Learning to trust

7 months pregnant

What does it mean to trust in God?

This is my story of my exploration of this issue over the past two years.

 

Before I got pregnant, I was moderately ill with M.E. This meant that I only had enough energy to work 2 hours a day (10 hours per week) and my mobility was limited to 200 metres per day.  I was a wheelchair user and spent my afternoons in bed sleeping.
 

When I got pregnant, I was overjoyed and excited, but also fearful for what this would mean for my illness, because sleep deprivation and physical exertion make M.E. worse. Having a baby meant labour (major physical overexertion) and then months of broken sleep.  Even healthy people struggled with the physical demands of having a baby – how would I cope?
 

One of the difficult decisions we had to make was whether to go through labour or have an elective Caesarean Section.  My concern wasn’t the pain of labour but the exertion required to push a baby out.  How could I spend an hour pushing when I didn’t have the strength to walk to the end of the road? I was trying to balance the risks of surgery with the risks of a major relapse (worsening of symptoms) if I went through labour.
 

We didn’t have a lot of guidance from doctors, because there is so little research done in this area.  They didn’t know what to advise. The first doctor we spoke to refused to consider a C-Section, saying, ‘Labour is not fatiguing – the uterus does all the work for you.’ (I would have liked to have seen her say that to a woman who had just given birth!) In the end we went for a compromise, of sorts: we decided to try for a labour birth, but to have an epidural as soon as possible, and if the labour was too long or if I were getting too tired then they could do an emergency C-Section.
 

When we talked about our fears to other Christians, the overwhelming message we had was ‘trust in God’.  This came in a variety of ways.  Some people just seemed to say it like it was a platitude, ‘trust in God; I’m sure it will be okay – I know someone who got pregnant and their M.E. went into permanent remission.’ (Mine didn’t; after an initial improvement I had a major relapse). Others actually prophesied healing by the end of the year, and although I wanted to be wise and weigh it up, it secretly gave me some hope. (I wasn’t healed).  Others used ‘trust in God’ as a reason to justify their advice that I shouldn’t have a C-Section, and implied that if I did, I would be showing a lack of faith.

 

Then I went to a ministry weekend away where people had pictures and words for me that were the same message: trust in God.  These words I did take more notice of; they had no agenda to push, and it felt like God was telling us that.

 

So even though I knew that most people with M.E. had a relapse 6-12 weeks after giving birth, even though I didn’t understand how pushing my baby could possibly not make me worse, I decided to go through labour. I decided to believe that it might be okay; I decided to trust God, I decided to hope.

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trusting hands

My labour was short (12 hours) and although painful, it was bearable. I had an epidural after 8 hours, which was a bit late, but it did help. But then my fears started to be realised.  I ran out of strength to push after 5 minutes; I went on pushing for 1.5 hours. Eventually I had a forceps delivery. (One can never look at salad servers in quite the same way afterwards.) Shortly after giving birth my temperature and blood pressure dropped and I was barely conscious.

 

I spent a week in hospital after the birth. It was fairly nightmarish.  My heart went into tachycardia every time I sat up, and I was gasping for air. I couldn’t stand up or support myself, I had to be accompanied to the (en suite) toilet. I was in agonising pain, which I later discovered was caused by the bones in my spine being bruised by the birth. I couldn’t sit down. It was an effort to roll over.  I couldn’t pick my baby up, dress him, change his nappy. My iron count was so low I had to have a blood transfusion.

 

To make matters worse, most of the nurses and midwives didn’t understand M.E. or my pain. They seemed to think I was lazy or didn’t want to be with my baby. There were mutterings about social services and needing to make sure I was bonding with my baby and doing things for him before I would be allowed to leave the hospital. It was only when a midwife saw me transform in the space of five minutes from being propped up, eating a sandwich, talking intelligently to lying down, unable to speak or fully comprehend what she was saying that she understood that I really was ill.

 

The nurses in the hospital kept asking,
‘But you can’t lift up your baby? How are you going to look after him?’
I wanted to say to them, ‘I have no idea how I’m going to look after him. I didn’t know this was going to happen. I’m terrified.’
What I actually said was, ‘my husband works from home’, as that’s the answer that seemed to pacify them.

