Tested and Tried … but still Unbroken

  
Half-asleep, I slapped my hand onto my phone to shut off the alarm and then – sighing heavily – rotated my body on the fulcrum that is my butt to put my feet flat on the floor. As lucidity first began stabbing through the sleep-fog in my brain, all I could think was, “I am NOT happy to be awake! I shouldn’t have to get up when I’m this worn out!” This was the fifth straight night of crummy sleep and it was really piling up.

My son, Corin, has Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) and requires a lot of daily intervention from my wife and me just to keep him alive. For those who aren’t familiar with it, T1D differs significantly from Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). T2D is much more common (about 90% of diabetes sufferers are T2D) but T1D happens when the pancreas has simply died and it no longer produces such hormones as insulin. There are reasons for this that I won’t get into here, but those reasons are not due to lifestyle choices. T2D, on the other hand, is normally due to lifestyle choices; specifically decreasing the pancreas’ ability to create insulin by overwhelming it with ingested glucose and carbohydrates.

The key difference between T1D and T2D is that in the T2D person, their pancreas still functions and by making different decisions about what they eat, they can live a very normal life (e.g. only checking blood glucose [BG] levels once a day or even once a week). T1D however requires constant checks of the BG and continuous adjustments to, and administrations of, basal (baseline) and bolus (countering ingested carbohydrates) insulin injections.

This can be made easier by tools such as an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), but “easier” is a relative term. T1D, as a disease, likes to constantly keep a sufferer on edge by throwing a monkey wrench into their BG management through changing the body’s response to insulin based on the time of day, amount of stimulation, amount of sleep, hydration level, exercise, anxiety, or overall health of the body. On top of that, T1D gets its kicks by not even responding to carbohydrate intake consistently. For example, eating 10 carbs of bread will not be responded to by the body in the same way as 10 carbs of pasta. Though both are made from grains, one (bread) may affect the T1D sufferer’s body about the same as 10 carbs of apple sauce or chocolate or juice, but the other (pasta) might affect the T1D sufferer’s body the same for the first hour after eating and then send the BG skyrocketing in the second hour.

Each person with T1D has different triggers for sending their BG high or low, responding in a unique way to everything around them. Therefore, much of the care for, and management of, their health is about knowing the individual ways in which their BG changes to stimuli and food intake. And THAT is where things were as I rolled out of bed this morning: five nights of crazy BG levels due to a stomach bug. The sickness seems to have gone away, but the strange BG numbers have continued … and they seem more intensely strange through the night … you know, like the time of the day when you want to be asleep! Sleep deprivation takes its toll on everybody, but pair it with anxiety and frustration with the injustice of the disease itself and you end up with a fairly decent case for feeling angry.

From my perspective the anger, built by anxiety, frustration, lack of sleep and perception of injustice, had one more input: guilt. My wife (the most amazing and loving woman I have ever met) has that motherly instinct that seems to reach out through the night to the bedside of our kids, probing for any perception of need from her beloved children. She hears the smallest call in the middle of the night or, in some strange feat of anticipation, she’s beside them before the call even comes. Meanwhile I’m lying in bed, drooling onto my pillow as if drugged. Certainly, I still wake up when called (or when I get an elbow in the ribs, at least) or when the CGM lets out its piercing alarm. But I don’t respond as readily or as consistently as my wonderful wife.

So as my feet hit the ground this morning and the first waves of the day’s passions swept into my consciousness, anger was the first thing encountered. And I admit it: I stewed in the anger for a moment. Snatching at, and briefly holding onto, angry thoughts in a sequence, “I’m not going to work today!” “Okay, I’ll go to work, but I’m not going to be happy about it!” “Fine, I’ll try not to let this mess up everyone else’s day, but I’m still going to be angry!” But the moments of stewing passed and another – seemingly involuntary – set of thoughts began metastasizing: song lyrics from the band Delirious?:

The crucible for silver,

And the furnace for gold,

But the Lord tests the heart of this child.


Standing in all purity,

God, our passion is for Holiness,

Lead us to the secret place of praise.

Jesus, Holy One,

You are my heart’s desire.

King of Kings, my everything,

You’ve set this heart on fire.

