Today, Anah speaks to us about how she is walking through this time of chronic illness with Jesus.
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: Growing up as a homeschooler in a Christian home, I was brought up being immersed in scripture. From friendships to my school work, God was always at the center of my life. From a young age, I remember there being this tiny seed planted in my heart, a love for the Lord that is still slowly unfolding into something beautiful.
Throughout my childhood, I have been faced with pressure and temptation to conform to the world’s mold, yet seeing how the Lord has blocked my path and has so graciously helped me through compromising situations has shown me that He cares about the protection of my heart, not letting it compromise His purpose over me!
Inspirational scripture passage at the moment: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All of these things are gone forever. And the One sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!'” Revelation 21:4-5
This passage has lifted my spirit as I walk through this season battling chronic illness. Pain is suffocating, and I often feel too weary to keep pushing forward, my vision clouded by hopelessness. When I cry out to God in my anguish, He carries the weight of my hurt and gently whispers to me His promises; that He is taking this brokenness and making everything new. On this side of heaven, pain and affliction are ever present, tangling themselves into my hopes and dreams. With a hopeful heart, I can wait with anticipation for God to wipe away my tears and gently take my hand, healing the turmoil that rages within, easing my anxious heart with His perfect peace, and carrying me into the beautiful land of healing that He promised.
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: In pursuit of comfort. My convictions pull me towards immersing myself in the presence of God, being steadfast in prayer, and singing hallelujah even when I’m tired. He has shown me to set aside the things that I chase and instead, seek comfort and peace in everything that He is. It is so easy to seek Him half heartedly in the midst of affliction, all the while giving the fleeting pleasures of this world my undivided attention, simply hoping that they will provide the peace that I so desperately long for. What I seem to loose sight of, is that everything that my soul craves is found in my Creator. I could run to the ends of the earth chasing serenity, but nothing in this world could supply the comfort that is found in Him.
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? A Glorious Weakness
When did you first encounter God? I have always known God, but the first time that I remember truly encountering Him was on a fall retreat in middle school. My youth pastor spoke about the importance of being awake in my faith and living intentionally for God. The Lord really opening the eyes of my heart, showing me what He truly desires for my life. I remember excitedly coming home with a newfound desire for my faith to blossom into something beautiful, I longed for something more than the ‘normal’ Christian life. The Lord showed me the beauty of intimacy with Him, and how I was created for so much more than a slumbering faith!
How has your relationship with Him changed you? When I truly dedicated my life to devotedly walk after my Father and surrendered my entire being to Him, He radically changed me. He broke down every wall in my heart, ridding me of my sinful habits, uprooting the ugly fruits that I had produced, and cleansing me of who I was before. He is still shaping my heart to become like His, planting seeds of compassion, peace, and patience in me. By letting go of the things that used to be of such importance to me, He created room for His spirit to dwell within me, letting there be space for the things that truly matter in this life. He has given me a heart that beats for Him, feet that walk after Him, hands that desire to serve Him, and lips that will forever speak of His overwhelming goodness.
What has helped you grow spiritually this season? In this season of battling chronic illness, every day is an endless fight. From doctor appointments, to treatments, to the uncertainty of it all. I have not only suffered mentally, but I have lost my ability to walk, which has affected my life in so many ways. By loosing that ability, it has helped me to lean on My Father for strength, and to depend on Him entirely. Instead of fighting, I have seen the beauty of letting go and simply being held by Him.
When I’m trapped in the darkness, lost in my thoughts and second guessing the love of my Father, the Lord shatters the piercing silence that surrounds me, His mighty voice overpowering every lie that whirls about my head. “Fear not, for I am with you. In the shadow of My wings, you are safe. I am fighting for you, please be still. I promise that this is not the end, but the beginning of something beautiful.”
It is so easy to doubt that healing will ever come as I find myself crying out in pain and drowning in my sorrows while lying in bed, my life on pause. Maybe not in this lifetime, but one day, I believe that I will reach the glorious dawn of deliverance. This bleak and lonely valley has challenged my heart and tested my faith in a million mays, but ultimately, it reminds me that there is sweet glory in my weakness. In those moments when I’m falling apart, that is where God’s glorious strength shines through my broken cracks, making me whole as I continue forwards. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 has been my anthem over this season, encouraging me to boast in my weaknesses and struggles, rather than keep them to myself.
Currently reading: I am currently having the joy of reading It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst. Her chapter on dust touched my heart, fueling me with the hope that God will speak life into the brokenness that surrounds me. God’s most precious creation, His children, originated from the dust of the earth. We came from something so worthless, yet God gave this valueless thing meaning and purpose by breathing life into it. “Dust doesn’t have to signify the end. Dust is often what must be present for the new to begin.” (Page 18)
I look around at the dust that surrounds me, all of the shattered and crippled things that I cannot piece back together on my own. It only slips through my fingers, reminding me of what I have lost. I find myself longing to see God’s renewal over these things, for Him to restore it to its former state. I believe that the dust in my life is the beginning of something new, something far more beautiful then I could even begin to hope for. God promises that He will make all things new, even the things that appear to be broken beyond repair.
“God promises that He will make all things new, even the things that appear to be broken beyond repair.”
Top three essentials: My Bible, my camera, and worship music!
How did God speak to you recently? The Lord has been speaking to me about the beauty of communication with Him, how drawing close to Him with my broken prayers and letting Him fight on my behalf changes everything.
This beautiful quote has echoed in my thoughts recently: “I’m learning to let some battles be fought, without swords but with songs, in quiet places behind closed doors; prayer.” Tess Guinery.
