Strength for today
My Allograft 2018/19 – 34. 7 December 2019
By Andy Burrows, 7 December 2019
Just after I last came home from a stay in hospital, almost two months ago, I was feeling emotionally fragile. I was wobbly, shaky, fuzzy-headed, and the fact that there seemed to be no end to it was getting to me. As I’ve said before, I think much of the fragility was hormonal imbalance, rather than psychological. But it was still something to cope with.
I remember, one evening around that time, watching a really nice TV movie, one that no one will have heard of. I was fighting back tears at the end. Happy endings get to me.
And then I listened to a couple of songs that got to me as well! I wasn’t doing too well.
And the thought crossed my mind that I was tired of this journey. This fourth journey has gone on more than a year now – more than 16 months and still counting. It has pushed me past my expectations, and keeps pushing. It asks a lot of me, and keeps asking. It still governs my every day, every week, to a large extent, in different ways.
The home straight is not even close to being in sight. (If there even is a “home” straight, in the sense of getting back to the same place I started… Will it ever be the same?… A different way of thinking is going to be required, but I’ll write about that another time!)
And sure, having the “one step at a time” mindset does reduce the load. It reduces what I have to deal with each day to just what I have on my plate that day, without worrying about the future or the past.
But that evening, I started to lapse into thinking how my battery felt drained after such a long struggle, especially physically. And physical fatigue, coupled with drug side effects and potentially illness as well, easily leads to emotional and mental fatigue and instability. I know that.
And the thing is, even though I feel the weight of those negative thoughts pulling me down, I know it’s the wrong way to look at it. You don’t buy a new iPhone and expect the battery charge to last the entire two-year contract! You charge it up every day. “One day at a time! One step at a time!”
But where does the strength, that charge, come from to deal with each day, especially the difficult days, physically and emotionally?
Well, I could repeat the things I’ve said before.
Physically you put yourself in the hands of the people who care for you (family, doctors, nurses).
Emotionally and mentally you acknowledge the good around you, you smile as much as you can.
You tell yourself that happiness (or at least contentment) is a decision.
You remind yourself that, however long this journey feels, you can keep moving forward, however weakly or slowly, and therefore you will get past your current hardship eventually.
You recognise the good that is coming from this situation, things that wouldn’t have been possible if you hadn’t been facing the hardship.
All those things are true. They bear repeating regularly because the truth gives strength.
But ultimately the only reason these things are true is because of God’s love.
What came to my mind as I drifted off to sleep that night with a fuzzy head was a line from one of my favourite hymns (Great is Thy Faithfulness, Thomas Chisholm):
“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…”
The hymn itself, and particularly the chorus, is based on a passage in the Bible (Lamentations 3:22-23) that says: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
The thing that encourages me is that God’s mercies are “new every morning”.
Every morning. Not just some mornings.
And they’re new mercies for the new day.
I don’t have to worry about the length of the journey, or whether I’ll run out of strength tomorrow or next week or next month. It doesn’t matter how long the journey is. God’s mercies will be new every morning. And they’ll be mercies to fit the trials of the day.
John Piper did a really good talk on this, which you can find at https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/todays-mercies-for-todays-troubles.
One quote from that: “We want the feeling of adequacy today for what we will have to go through tomorrow. But God says, Trust me. I will give it to you when you need it.”
So, I need to stop dwelling on how long the journey is, the magnitude of the challenge overall.
The strength for each day will be given, at the time I need it, by my Heavenly Father, who loves me, no matter whether those future days are hard or easy. And so, I will rest in the strength He gives me today, because today is what the strength was given for.
And I’ll trust that He’ll enable me to keep taking one step at a time.
And in the knowledge of His Fatherly love and Sovereign power I will keep smiling.