Facing Health Challenges on the Mission

Friday, December 26, 2014

"I got this," I remember thinking to myself.

I'd been serving for about 4 months and was training a new missionary for the second time. I knew the ropes, I knew the area, I knew the people, I knew the work, and I thought I knew how the rest of my mission would go: I'd push hard, day in and day out, and in doing so I'd find immense success. I'd hit the ground running, and never look back.  
I wouldn't let anything stop me.

But God has a way of humbling us......especially on the mission.

Since the very beginning of my time serving in Chicago, I'd had episodes of blacking out. At first, I'd lose consciousness for only a few seconds and then moments later, I'd be back in business, on my feet and ready to go, as if nothing happened. However, as the months went on, the episodes became more frequent. They were longer in duration, I'd come around completely exhausted, and more symptoms and side effects began to set in quickly.

I've gone to more doctor's appointments and tests in 15 months than I have in 15 years. One after the other, they've ordered tests, offered opinions, and recommended me to yet more doctors. On top of the stressors of mission life, the added weight of medical challenges and physical difficulties pushed me to my limit.

I remember collapsing in the dressing room of the hospital one time, right before a test, and just sobbing. I kept asking Him, "Why me?? Why me?? I'm just trying to be the best missionary I can be.......why me?? Why do I have to go through this? Why aren't you allowing me to be well, when all I want is to be strong and successful??"

No tests and no doctors had any answers for me and I was frustrated. I was tired of feeling weak. I was tired of feeling stunted in my ability to work my hardest. I was tired of feeling like a failure. And I was tired of asking, "Why?"

It wasn't until I ended up in the ER for the third time, crying and agonizing, that I finally let go and asked, "What?.........What do you want me to learn from this??" Lying there with yet another IV in my arm, wires all over me, and amidst the bustle and clamor of the all sank in. For months, I'd wrestled with counsel from my mission president, parents, ward members, and the spirit to slow down....and let Him make up the difference.

I didn't want to hear that. I knew I needed Him, but I wanted to prove that I could do myself. me a 2 year old:). I'd always felt that I just needed to push through the pain and weakness, and muster up enough true grit to get through it. 

My independence was getting in the way of my dependency on the Lord.

In the days that followed my visit to the ER, I began reflecting on my trials in a new light. I realized that the worse my condition became, the more I found myself in true heart-felt prayer with my Father in heaven. The more weak and frustrated I was, the more diligently I searched the scriptures for answers and peace. The more challenging my day-to-day life was, the more compassion I was able to feel for others in difficult circumstances. The more tears I cried, the more I felt His love surround me. And the more keenly aware I was of my own limitations, the more evident His power to strengthen and heal me became.

I was humble enough to push through the pain. I could grin and bear it. I was willing to go out and work even when I didn't feel like it. And I was humble enough to ask for His help to do what (I thought) I needed to do. BUT what requires more humility from me, I've discovered, is to say, "I can't do this. I have to take care of myself physically, before I can help others spiritually and emotionally. I can't do x, y, and z because I'm not physically well enough to do so."

It is SO hard!!!! I'd rather hold back tears through an entire lesson, shaking and weak because I passed out thirty minutes prior, than to reschedule the appointment.....and all because of my stupid pride. It's evident to me that the Lord knows me oh, so well, because that type of humility demands a lot more from me. I was in the mindset that if I didn't do it--if I didn't go to that appointment, if I didn't teach that lesson, if I didn't show up to that service project--that it wouldn't get done and the Lord would be disappointed. 

But the Lord, through His perfect wisdom and love, has shown me that this isn't about me. He's brought me low, so that I could realize that this isn't my work. If I can't do it because I'm physically weak, THAT is when the power of His atonement is realized, because HE makes up the difference.

What have I learned?? I can't do this alone. I'm not supposed to do this alone. The Lord is trying my faith, patience, and endurance, but it is leading me to new-found strength as I take His hand and rely on Him fully and completely. 

I've put it in His hands. 

He's humbling me (in a way SO tailored to my independent self) by asking me to acknowledge my weakness, let go, and recognize my need for His help every hour of every day. And the atonement is REAL. It is SO real. It strengthens, it sustains, and it makes up for my weakness whether spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental.

One of my new favorite scripture, I came across recently in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities...for when I am weak, then am I strong."

I don't know that I'm to the point yet where I "take pleasure" in my trials, but I HAVE gained a new appreciation for the trials which I face. I am weak. But I am also strong......because of HIM. His grace IS sufficient. He lifts me up, time and time again.....

.......but most importantly.....He brings me low so that I can more fully appreciate and recognize His strength and His love.

"When I am weak, THEN am I strong."

Sis Anna Parker

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