When I was asked if I’d like to sing on that Sunday my excitement had somewhat faded. I was enthusiastic and optimistic about it but was going through a minor depressive episode; I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing or what use I was to anyone, let alone God.
I also knew full well that I would not physically be able to handle the task of singing at church, partially because I had to be there 45 minutes early. I had been struggling to stay for the usual 1 hour 30/45minute service, and when you are chronically ill a few simple minutes can mean the difference between being able to walk and not being able to feed yourself.
M.E., a debilitating auto-immune disease I’ve had for all my teen years and adult life so far, is characterized by constant fatigue, of which I am severely affected, as well as pain in joints, muscles, head, stomach etc, which varies in severity from one day to another. It affects everything in some way. Weekends have always been harder for me, partially due to my inability to rest during the day (which is a downright necessity rather than a luxury), so I frequently flare up and find myself unable to attend church or do much of anything.
I would wake up on Sunday mornings regularly with searing pain in my legs and arms, with very little energy or physical strength. Fatigue would spread down all my muscles and make it extremely difficult to walk, so I needed a great deal of assistance.
Having to get up earlier, get ready sooner, be out the door quicker and somehow manage the entire service, then get on with the rest of the day, was extremely daunting and quite frightening but God’s Word encouraged me not to fear and instead to turn to him in prayer, which is what I did. I prayed frequently throughout that week for God’s strength and peace to fill me, confessing my weakness and sheer dependence on him. I admit I delighted in that; all I had to do was ask and believe, and God would provide.
Whenever I felt a twinge of nervousness or uncertainty, I would pray and remind myself that I had prayed. I don’t need to fear when my “burdens” are in the hand of the Almighty. God continued to reassure me through his Holy Spirit and kept me in a place where I would always be reminded that he is faithful.
So the week went on and I continued to pray, trusting in his faithfulness to see me through each day. The depressive episode finally passed, thank the Lord, and I was filled with joy. Saturday came and I woke up hours and hours earlier than I usually do, which made the day very long and exhausting. If this happens, it’s not uncommon for me to have a flare up that lasts longer than a day. Still, I went to bed hopeful that God would move and answer my prayers.
I woke up Sunday morning earlier than anticipated. My legs were throbbing and pain was shooting down them, through my hips and into my feet. My muscles were very fatigued. I could barely move my legs.
A still, quiet voice inside told me to keep going, to get up when I had said I would get up and go to church. I obeyed.
It took me quite a while to get myself out of bed and down the stairs, but I was dressed, ready and eager to get to church and do this thing that I absolutely loved! God had given me a great passion for singing his praises and to be able to serve the church in that way was an immense gift.
So God gave me the strength to get to church; my legs weren’t so good but the rest of me felt amazing! I was fatigued, the M.E. was still there (and is still here), but I was full of joy and peace and excitement about what was to come. Not only that, my concentration was the best it had been for an extremely long time! Not only could I enjoy singing to God, I could focus on him while I was doing it! Praise the Lord!
I felt like I belonged where I was sat, singing back up, doing my bit for the church. It felt right. I’d never experienced that before. I’ve read of people discovering where God has called them to go, what he’s called them to be, but never really knew if such things could be true of me as well, even though God’s Word promises that in Jeremiah 29:11.
I was so filled with joy, supernatural joy that far surpassed my physical circumstances, it was astounding! God is so immensely good! I got through the rest of the service with concentration in-tact – yes, I was fatigued but the entire service felt almost tailored to me and what I was experiencing. The sermon, the music - everything fell into place and brought an extra dose of the Holy Spirit into what I was going through at the time.
It’s amazing how being able to serve the church by doing something you love to do, that comes naturally to you, can bring such joy. God is incredibly good, and he gives each of us passions and talents that he can use for the benefit of others, for the benefit of his Kingdom. These gifts, when used for God, bring us closer to him and help us to depend on him so completely and utterly that we can’t help but boast about our weaknesses!
For a great many reasons yesterday was an extremely special day. I don’t think for a moment my joy in church will hinge on being able to sing at the front, that’s not what it’s about, the joy came from fully entrusting myself to God and seeing just how much he comes through. He didn’t only give me strength in my spirit, he gave me a piece of himself that I’d not seen before, and a piece of himself that I’d not seen for a very long time. Not so say it was never there, I just hadn’t entrusted myself fully to him previously.
I’m not any more or less “special” or “important” because of yesterday, I’m still Rachel, me, affected by M.E., and dearly loved in Christ as much as anyone else... I simply cannot help but thank and praise the Lord, and share this testimony of his faithfulness. I hope it encourages you in some way.
Praise the Lord!