt well after eating quinoa. Now, please forgive me if you think I am being one of "those people" who know just why you got sick. Not at all, I am simply sharing my experience, and some things I discovered about quinoa. I thought you might find this post interesting, and perhaps it might explain why you had an immune system response. Blessings, Sharon

    1. Sharon, thank you for taking time to give me this information. I hadn't noticed a trend of feeling yuckier after eating quinoa but I'll start paying special attention. Yesterday was a steady progression of sickness that started before the quinoa, but even if quinoa didn't contribute to yesterday's progression, it could be contributing to overall inflammation which would be no bueno. It's good for me to get as much information as I can so I appreciate this!

      Do you mind sharing your symptoms after eating it?



  2. Sarah, thank you for sharing with us your challenges. Rachel J's Bible study is praying for you and specifically that you get a solid diagnosis. You poignantly make clear that while we don't or can't see around too many corners, God does and he gives us just enough for that day/moment. And then he continues to provide for the next days and moments. You are in our prayers down here in Chico; blessings upon you.

    Jeff (the grey haired Bible study leader)

    1. Jeff! I am so thankful for your prayers. This week I've been thinking of God's care for the Israelites in the wilderness as they wandered toward the Promised Land. He had them gather manna to last them one day, no more. He'd take care of the needs the next day. I'm grateful for the ways he gives me just enough for the day.

      Thanks, Jeff.


  3. Sarah,
    After eating quinoa, I found that I had a full feeling for a long while afterwards. Initially, I thought it could be some of the other foods I was eating along with it, but after several occurrences, I began to realize the connection. Also, some grains cause muscle aches for me--particularly my calves and shoulder, and quinoa definitely did that. In addition, headache and brain fog. I have other food sensitivities, so it takes some detective work, and ruling out other things, to finally figure these tricky food issues out. Do you make and consume bone broth? I find that to be so soothing when nothing else is. Blessings, Sharon

    1. Sharon, ah, it really does sound like it's causing inflammation. Thanks for sharing. So glad you figured that out. I've been reading a few books about curing disease with diet and they suggest slowly weaning off quinoa. I'm trying to do that, although my food allergies have so limited my diet, I'm beginning to wonder what I'll eat! Having to get pretty creative.

      I just read about bone broth. It's supposed to help repair the gut. I'm going to try it. Thanks for the recommendation.



    2. Info on bone broth~ Also, if you're looking into gut healing, you could also research L-Glutamine. Here's a little info on it, there is lots more if you Google it, I juts happen to like Wellness Mama. :) I can only imagine how challenging it must be to find things to eat with all of your food sensitivities. Also, the anxiety you must feel at times at not being able to trust your body and how it will react to what you put in it.

    3. case you didn't figure it out, it was Sharon who posted that last reply. :) I forgot to sign off.

    4. Thank you, Sharon! A friend of mine who's battled lyme for ten years has had great success with L-Glutamine. I'm looking into taking it myself and will check out the link you've sent. Oh goodness, yes, the anxiety is a tough one. I'm learning to just accept that part of this process is experimenting with bad results. A hard pill to swallow, but it's helping with the food anxiety a bit, anyway.

      Thank you, Sharon!