This may come as a shock to you, but I’m stubborn, a bit hard-headed, and when pushed, I can be downright obstinate. Call it the Irish in me, but it’s a family trait, as evidenced by my screaming nine-month-old nephew when he doesn’t get his way. It’s one of those traits my family knows we have, and we daily ask God to help us not let our stubbornness get in the way of being the person God created each of us to be. To be honest, I never thought having the tendency to be stubborn was a good thing, that is until I was diagnosed with lupus.
I’ll never forget the moment my doctor told me I had an autoimmune disease and what that meant for me. At first, I was in denial, but as I began to process what I had been told, I went from grieving the loss of my health to turning downright stubborn. I pictured myself acting like a character in one of my favorite movies, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken, who wraps her feet and hands so tightly around the legs of the chair she’s sitting in, her teacher can’t throw her out of the classroom. I refused to believe what my doctor was telling me. Now don’t get me wrong. I understood I had an incurable disease and a severe case at that, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t live. My doctor made it sound like I was doomed to live the remainder of my life wishing I would hurry up and die. Yet my stubbornness awakened a sleeping giant within me, and I determined that no person, and certainly no disease, would take away my right to enjoy life. I may not have been given the life I wanted, but I could decide how I was going to use the time God gave me, whether it was ten years or one hundred.
It took awhile for me to reach that conclusion, but I’m so thankful I did. For a time after the doctor informed me I had lupus, everything in my life seemed to stand still. Everyone I knew continued to live as if nothing happened, but for me, life came to a screeching halt. I still went to school, spent time with family and friends, and said and did the things that were normal, but inside, I was frozen in time. Years later, while taking graduate courses on how to counsel people, I learned this is a normal response. We’ve all heard of the fight or flight response, which is the body’s automatic response to stress. Either a person chooses to stay and respond to the situation (fight), or he chooses to run from the problem (flight). But there’s a third response most people don’t know about – the freeze response. This is actually very common among victims of abuse. When an emergency situation occurs, rather than address the issue or flee from it, the person does nothing. The problem with the freeze response is that unlike the fight or flight response, the body has a hard time regulating itself and returning to normal once the emergency passes. It remains in a heightened state of stress and continues to act as if nothing has changed.
So how do we do that? How do we move on with our lives when our circumstances haven’t changed? How do we move past the unbearable grief of losing a child? How do we enjoy life when we have no money to spend? How do we keep going when the doctor says there is no hope? In a word – God.
I’m not talking about the picture-perfect God we learned about when we were kids in Sunday School, the One who sat in Heaven viewing our lives from afar. I’m talking about Jesus, the One who came to this earth to walk among us, comfort us in our weakness, and pull us out of our despair. He gave us promises to cling to and apply to our lives, but few of us ever do. We see His promises as something that applies to everyone but us. And so we sit, frozen by our problems and fears, and we never truly understand what it means to thrive. We make it through each day and wonder if it’s even possible to have the abundant life God promised.
Over the next several weeks, we are going to take a look at what it means to have an abundant life and learn some practical ways we can break out of survival mode and begin to thrive. God has great things planned for your life. It’s time to start living!
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” ~ John 10:10
© July 10, 2014