2 Corinthians 5:1-10  “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.   So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. “

Growing up, I hardly ever missed a day of school. I remember very occasional days of staying home with a stomach bug, but that never lasted more than about a day or so. A couple of years in school I even had perfect attendance. Being sick was rarely an issue for me.

When I got to college, things began to change a bit. I was going through intense workouts and training as a cross-country and track athlete, so my body was adjusting. Migraines, muscular pains near my hips, and minor foot injuries occurred, but I always figured they were a result of the high impact of running and training for track. Running was one of my favorite things, so it ended up being a band-aid for many of the pains that popped up here and there.

During an incredible missions trip to Costa Rica after my junior year of college, God opened my eyes to so many things. After nearly losing my life on a white-water rafting trip, I realized how fragile and quickly the life in our bodies could be taken away. It really is a miracle that I am alive after that incident. The words, “Be still and know that I am God” will always calm me like they did while I was under the raft in the water.

At the end of the trip, Cathy, our missionary friend who cooked for us, encouraged me. “Christine,” she said, “You’ve been blessed by much success and blessing in your life. You have a loving family. You’ve gone through school with flying colors, and you do well in athletics. You have an active mind and you’re already using your psychology background to benefit other people in your life.” She was such an encouraging lady. She seemed like a mom, always offering the positive. “But be careful, Christine,” she said. “Please don’t begin to rely on psychology and all of your success and blessing as a means to live your life. Those things could be taken at any moment from you and they are also things that Satan can use to distance you from your relationship with the Lord.” I remember those words like she spoke them yesterday, and that was nearly eight years ago. At the time, I wasn’t quite sure how to take in all that she was suggesting. They definitely seemed like good words of advice. She followed this up with a challenge for me to give up everything to God. “Don’t give just the easy things, Christine. Give everything. He wants you to, no matter what the cost. I know you have a strong relationship with Jesus, but have you given him absolutely every area of your life?” After these words, she prayed for me. Those prayers were her last few words to me in Costa Rica before giving me a big hug and telling me goodbye. Those words were a strong challenge. They scared me a bit though. It’s like they were direct words from God. Had I really not trusted him with EVERY area of my life?

On the way back to the United States, I spent much time in prayer. I decided to do what Cathy had told me. I told God that I would give him everything, even though I wasn’t quite sure what that meant at the time. I prayed these exact words, “Dear God, please change my life and do whatever it takes.” I remember feeling like I had butterflies in my stomach as I prayed these words, but also felt a great sense of peace. I knew that no matter what, God would take care of me, but I also knew that right now, my life was very “easy.” Would things change when I got back to the U.S?

Yes. Almost immediately when I returned, I found that things had already started to change. I began experiencing my first “loss” and heartache. That began a series of emotional rollercoasters that lasted a couple years of my life. I didn’t understand what was going on or why things were happening in my life. Why were family members getting sick and nearing death? Why did the young man I thought I might marry decide to leave me hanging and try to keep coming back when he felt like it? Why did I act so stupid in the process? Why was I feeling depressed and anxious at times? It was like I lost control of my heart and guarding it. During these times, I had no recollection of the prayers I had prayed to God so recently. I had told him I would give him everything and that he could do whatever He wanted with my life—no matter the cost. Then there I was, trying to control, control, control. It wasn’t working. Looking back, my eyes seemed to have been closed during that time. When I experienced death of family members for the first time, I thought I could handle it. As I look back, I see how much confidence I had in myself and in my life circumstances. Bad things happened to other people, not me. Those couple of years were wakeup calls for me. Losing my Grandpa in 2011 was the hardest emotionally. That next year was a negative emotional rollercoaster for my mind and my heart. Wasn’t I trusting God with everything yet? It sure didn’t seem like this is how I should be feeling as a result.

During this time, I was not only battling some minor depression and dealing with loss, but my body began to start hurting. I was used to those pains that popped up here and there during college—the migraines, hip pains, foot aches, etc, but these weren’t the pains I was experiencing. My stomach always hurt. I couldn’t eat. As a small child, I had been diagnosed with IBS, so I was very used to stomach aches. I had to be careful not to eat too much dairy, too much bread, etc. It never really seemed that bad. It didn’t keep me from doing normal, fun things.

It got to the point where I was very thankful to be living at home. I couldn’t do much of anything for about a year because my health was so bad. Mom and Dad made numerous trips with me to different doctors, specialists, and several ER visits. It got old hearing, “We can’t find anything wrong.” Clearly, this wasn’t normal. Something was wrong with me, and the fact that these professionals didn’t know made me upset. It didn’t help with my emotional state at the time. Eventually, they did find some answers, but not ones that I was happy with…

The doctors found kidney stones one early morning when I was rushed to the ER. Not just one. I had sixteen removed from my right kidney, and more were forming. This was one of those hereditary things in my family. Several months later, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, also a hereditary disorder (much worse in my mind). A year later, after more tests, the doctors found that a part of my colon was twisted, which interferes with my digestion. All of these things were on the right side of my body and none of these can be “cured”. What in the world was going on with my “oh so healthy” body?

It took awhile for me to get over the, “Why’s” of these things. I felt awful so many days. It was hard for me to be in a good mood many days because of not feeling well. One morning, I was listening to a sermon at church. The speaker asked, “How do you expect to fully trust God if life is easy? Can you really trust unless you realize that He is all that you need and nothing else?” He talked about God using “bad” things in our life so that we are drawn closer to Him.

At that point, I had my first real flashback. My mind went back to Costa Rica. I saw those words: “Be still and know that I am God” under the water. I heard the words from Cathy and remembered her challenge. My prayer. How could I have forgotten? Suddenly I realized how selfish I had become. Life had become about me and how I was feeling, and not about serving others or serving the Lord. It was like I was falling away from Jesus because of my health. First emotional, and now physical. Had it really taken almost three years for me to realize it? That was scary.

My focus had been on my earthly body for a long time. As I thought about it, it had been since early high school. I was a good runner in high school. I trained how I should have; I ate the right foods (most of the time), and was extremely health conscious. That continued into college. Sadly, running had become a god, as well as my physical health. What a tough realization. Looking back, I didn’t realize it, but it had taken the place of God in my life. It had become my number one priority. Could it be that God was allowing circumstances in my life that were so uncomfortable and physically painful, that I had no choice but to fully rely on Him? It seemed to make more sense than anything else had recently. He sure knows what He’s doing.

I decided to make a choice. From now on, my focus was not going to be on myself. It wasn’t going to be an easy decision, but I gradually shifted my focus from the earthly to the heavenly. That began another great series of changes in my life. God began putting little seeds of hope in my life. He helped me see that it didn’t matter how bad I was feeling that day, or even if I could walk. What mattered was that I put my entire trust in Him, especially on those hard days. None of my conditions are as bad as they could be. They do affect me, but they aren’t ending my life anytime soon. Even if they were, my hope isn’t in my physical body. It is in Jesus. “Heaven and Earth will pass away but the Word of the Lord stands forever.”

“Be still and know that I am God”—not just when it’s easy, and not just in times when you feel like you’re drowning in life (literally or figuratively). Be still all the time. God is God, and our eternal life is what we should be joyfully awaiting. All of our weaknesses, our sicknesses, and our deficiencies here on earth are God’s way of growing us stronger and closer to Him while we await our eternity with Him.