New to Refiner’s Fire? I encourage you to read the FORWARD.
It was a week of darkness! But I never lost awareness of the Triune God. As I think back over the week in the psychiatric hospital, my mind is flooded with memories.
My roommate, Liz, suffered with terror just as I did. What a comfort to share what I felt with someone who experienced similar feelings. Lying in bed at night, we shared how others didn’t understand our ordeals.
Our conclusion? How much easier it would seem to face cancer and to explain that than this unseen internal pain. Everybody understands cancer – it’s much more concrete than the abstract experiences we were going through.
Several months after release from the hospital, Liz called to tell me our conclusion was right. She had just been diagnosed with breast cancer! She confessed how much easier her cancer was to describe and how quickly people grieved with her. Not something she had experienced with the terror.
As close as I felt to Liz, there was a chasm in our relationship. She did not know the Triune God. Our understanding of life and death was so different.
Meals: Everyone ate meals together. Imagine a high school cafeteria. Each meal was a different experience depending on how people were doing that day with their therapy. I wrote in my journal, “Dinner was difficult tonight. A woman screamed profanities throughout the entire meal.” With every meal, there was tension – anger, frustration, hopelessness. I felt a darkness hang over each meal.
Rules: “(1) Never be alone or your name will be written on the white board.” Yep, I got my name up there with a couple of checks. We were told the more you interacted with other people, the sooner you are emotionally healed. “(2) Never leave your wing of the hospital without a “BS” (Behavior Specialist). Yep, that title got a lot of razzing.
Art room: Most movies of psychiatric hospitals have an art room. This hospital too had an art room requiring participation by all patients. Don’t remember what I did though.
Physical Exams: Laying on a gurney, the doctors had just examined me from top to bottom. Two doctors were standing just outside the room talking about me as though I couldn’t hear what they said.
“I can’t figure her out.”
“Nor can I.”
“It could be her adrenals; they are way off.
“Yes it may be – BUT.”
I wanted to scream at the doctors! “Come in here and discuss the results with ME. What can’t you figure out?
- Burning and aching arms making me feel like I’m going crazy?
- Am I only imagining these feelings?
- Am I crazy? But you are the first medical doctors to see SOMETHING is off.
- If there is nothing physically wrong, why do I have this physical pain?
- Are you going to leave me here, without any answers?
At that point I didn’t feel I was allowed any voice. I lay quietly – internally screaming at the Triune God to give me strength. He was the only person I could trust.
Group Therapy: Each day I met with a psychiatrist and a group of patients dealing with similar issues. One of our assignments, (had to be done in the common room where you weren’t away from others), was to write out your life story. Each day we read a portion of our story to the group – it was then “critiqued” by the group.
NOT ONE PERSON CONFESSED A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TRIUNE GOD. I experienced a different kind of loneliness. I hadn’t realized the comfort from sharing the love of Christ with other believers. There is a real unity with those in whom dwells the Holy Spirit – even when we don’t get along. We can act like siblings dealing with sibling rivalries, but in the midst of the rivalry, there is a deep love for one another.
Psychiatrist: I had one-on-one with the psychologist who admitted me to the hospital and also visited the Psychiatrist. She had me take several tests – one of which was the “Rorschach test.”
When I received the results, she said, “You have a very high IQ but because of brain damage you are not able to access all of your brain power.” She never explained what that meant. By the time I had processed what she meant and had a list of questions, I was back in my wing of the hospital. I would never see her again.
I’ve learned how I process information slowly. I try not to react immediately. When I do, usually due to a passion that rises up in me, I say things all wrong and am totally misunderstood. When I hold back my response to process what has just been said, I get accused of not caring or ignoring what’s been said. Being a person who lives her life on her sleeve, you can imagine I get myself into a lot of trouble.
Last week when I was reading through the hospital files, I found a page with doctor’s notes on the top of which was written boldly “Brain Problem!”
From my June 16, 1988 journal, I wrote “Jesus I cry out to You – my bones ache, my mind is weary. I feel like being in here I am losing touch with reality. Oh Jesus, please, please.”
Though alone and no Christians to interact with, I had the Triune God to cling to.
Many years ago, God gave me an image which comes to mind often as He walks me through a time of suffering. The image in my mind is that Jesus is briskly walking through a busy Jerusalem street. People scatter as He approaches which allows Him to pass. On a second glance they see me on the ground clinging with both hands to the hem of Jesus’ robe; and with each step He takes, I am dragged along behind. My arms and legs are scratched and bruised. I don’t let go. I can feel His strength flowing into me so I won’t let go and also His love flows in and is like a continual transfusion giving me the desire to again surrender all of myself to Him.
For some strange reason when this picture comes to mind, I am filled with a peace that passes understanding. I know my Savior has me, He will not let me go; I would not have the desire nor the strength to cling to His robe, to Him, but He gives it to me. He gives me the desire and strength to go wherever He takes me – no matter how painful it is.
I encourage you to use the Coffee Chat as a tool for growing in your understanding of the importance of suffering in your walk with the Triune God. If you just want to read through the pages of the “book” go to “page” four click here A God Sighting!
My CHALLENGE to you —
Let’s grab a cup of coffee … imagine you and I are sitting together chatting.
“Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:15-17 ESV)
When we walk with the Triune God, we will get scratched up and bruised; sometimes there are broken bones and broken hearts. Remember the list of types of suffering John Piper gives in Joy in Risk and Suffering
Stay focused on Jesus, clinging to Him as He walks you through pain-filled days. KNOW that He has a plan and a purpose for every bit of suffering He walks you through. Understand that IT IS painful – He provides the strength.
Are you in the Refiner’s Fire ? Listen to the song and then read through all of Romans 8. Cling to the truths there.
There is ALWAYS a purpose in the suffering He walks us through.
Let’s chat via the comment section so others may join us. We can minister to one another as the Triune God guides us to bring glory to Him on this earth.
If you have something that can’t be shared openly, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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