When I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel…..
By Sim Ai Hiong
Have you ever been sick or unwell for a period of time? Have you ever asked God “ Lord, how long will it be before I can feel well again?” Well, I can identify; and I have asked God that question too.
How it began
On 13th September 2014, I collapsed in the public toilet at the shopping mall. Since then I have been quite immobile. I have up and down days. On up days I can now walk a short distance with a walking stick but I need the wheelchair for longer distances. I have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis with symptoms of numbness and pain in both legs and feet. The doctor says it’s a common problem that comes with age.
The first few months after the fall was very trying. I was on my back most of the time and in great pain. Pain killers and heat pads gave some relief but not for long. The days seemed so long as I was immobile and couldn’t do much. Each day I cried to God for mercy. He gave me strength sufficient for each new day. During one of those days, I turned on the radio which was something I seldom do. Vision Australia came on, and Dr. Charles Stanley was preaching. He asked, “Are you going through some dark moments in your life? Are you asking God, “How long is this darkness going to last?” Wow, this was just what I needed to hear! I lay down and listened intently and God ministered to me through Dr. Stanley’s teaching. Vision Australia comes on 24/7 and you get to enjoy beautiful hymns, gospel songs, prayers, testimonies, and Bible Teachings from great Bible Teachers and evangelists. So for that period of time when I was on my back for long periods, God ministered His love and peace to me through the radio broadcasts. I started to feel better, and I was learning to rest in God.
Yes, I have asked God how long it would be before I could once again walk and run and drive. I miss the aerobics classes, line dancing, Christian dancing, and other activities. I miss driving and going out with friends.
God answered my question of how long will this darkness last, “Only as long as I need to accomplish My purposes in your life.” I learnt that whatever I was going through, God knows, and there must be a reason why He allowed the fall to happen. I had to learn to trust God and His Word during this period of darkness. His Word assured me that He knows how much I can handle, and His timing is perfect. He promised, “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Ps.30:5. Again He assured me, “to everything there is a season….” Ecc.3:1 So this season of darkness WILL pass! And God promised that He will not only give me grace to cope but He will go through the dark tunnels with me and bring me out victorious! I need to learn to wait and not try to hurry God. Healing and restoration WILL come – in God’s perfect time. In the meantime I am learning to trust God more and not lean on my own understanding.
Does God always heal?
I learnt that God does heal and He chooses to heal in different ways. Sometimes He heals instantly like the lame, the blind and other cases in the New Testament. Other times He heals in stages (this seems to be my case). Sometimes He chose not to heal like the case of the apostle Paul. He was tormented by ‘a thorn in the flesh’. Three times he pleaded with God to take it away from him but God didn’t. Instead God promised him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:7-9. God certainly knows what we are made of. After all He created us. And He knows how much we can handle. His assurance is“no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Cor10:13
I am also learning during this period of recuperation to look beyond the disappointment or pain. Very often I can only see the pain, and when that happens, I get into a frenzy and cannot get out of that situation. I realized that I can choose to react to the situation or I can learn to respond. Most of the time I react. I start to point fingers and blame others. Sometimes I even blame God. That leads to resentment and unforgiveness. Or I become angry, and when that anger is not dealt with, I can become bitter. I’ve learnt that a good solution to recovery is to learn to respond. When I am in distress, instead of asking God ‘why do you allow this to happen to me?’ (that’s pointing finger at God!) I respond in humility and ask, “God, what do you want me to learn from this situation?” Once I am able to respond this way, I stop struggling and I can rest in God and experience peace. In acceptance I find rest and peace, then healing begins. So when I find myself in a dark tunnel, whether it be some disappointment, or illness or distress of some kind, I now look beyond the dark tunnel – in actual fact God is right there IN the tunnel with me . So I need not fear for He is with me and will lead me through the darkness until I see the light. I remember His comforting words ” fear not for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour….” Isa..43:1-3
Learning to cope with immobility is not an easy thing, especially for someone as active as I am! I like to stay busy. There is always so much to do, and there is that sense of achievement when I am able to do something – for myself, my family or friends. Most of us probably take our two legs for granted. I did. I realised it only after the fall, when I couldn’t walk or even stand for more than 5 minutes. It took me awhile before I came to terms with this dilemma. I prayed and asked God to teach me how to handle this problem. God did. He taught me to learn to rejoice and be thankful for small achievements. One day I braved the winter cold and spent a few minutes in the garden. My husband was there doing some gardening. I decided to lend a helping hand. With the walking stick in one hand and the rake in the other, I managed to rake some leaves – what an achievement! It may seem such a small task, but God taught me to be happy and thankful for that small achievement.
I am very thankful to God for giving me a wonderful and caring husband. He has been my carer these past 14 months. He’s been doing the cleaning, groceries, cooking, gardening, and all the other chores around the house. I started to find ways to help him with the chores. Little by little, as the days go by, I find myself doing more things, and gaining confidence in myself again. I learnt to thank and praise God for every small achievement. Now I can stand longer and can manage to prepare a simple meal, do the dishes, and hang out the washing on the line. Now that’s BIG achievements! Day by day I am gaining strength in my legs as I work on my exercises. I am sleeping better now, and I am definitely learning to lean on Jesus. Thank You Lord!
Ai Hiong was a teacher and Christian Ministry Staff for 22 years in Malaysia and Singapore. She and her husband continue to serve in the Kingsway Methodist Church in Perth.