Fighting for Joy: Attitude

Sorry I’ve left you with some unanswered health questions after the last post about discouragement. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget.

Let me rewind a little…

Shortly after the breaking point in September with the doctor who said no one could help me, I called what seemed like my last resort, Dr. Waldo, a functional medicine doctor in Indianapolis. (*Insert “Where’s Waldo?” reference.) Within a few weeks, I was in Indianapolis with my parents explaining my symptoms to the doctor. Immediately, he started nodding and chuckling, showing me that this would be an easy case for him. I walked out of the office with an unofficial diagnosis and with a more hopeful heart.

Three months and 20+ vials of bloodwork later, on my 23rd birthday, I had my next appointment with the official diagnosis based on the lab results and the biochemical makeup of my body. (It was amazing to listen to him piece it all together. He sounded like a child who just pieced together a 10,000-piece puzzle.) Without giving you the long scientific explanation, in short, I have lead and mercury toxicity, plus high ammonia levels and not enough good bacteria in my stomach to get the toxins out. These are causing my body to not be able to make melatonin or serotonin. This is also not allowing my body to eliminate toxins normally. It’s a vicious cycle of reabsorbing toxins, which makes all these problems worse. Needless to say, my body is “broken.”

A few weeks later (January 3), I started a strict rotating diet (low in sulfur and without preservatives, pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics) and an intense supplement regime. If you’re friends with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen pictures of the foods I’ve been eating or my attempts at cooking unfamiliar foods. Putting together the diet was like a puzzle, but the end result is shown below.

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(In the last few weeks, I’ve switched a few things around.)

The first four days were the hardest. My body was detoxing sugar and caffeine, which made me feel like I had the flu. And I was cranky. That’s probably an understatement. My poor parents had to deal with me and my attitude for those few days, but they showed me a lot of grace and kept reminding me that this is for my good and for healing.

It’s been exactly one month and one day since I started the diet, and it hasn’t been easy. I thought I was doing okay for a while, and then the dreams about food started. I would wake up and not remember what food was in my dream, but it caused a lot of discontentment with the food I’m currently eating. The dreams brought out a critical and frustrated attitude that was worse than any attitude I’ve dealt with before. There was even a point when I was in front of bowls filled with chips, pretzels, and desserts, and all I wanted to do was rebel. Not because I was hungry, but because I felt entitled to eat the food in front of me. By the grace of God, I didn’t give in. It was in that moment that I realized that I had been trying to walk through this in my own strength, not in total dependence to Jesus. In that moment, God exposed my heart idols of food, health, entitlement, and control. My attitude toward God was an attitude of entitlement. I want to eat what I want when I want to eat it. I should have good health because I eat better than a lot of other people. I shouldn’t have to spend hours cooking one meal every day. Yes, entitlement at its finest.

It’s this attitude that I have to fight constantly. The “I want what I want and when I want it” attitude. This attitude is sinful and robs me of joy in what God has given me. And it’s only by His grace and power that I can fight it. Not in my strength, but only in His.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

When we give our lives to Jesus, we belong to Him. We are no longer our own; we have been bought with a price. When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we surrender our rights, our desires, our futures, our plans to Him. But we surrender it to Jesus, the only One worthy of our lives. The only One who can satisfy and give life.

When we surrender, we receive life and life abundantly.

If it’s one thing I’ve noticed in the last few months, it’s that complaining and having a critical attitude or attitude of entitlement really keeps us from experiencing the joy God has for us.

I have life in Jesus, and for that alone, I can be joyful. He has given me so much else that I don’t deserve, but because He loves me, He wants to provide me with good gifts. The doctor He provided is a gift. The food I can eat is a gift. The wonderful group of people surrounding and encouraging me through this; it’s a gift! And this trial is a gift, because the Lord is changing my heart and stripping me of myself so I can be more like Him.

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(This is me after a trip to Whole Foods. So thankful for that store!)

And I’ve noticed that as I thank God for what He has provided, I see more joy.

So, I ask you, wherever God has you, how is your attitude? To what rights are you clinging? Have you surrendered fully to Jesus and the life that He brings?

Here’s my challenge to you: Think of five things for which you can thank God. And in moments when you start to have a critical attitude, choose to thank God instead. Watch what happens!

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Fighting for Joy: Discouragement

In order to give you a little more context into my previous post about fighting for joy, it’s necessary that I show you some of my journey to find healing for my body and how distorted my view of joy really was.

Since I studied abroad in France in the spring of 2010, my health had been on the decline. My body suffered through days of extreme exhaustion, followed by nights of restless sleep. This affected my moods, how I interacted with friends and family, and my relationship with God.

For two years, I saw doctor after doctor (I think I’ve counted 8 doctors), hoping they would give me some answers as to why I was so fatigued or why this girl in her early 20’s felt like an 80-year-old. I was tested over and over again for mono, diabetes, etc. by these doctors. And once my tests came back normal, the majority of the doctors passed me off like there was nothing wrong, and they made me think I was crazy. I just became more and more discouraged, disheartened, and frustrated. The breaking point came this September when a doctor told me, “There’s nothing anyone can do for you. No one treats fatigue.”

So often during the past few years, I prayed to God for healing. I knew God was sovereign over this and in control of my situation, but I really began to doubt His goodness for me. I believed He was good to everyone else, but for some reason, He was just not being good to me. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t find a doctor, or why He was letting this happen to me. I often cried out, “Lord, I know You can heal me by just saying the word. So why aren’t You? What are You doing?”

Through all of this, I was failing in my fight for joy. Failing to cling to the joy that is in being in a relationship with the God of the universe. Failing to see the joy of a Savior who died the death I deserved, so that I could have life. Failing to notice that it was my anger, my attitude, my bitterness, my doubt, my sin that strangled my joy. Failing to see God working in the midst.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (emphasis added)

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“Pure joy? Pure joy?” I thought. “How do You expect me to get joy out of this trial? Because I’m definitely not seeing it that way.”

But, like I said in the last post, God, in His kindness did not leave me there. Soon after the encounter with the discouraging doctor, I had a conversation with my friend (the conversation I mentioned in the last post). When I asked my friend how this could be for my good, she responded by saying, “In His kindness, He doesn’t leave you as you are. The Lord cares too much to leave you unchanged.”

And with that, God made something click in my heart. While I was in this state of anger and doubt, God graciously and gently reminded me that this was and is for my good. And only by His grace did He show me that He truly does work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He is working for the good of my heart.

Friends, God does care about your circumstances. He knows your heart, and He knows every need. But could it be that God cares even more about the state of your heart?

But you say, “Rachel, you have no idea what I’m going through. This is hard stuff. There is no joy in it.”

To that, I respond, He loves you too much to leave you as you are. By no means am I suggesting that fighting for joy is easy. But we do have a perfect model of joy through Jesus.

Hebrews 12:1-3 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

There is a Savior who loves you so much that He willingly died to bring you life. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross for you. Will you receive the life and joy that comes only through Him?

Here’s a sneak peek at more posts in this series, coming soon:

We Can’t Do Anything on Our Own   |   Freedom Through Pain and Trial

Praising Him in All Circumstances  |  Sovereignty vs. Goodness  |  Uncomfortable Grace

Strength in Weakness   |   What We Can Learn From Joseph