 

It was such a weird time, those first few months after the birth. I loved being a Mum; I felt so blessed to have my baby, and very much in love with him. Like most new parents we had the frightening and exhilarating and incredible time of getting to know our new baby and being new parents. But we were also having to simultaneously get used to my new level of disability.  It was 3 weeks till I was well enough to change a nappy. It was 6 weeks before I was well enough to leave the house for an hour (in a wheelchair). We had to change our bedroom to the one nearest the toilet because I could only manage a few steps and it was too far for me to walk from the other one. I ate my meals upstairs because I couldn’t manage the stairs.  I was almost entirely bedbound.  Jon had to take a month off work, and for a few weeks after that he was taking our boy to his work meetings while I slept.

 
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And where was God in this? How did I process it spiritually? If I’m honest, I felt very, very angry.  I felt in many ways like I’d been tricked; tricked by those Christians who had said it was going to be fine. I felt angry that I had believed them.  Most of all, I felt tricked by God.

 

I went over and over in my head whether I’d made the wrong decision to have declined the C-section.  With all the careful research I’d done, I knew this deterioration in health was a possibility, but it was very much the ‘worst case scenario’.  People had said to me, ‘why do you expect God to give you the worst case scenario? What kind of God do you believe in?’  – and here I was, in my worst case scenario. In fact, it was worse than my worst case scenario.  I thought that I could be bedbound for months but then I would be back to the level of energy I was pre-pregnancy, but over a year on it was looking like I may be long-term or even permanently housebound. I felt like saying to God, ‘You told me to trust you – I trusted you, and you betrayed me.’

 

It took me many months to come to the following realisation:

 

When people were giving me the words, ‘trust in God’, I had heard, ‘trust in God, because your health is not going to be damaged by this.’  God had not promised that my health was not going to be damaged.  He had not even promised that my baby was going to be healthy and okay.  He had just told me to trust in Him.

 

If we trust in God whilst unconsciously putting a condition on it, we are not trusting, we are bargaining. I had not trusted God, I had bargained with Him.  I was angry with God that He had reneged on His side of the bargain; I had trusted, He had not healed.  But God had not offered that to me, and I had no right to assume that that would be the case.

 

Trusting in God does not equate to believing that God is going to give me the life that I want.  That is wishful thinking, not trust.

 

Trusting means looking to him, relying on him and his goodness, even when the situation is not as we hoped or wanted. Trusting means loving him and rejoicing in him, even when we don’t understand what he is doing. Trusting means hanging on when he is silent.  

Trusting is saying, as Job did, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him’ (Job 13:15).  It is saying, with Habakkuk, ‘Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines…yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my saviour.’ (Hab 3:17-18)

 

It is one thing to say you trust God when you have plenty of figs on your tree, when your life is good, when you have plenty and security.  It is another to trust in God when you lose your job, your money, your health, your family or your friends; when you cannot imagine how you are going to cope; when God takes rather than gives.

 

Even though I still don’t really understand, I am learning what it means to trust. I do not rejoice in my illness and disability nor the uncertainty that it brings, but I am learning to trust in God, to rejoice in God my Saviour.  I am walking in the valley of the shadow of death, but I am stretching out my hand in the darkness, hoping that God will take it.

 

Over to you:

  • Have you ever been through a time in your life where God has taken rather than given? How did you process it spiritually?
  • What do you think about the difference between ‘trusting’ and ‘bargaining’?

Photo credit ‘Child in adult hand’: Phanlop88

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54 Responses to Learning to trust

  1. Karen 27th February, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    PS. Left out one very important point: Paul often talks of suffering on behalf of others- for their benefit. I don’t quite know how this works, but I have increasingly been comforted that my suffering will benefit others spiritually, and lead to their growth – in some profoundly mysterious way. (I don’t think that Paul was saying that it was only his suffering that benefitted others – but was saying something universal about Christian suffering. ) And I have seen that my ministry is more fruitful the more I suffer. I don’t understand how it works, or what the process is. All I know is that suffering highlights my weaknesses, and so I understand the power and riches of Christ more…and where He is able to work without us getting in the way, He will produce greater fruit….

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      Thank you – this is another helpful point. My friend Tim made a similar point about Romans 8:28 (see his comment above) which I hadn’t really considered before; it is an interesting suggestion. I am pondering it…!