There is something so precious about meeting God in the quiet, falling to my knees and surrendering my fable attempts to fight, and letting my heart be still. I often struggle with surrendering my desire for control and independence when I aspire to piece together these broken parts in my own power. Yet it is impossible for me to stumble through this war zone in independence because I was never created to walk through life fighting alone. If I were capable of standing on my own, then I would never need my God to lean on, to be my soul’s anchor. There would never be a greater purpose for the pain that I feel so deeply. Through this season of weakness, I have found that there is something so powerful about letting go and simply sitting before the Father, fighting my battles through prayer.
“If I were capable of standing on my own, then I would never need my God to lean on, to be my soul’s anchor. There would never be a greater purpose for the pain that I feel so deeply.”
Hobby: I love to spend my time knitting, doing Bible study, writing, and taking photographs!
Three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:
1) I feel like we often tend to weave God into our lives when it’s convenient, yet I think true spiritual growth is found in building our entire lives around Him.
2) Abiding in the Lord, relying on Him and remaining close to Him by falling in love with everything that He is. By abiding in our Father, He will slowly shape our hearts, creating us to be more like Him.
3) Earnestly seek the Lord in prayer, communicate the desires of your heart to Him, and pour out the anxieties that consume you. In all relationships, they are built upon communication and vulnerability, and if we want to be spiritually strong, building a solid relationship with the Father will change everything.
“I feel like we often tend to weave God into our lives when it’s convenient, yet I think true spiritual growth is found in building our entire lives around Him.”
Favorite person in scripture? I have such a special place in my heart for Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. I love his heart for God and how he pours out his soul, feeling everything with such passion. I can relate with him in so many ways, and it’s such a beautiful reminder that God uses our sufferings and grief for a larger purpose.
Jeremiah was the only genuine prophet of God in the land, and he didn’t feel qualified in helping the people return to God. He feared he was too young, not good enough to be used by God. Yet with a willing heart, he still obeyed God’s call, clinging to the promise that he was never alone.
Jeremiah possessed such a unique compassion for the people, and it broke his heart entirely to watch them suffer. In a sea of false prophets, he stood alone in preaching truth rather than the lies, longing for the people to listen. He endured constant affliction in his attempts to help them, yet time and time again, they shunned him.
He often found himself second guessing the value of his life, tempted to abandon the special calling that the Lord had placed over him, and continually wrestled with his faith. He struggled to continue hoping in God in the midst of the trauma that surrounded him, all he wanted was to give up. Yet even in his cries of anguish and grief, he turned away from his circumstances and placed his sights upon God, meditating on His promises.
Though his surroundings were bleak and his soul weary, he remembered in the midst of it all, who his God is, all powerful, and merciful. He replaced his despair with unwavering hope in his loving Father.
“My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the Lord.” Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 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 Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks Him.” (Lamentations 3:17-25)
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? I believe that our character reflects God. Through our actions and words, we are either turning people towards Him, or causing them to run away. When people look at me, I want them to see the fruits of God that have been planted within me, and be drawn to His radiant light that shines through my brokenness. God isn’t only for those who appear to have it all together, He is there for every broken person who longs to be healed. I want to mirror His compassion, His kindness, and authentic love for everybody, no matter who they are.
How do you engage with your community? Chronic illness has left me unable to engage with those around me, but the Instagram community has been such a beautiful thing in connecting with other Christian women from across the world. I am part of multiple Bible study groups, and I love being able to learn and grow in the Lord with my sisters in Christ! They are filled with such wisdom, and their love for the Lord is so evident in their words.
Favorite holiday? I absolutely love Thanksgiving, it is so special to come together with family over delicious food and give thanks for everything that the Lord has so graciously given.
A goal you have? A dream that I have always had is to write my own devotional book! I would love to include my photography and pour my heart out onto the pages, really making it something personal to encourage others in the Lord’s unshakable truth and speak life into everyone reading!
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? I would ask the Lord how He could honestly love somebody as broken and unworthy as me. I was created to bow down in reverence and worship Him with my whole being, yet my heart is so occupied with the things of this world, and so wrapped up in my afflictions that I absent mindedly chase everything besides Him. I have given Him a million reasons not to love me, yet it’s still persistent, never changing. His precious Son carried a cross weighed down by my every sin and mistake. Shedding His blood so that I might taste His freedom and dance in His eternal love. Though He has proven Himself faithful, I still tremble in fear, yet He still reaches out His hand, pulling me from the waters of doubt that I’m drowning in. How undeserving am I of such a pure and unconditional love.
Thing you want to raise awareness about: Not every disability or illness is visible. Chronic illnesses are oftentimes hidden underneath the surface, and it damages every part of us. We can muster our brightest smile, yet we’re crippled by pain and sickness on the inside, longing to be understood. No wonder people believe that this is all in our head! Chronic illness is real, and so many wrestle with it alone, without compassion from anybody.
“Chronic illness is real, and so many wrestle with it alone, without compassion from anybody.”
What does your morning routine consist of? On a good day, when my pain is at a minimum and my symptoms aren’t as intense, my morning consists of taking an overwhelming amount of medicine, struggling through floor exercises, trying to stomach some breakfast, and reading a Christian book or lifting my spirits by listening to worship music.
What is on your nightstand? I have always been the type to keep my nightstand somewhat tidy, but in this season of sickness, it is an absolute mess. Medicine and my zoo of water glasses have practically overtaken it! Admittedly, the floor beside my bed has become a place where I leave my heap of books and my Bible.
Define Christianity in one sentence: Christianity is they joy of living in freedom in my Savior, dying to myself and devotedly chasing after Him, realizing that He is my living hope, my everything.
“He is my living hope, my everything.”
For more Anah:
Until next time, keep witnessing!