I don’t know why these words came to mind. I don’t listen to Delirious? very often, nor do I know their music very well. In spite of this, the words came and hung in my mind, convicting me for a few minutes after the anger of waking up. LIFE IS A CRUCIBLE. LIFE IS A FURNACE. Even when that furnace isn’t turned up relatively high (compared with what others endure, five days of less-than-adequate sleep due to taking care of an otherwise healthy son, is pretty small), the passions start flowing, the mind starts rebelling and the soul has to rein things in by reminders that testing produces perseverance (Jas 1:3). Just as it takes heat and flame to fashion from silver and gold someTHING worthwhile and enduring, it takes trials and temptations to be molded into someONE worthwhile and enduring.

Those lyrics came at a good time in my day. Anger (sadly the first thought I had for the day) suddenly gave way to joy – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds (Jas 1:2) – because I know (deep down inside, at least) that if I’m being tested, it’s because I’ve been counted worthy of testing.

My soul’s (not my weak humanity) hope is that God has said the same thing about me that He said about Job, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8). We know that God spoke these words to Satan, and that most of the rest of the story didn’t go so well for Job as Satan tested God’s testimony about him by taking everything from him. But to know that God had said such a thing about me would make me incredibly proud … even in spite of the pain that would follow.

However, just like Job, I am unable to know what God’s thoughts of me and my character are. And, to be honest, it doesn’t matter whether I know or not. All I can do is attempt to live a life which, in a small way, compares semi-favorably to the awesome testimony of Christ on my behalf. You see, since trials are a normal part of life (for all of us), any gain which comes out of them must come from the praiseworthiness of the way in which those trials are engaged (by us); which, in turn, means that we must stay focused on the foundational things which give us hope and joy. Things like God’s existence, God’s omnipotence, God’s presence, God’s providence, God’s justice, God’s righteousness, God’s mercy, and God’s grace. Apart from the knowledge of those things, life pretty much just stinks. We can focus momentarily on a fleeting feeling of happiness caused by a beautiful sunset or the caress of a significant other, but those things must be no more than momentary and fleeting unless accompanied by an adequate understanding of how excellent God is in comparison with our own poverty.

Why are those things fleeting without acknowledging God’s excellence? Because there is ALWAYS another trial coming! Right on the heels of a beautiful sunset is a storm which destroys everything you own or hold dear; or right after the caress of the significant other is a phone call in the middle of the night about a different loved one who passed away.

And that’s what Job learned throughout his tribulation, right? Look, for just a moment, at how the book of Job ends. After two full chapters (58 verses) of God comparing His power and might with the puniness and lack of understanding of Job, Job rightfully responds to God with a humble statement:

I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. You asked, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?” Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you and you shall answer me.” My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes (42:2-6).

We cannot respond any better. This life buffets us and wrings us mercilessly by trials and suffering, but who are we to question it? Who are we to compare our suffering to God’s – as if our temporary discomfort matches what He endures in this world’s constant sin and mockery? Who are we to compare our pain with God’s – as if He who endured the cross doesn’t understand the agony of life? Who are we to compare our understanding with God’s – as if He who transcends time doesn’t understand the importance of our contribution to it (if there be any importance at all)?

To be honest, I feel foolish to have felt anger at my circumstances this morning. Certainly, it’s not fair that my son has to endure – for the rest of his life – the frustration and pain of insulin injections and BG monitoring. And certainly, it’s frustrating to pair the basic curses of life (e.g. work, being subject to death) with specific curses like loss of sleep and anxiety about the health of a child. But to question God’s ability to understand and empathize with those things is to misunderstand and disregard who He is and His role in them happening.

One day, He will look down from His throne in heaven – with the ever-present ache of empathy on His heart at the suffering and groaning of His creation under the weight of its sin – and He will say, “Enough.” That one word will be all that is required to “[liberate] the earth from its bondage to decay and bring freedom and glory to the children of God” (Rom 8:21) and “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet … ‘death [will be] swallowed up in victory’” (1 Cor 15:52,54)for those who have replaced their perishable mortality with the imperishable immortality of Christ (1 Cor 15:53). I don’t know about you, but I look forward to that day. On that day, my anger and my son’s frustration and pain will forever be gone.

Kind of puts things in perspective, right?

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