  2. Karen 27th February, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    How precious to see your process of learning to trust. Remember my last year in the organisation we worked for? Pretty horrific. My friend Mark and I were discussing 2 Cor 4:17. He was busy wasting away from a brain tumour – and died soon after. I was going through all I was going through – you were aware of some of it- and I was going through many of the processes you are going through now. We were looking at the words:’For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison’, and wondering if Paul was off his head!! How could he possibly call affliction ‘light’? Yet, because he was Paul, and we knew how much deep suffering he had gone through, we knew that he knew what he was talking about. And so we had to look at the passage differently. If we experience the weight of suffering, and the long agony of unending pain, then, we came to the conclusion, our Perspective needs to change. We realised that if pain SEEMS heavy now – then the comparison of the glory hereafter is so great, that our pain will be seen as light; and almost as nothing hereafter. So, whatever we were going through, we realised that our vision of it could be one of smallness.

    Secondly, Hudson Taylor’s biography in 2 volumes helped me tremendously. I almost wish they could become prescribed reading for every Christian in our day. He, of course, suffered very deeply, and yet trusted very deeply too. For instance, on hearing of the Boxer Rebellion, and all the missionaries that were killed and hounded out of China – many of whom he had worked alongside very closely – his words were: ‘I cannot read, I cannot think, I cannot even pray; but I can trust.’ I will write more of this later.

    Another book that helped tremendously was the one written by Steve Estes and Joni Eareckson Tada – have lent it out, so can’t remember the title. It is on suffering, and they have some very interesting things to say on the subject. The chapter on Hell and our current experience of it on earth was particularly interesting.

    (I am submitting my thought in bullet points, so forgive the disjointed nature of them. If I wrote properly, I might write a book.)

    I am one who forgets that we live in a sinful, EVIL world. A world in rebellion toward God, and that we are still in that world and therefore MUST experience the evil of that world.

    Further, and I think particularly in the West, we tend to forget that we are involved in spiritual warfare, and that Satan’s deep hatred and rage is directed at us …. not because of ourselves, but because he hates our Lord and Master in us. That MUST bring us under his attack, and we WILL suffer. (That of course does not mean that non-Christians do not suffer the same types of things – but they suffer for different reasons, and, most importantly, THEIR SUFFERING IS IN VAIN, AND HAS NO POINT TO IT. If I suffer, I at least want to know that there is meaning, and value in suffering, not just victimhood. )

    Rom 8:28 is often quoted by people who have no idea what suffering is all about, but those of us who do, understand that verse in a different light. It is about a gritty determination to hold onto the promise that it WILL be for the good. A teeth-clenched trust in the faithfulness and goodness of God. An act of the will to refuse to let circumstances convince me that God is not loving.

    I learn in those times that circumstances – both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are nothing/neutral (in a sense), and that Christ is all. My definition of ‘good ‘ and ‘bad’ needs to change, and I shall see that all things come from the hand of a loving Father. My answer to suffering does not come in an analysis of the problem, or in finding our the reasons for it. Nor does it come in the form of a solution. Instead it comes in the form of a Presence. (I had a lovely quote from some book on suffering demanding a Presence, but can’t find it) My experience of suffering is not so much about how I grow ( though I do), or that I change, but that my experience of Christ grows deeper. Pain is found in the suffering Christ, and when I share in His sufferings…..I experience Him in a new way. A way that initially doesn’t FEEL good – in fact, it feels terrible.

    I may not be expressing myself very well…. perhaps the Puritans understood it well. They often used to talk of the severity and the mercy of God. When we only experience one side, we don’t know Him fully. But when He gives us the PRIVILEGE of sharing the side that doesn’t seem so ‘nice’; the side that we don’t really like, it is THEN that we experience Him More fully; more profoundly. And He grows sweeter and lovelier in the realisation. THEN joy does not depend on circumstances. THEN peace is in our hearts and minds. Oh, don’t misunderstand me – I have not fully begun to live this. Just glimpses now and then. And it remains a mystery to me. But I am learning to say,’ Thank you, Father, ‘ to every violent buffet, ‘because it is from Your loving Hand…and in You there is no darkness.’ Now matter what the CIRCUMSTANCE, I will TRUST that this is good, and perfect and loving.

