At this time of year it’s only natural to look back on the year that’s gone, and to look forward to the one that’s to come.
Review of my blogging year
From a blog perspective I have been glad to manage to write a bit this year, although nothing like as much as I have in some years. The vast majority of my articles this year fell into one of two series that both will God-willing continue into 2020. Some posts actually appear in both series due to an overlap in the subject matter.
Jesus tells us that the only firm foundation for our lives we build our lives on the foundation of listening to and obeying his teaching. I’m slowly working my way through what he requires of us, and so far the focus has very much been on our relationship with him rather than a set of religious rules. Click here to read
These articles talk from my personal experience of waking through a significant health challenge as a Christian. Some of them quote from Tim Keller’s fantastic book on the subject. Even if your life seems calm and stable, one day trouble will come to you. It is wise to be ready. Click here to read
3. Other subjects
There were very few other articles that weren’t in those series. The following are almost all of them:
Looking back, looking forward.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve had a run of a couple of quite challenging years. If so then you may find yourself being tempted to assume things will be bad moving forward. And maybe they will be. Sometimes it’s a matter of perspective, however.
Take my own situation, for example. If I allow myself to focus on the fact that I’ve not done a single day’s paid work for close to two years now I could (and sometimes do) get quite discouraged. I could pay attention to the fact that my energy levels are still rather low, and reflect on how I still regularly get infections. And so, in summary, if I compare my health today to how it was before I became sick on April 28 2017, I could quickly sink into hopelessness and feel depressed at the thought of yet another year which entails a continuation of my personal struggle. I know for some people the New Year is not the joyous time it ‘should’ be, but instead brings up feelings of disappointment and loss.
I have learnt that if I start to feel that way I shouldn’t just ignore it or try to deny it. But nor should I simply allow myself to wallow in negativity and self pity. I have been slowly learning how to handle but not suppress my emotions. It’s been really important at times when I’ve felt down to find an appropriate outlet for those feelings. But it’s also been crucial to learn to talk to myself, to reason, to remind myself that there is always another perspective. There is always some way that your situation could be much worse, and put another way there is always something to be grateful for.
And for me the other perspective is actually really rather positive for me as I draw to the end of 2019. Things have improved massively for me this year.
I should say at the outset that as a family we have been blessed throughout this journey to have had financial support from an income protection policy. Without this it doesn’t bear thinking about how we’d have coped. Long-term sickness is often associated with financial ruin. It hasn’t been for us. So that has always been something to be incredibly thankful for, and there are specifics of how that provision came about at precisely the time I would need it that are truly remarkable. God truly is sovereign, working all things round for our good.
Really I should be comparing myself not to how I was at my best but how I was at my worst. I would encourage anyone suffering from a long term condition to do the same, especially if they are seeing improvements. Somehow it is easy to miss positive changes if our perspective is faulty. At the beginning of 2019 I could hardly walk even around my house. I was using walking sticks, a shower chair, and had only just stopped using a Zimmer frame (something you don’t expect in your forties). As the year ends, things are so much better on the mobility front that I only use sticks for longer walks, and I am even able to do some things around the house. In short my energy level is actually a LOT higher than it was a year ago. I am grateful for the improvement, even if it has not been as complete or speedy as I would have wanted.
This time last year I had only recently been discharged after spending around a month in hospital. But unlike 2018 and 2017 I have not stayed a single night in hospital in 2019. That’s surely something else to praise God for. Although I’ve had several infections, none have been as severe as those I had in previous years,
But top of the list has to be that the Chemotherapy has worked. I took a concoction of drugs called FCR from October 2018 to March 2019. It has worked much better than the doctors dared to hope (I had some genetic markers that suggested it may not have been effective). There is now so little cancer left in my body that their tests can’t even detect it. The doctors now believe it will most likely be years before they will need to treat me again. I could have been facing a much bleaker outcome of treatment, as many do. I am so grateful to God for the way the treatment has benefited me. Jesus does heal whether miraculously or through modern medicine.
It’s true that I’m still not strong enough to do some things that I’d like to be able to do, and I do still get regular infections (my immune system has been damaged both by the cancer itself and there treatment). But praise God I’m so much better than I was and I am looking forward to continuing to improve and being able to do more and more in 2020.
So as you see it’s all about perspective. We can focus solely on the negatives of our situation or look for the positives to be thankful for and dare to hope that list will grow as much as mine has this past twelve months.
And so of course I still face uncertainly. But so does everyone. And at the end of 2019 and the outset of 2020, I am making a choice. Between looking at the worse or the best. I choose to pay more attention to the good without pretending the hard things are not there.
In short, I choose hope. Will you join me?
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15, ESV)