    Yes, I still cavil at other people’s unfaithfulness and sin, especially when deep evil is directed at me. I still grumble and am angry at people when they wrong me badly, BUT I am learning to trust that God permitted it. It is under His control. The humans almost had nothing to do with it – instead God ordered that I undergo it, and He will work things out for His glory, not my comfort. ( Graciously, He has enabled me to see justice done – not of my making – but where others have sinned against me – He has shown me how He disciplines them. Perhaps He does that so that for future reference, where I don’t SEE justice, I can trust Him for it. I KNOW that it is different with physical illness. And that justice is not as big a part of the equation. But He has allowed me to see the other side just a little, so that I can learn to trust Him more. )

    The last thing I wanted to mention is that I am starting to understand how His resources are mine. Whatever the circumstance, I can face them because EVERY spiritual blessing is mine: I have the courage, the joy, the peace, the ability to see circumstances as nought – because I am in Him, and His resources flow from Him to me. As I said – BEGINNING to realize this.

    I could write so much more, but hope that you will be encouraged, and continue to write……

    • Nick 28th February, 2012 at 11:44 am #

      The book you’re referring to is called, “When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty”
      It is a great book. I love the end of the chapter on ‘The suffering God’. I’m almost tempted to type it out here…

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      Thank you so much for this – there’s so much in here! I think it is good for me to hear the things that you are describing – the presence of God, the hope of heaven. They feel far away from my experience at the moment, but that is all the more reason why it is helpful to be reminded of their external reality. Thanks for the book recommendations, too.

  3. Kate 26th February, 2012 at 9:14 am #

    Thanks for your honesty and openness, Tanya. I found this very moving and wanted to respond. But I’m hesitating for fear of saying something trite.

    Last year when Daniel was temping and we were living very hand-to-mouth, often not knowing if he would have any work the next day, I realised how little I trusted God. My confidence and happiness depended on our circumstances, and not on God. It was a painful realisation, but necessary before God was able to start to teach me to trust him. And through the situation he was faithful – we had everything we needed, often more – and he showed himself to be completely trustworthy.

    The other side of the situation, I know I’m in danger of reverting to relying on myself/my circumstances for my happiness and security. I know I need to learn to trust and delight in God when things are good, as well as when they’re not. To treasure him more than any of his gifts.

    But I mainly just wanted to say that we are weeping with those who weep over the brokenness of this life. And looking forward to our future resurrection bodies, thanks to Jesus.

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Thank you so much for your own experience of trusting in God; I had wondered myself what that was like for you when Daniel didn’t have work guaranteed… It’s good to remember that loving God is not the same as loving his gifts.

      And thank you – oh, thank you! – for weeping. It helps…

  4. Vicky 25th February, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    Hi,

    This was incredibly helpful and thought provoking. I too have been through situations in the last few years which have caused relapses, the most recent in the last couple of weeks and am also working through how to trust when God is silent. It is so true about doctors and nurses not knowing about the illness as well and can make things all the more frustrating.

    I’ll be praying for you and your family.

    Vickyx

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:07 am #

      Thanks so much for your support and prayers. Thinking of you too as you deal with the frustration of medics not understanding… xx

  5. Pam 24th February, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Thanks for sharing that. So helpful.

    I think sometimes what other people say to us is what they want to believe, its a much about them struggling to cope, as us. They can’t understand why we’re not getting better and they’re working that through too. For me, finding healing and hope is In God enabling me to live with what is – not necessarily taking away my physical limitations.

    And I am so with you on Habakkuk.

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:06 am #

      Yes, I think you’re right; often I’m a living challenge to other people’s theology! It’s great that you have got to a place where you are asking God to be able to live with what is – thanks for sharing.

  6. God Loves Women 24th February, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Hi Tanya,

    Thanks so much for this post! I’ve come to reading it a bit late, but here I am! You have been through a massive ordeal!! Thank you so much for sharing it! It must have and still must be so tough!!

    My son Joshua was born three months premature and when he was in hospital I kept praying he would live, as he was very seriously ill. At one point God said to me “I need you to love me the same whether Joshua lives or dies. To know you will praise Me the same whether he lives or dies.” And through much consideration I made the decision not to ask God to heal Joshua again, but to ask for God’s will to be done, whatever that meant and since then, I have tried to always ask God’s will to be done, not desire my own outcomes, but God’s instead. Joshua did survive and is the most beautiful healthy 6 year old you could ever meet!

    The Lord gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord eh?

    Thanks for your post!! 🙂

    • Nick 24th February, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

      Weird … ours is called Joshua too. But is only five 🙂 Chertsey. Amazing place.
      The name, ‘God is my salvation’ always seems a little more poignant having had the start he did.

      • God Loves Women 24th February, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

        Aw! Yes I thought that was interesting when I read your comment before I wrote mine! 🙂 He wasn’t actually called Joshua until he was 11 months old, I changed his name because he had been “strong and very courageous” and the “Lord his God was with him” 🙂

        • Nick 24th February, 2012 at 11:41 pm #

          Every night, I pray with him:
          “Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
          (‘scuse us having a little conversation Tanya!)

    • Tanya 7th March, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      Thanks, GLW for sharing your story too. Your courage and trust in God is a real example to me! It is an amazing thing to be able to pray ‘your will be done’.

      And so, so thankful that Joshua is alive and well and gorgeous!

  7. Anonymous 24th February, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    I read all the comments here and one thing stands out for me. If we trust in God or reject Him completely in our lives we still end up in exactly the same position. Still alone, Still confused, Still suffering and looking for answers. So why trust God? Aren’t we all just holding a hand out into the darkness looking for the light? But for me your next line sums it all up, we can only hope not trust that we find what we are looking for.
    Because where is this just God that is meant to love us, be with us at all times, want nothing but good for us. Where is he when there is nothing but silence and more sorrow year after year after year. Is it really so unrealistic or assuming of God to give us something, anything? Hasn’t he abandoned us? Hasn’t he broken His promise if we go a life time with no response? Why do we let God treat us in ways that we would never tolerate from our fellow human beings? and they are supposed to be the flawed ones.
    God asks us to trust him unconditionally. Is this really possible? Of course not, we are only human after all. Do you trust God because it gives you something rather that having nothing but the darkness? Can you really say that your hope will last forever if you never feel or see God work in your life?
    Just my thoughts and feelings on the matter……

    • Tanya 24th February, 2012 at 11:13 am #

      Wow. Thank you so much for these comments and for sharing from your heart on this. Your comment and questions sound so honest and express such raw pain – I’m feeling it with you as I read it.

      I think you raise an important question – are we trusting, or are we just hoping? Do we have cause to trust, or is it actually a vain hope? Why does God not intervene? Why does he appear to be less humane than humans, when he could do something but doesn’t?

      I think these are big questions, and I have been asking these too. I don’t feel like I have an answer for the bigger, universal questions, but I am beginning to have some answers as far as my personal experience goes, so I will share them with you.

      Do I trust God because it gives you something rahter than having nothing but the darkness?
      A good question. No – I’m not trusting in God just because it’s better to have something rather than nothing. I’m not a fan of wishful thinking. I like to think of myself as intelligent and I don’t want to believe in a ‘useful construct’ – I want an actual relationship, an actual God. If there is no god, then I’d want to be honest about that.

      I think there is a God. For me, the major thing that has helped this year has been other Christians. (It seems only fair to point this out, as my post spends a lot of time moaning about other Christians!) I have experienced a lot of patience and love and practical help through other Christians. Initially I didn’t want to give God any credit for this, ‘it’s all very well all these nice people doing these things – but why don’t YOU do something?” but I do acknowledge that God can and does work through other people.

      What do we do if we go a lifetime without any response from God? I don’t know. I really hope that that won’t be true for you – to have nothing at all from God. For me, even though I don’t understand why God let things happen and get worse in my illness, I can’t say that I’ve never experienced his blessings or goodness. I have an amazing husband and son – they are blessings to me. I have seen God work in my life in the past and prayers answered. I need to remember that just because he has not answered this (major) prayer that that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t answered any.

      One thing I found helpful was praying for others rather than myself. I couldn’t pray for myself, it was too painful, and I didn’t believe that God wanted to help me. But somehow I had faith that he would want to help others, and so I prayed for them. And often I would see answers to those prayers…

      I’m torn – on the one hand I really want to give you answers and reassurances; on the other hand, I don’t want to give anything ‘cheaply’. I want to pray that God gives you a deep sense of his presence and goodness that somehow transcends all the muck and confusion and pain. I think I will pray that, because that is what I would want too.

      Thank you for taking the time to write.

  8. Claire 23rd February, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    thanks Tanya for this blog. I never realised the full extent of the condition of M.E. I have only ever read snippits of information, but having read your blog today it has truly opened my eyes. I am so sorry that you had to go through this severe lack of support and understanding from the hospital staff, clearly there is just not enough known about M.E. even to the professionals! xx

    • Tanya 24th February, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      Thanks so much – I’m realising the importance of ‘M.E. awareness’ and I’m really grateful whenever anyone listens to my story. It means a lot to know that people have better insight into my experience – thank you so much for doing that. xx

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