“Lamentation is a powerful, & meaningful, form of worship because it places our love for God above even the worst of circumstances in our life.” – Graham Cooke.
The healing was most definitely not sticking in February 2017. In addition to symptoms past (nausea, lack of appetite, abdominal pain, fatigue, etc) I began to experience a completely new set of symptoms: daily headaches, crippling back pain, swelling, hematuria, dizziness, blurred vision, high heart rate, shakiness, chest pain, & pelvic congestion among other things.
Of course, when I was officially diagnosed with SMAS, we wondered what sister syndromes could be linked to it, what could have caused it, & what other rare things my body could be battling, but by that time, treating SMAS was easily the main priority. I mean, a few times my parents weren’t sure I was going to make it through the night. I needed immediate treatment & SMAS was all we could think about at that moment. But now it was crystal clear I wasn’t better & more action needed to be taken immediately.
Now that we had at least one definite diagnosis, that gave my amazing Mom a solid research starting place. The more she researched, the more possible explanations she found for my flood of symptoms, & the more she knew I needed to get checked out for several possible rare syndromes.
Our main concern at this point was Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome, which is another compression syndrome. According to Cleveland Clinic, “Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome (MALS) is a condition in which the median arcuate ligament presses too tightly on the celiac artery (a major branch of the aorta that delivers blood to the stomach, liver, and other organs) and the nerves in the area (celiac plexus). In a patient with MALS, the median arcuate ligament essentially acts like a hammer and the celiac axis acts like an anvil, compressing (squeezing) the nerves in between. This causes a number of symptoms, such as pain in the abdomen that can be made worse by eating or activity. It is a very rare condition.”
Well, doesn’t that sound like great fun? 😛
My pediatric gastroenterologist referred us to the best cardiology specialist at UVA to pursue continued medical assistance on February 28th, & it was my least eventful appointment to date. We went over some brief history & niceties before she made her official professional recommendation: a 24/7 heart monitor for the month of March. I would keep it attached to my body, & when I had a symptom, I would click the button & log it into the matching cellphone. If an operator noticed something concerning, they would call & tell us to head to the nearest ER. It would become my constant, closest companion. At the end of the month, I would go back to discuss the results & our next step.
If I had a dollar for everytime someone complimented me for handling my situation extremely well, I would be a very rich woman. In fact, around March 2017, I was starting to get really tired of the pressure to handle everything like a champ. I felt like I had unintentionally placed myself on a pedestal by handling everything so wonderfully, so when I broke or reacted everyone would just expect me to instantly revert to my sunshine attitude. I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about how I really felt without judgement. I was surrounded by people, but felt like I had no one. I was confused & angry, but I had taught myself that the only way to handle this whole thing was with 100% cheerful acceptance.
So I pushed every single broken piece of my heart deep down in a box, locked it up tight, & buried it never to be opened. Because good Christians always accept their trials with joyful smiles & exemplary attitudes….they never lament or mourn or scream. But I had never thought that lamenting could strengthen my relationship with my Father. I mean, good grief, there is a literal book of the Bible called, “Lamentations”. 😛
The story of Ruth in the Bible is very well-known, & in it Naomi is commonly known as the grumbling complainer…she has even been considered by some to have had weak faith. But one of my favorite devotionals, “The Scars That Have Shaped Me,” shows the story from the perspective of one who has also suffered.
Naomi definitely endured her fair share of tragedy. She lost her sons, her husband, & was left a widow in a foreign land for crying out loud!! I can completely understand her need to lament & mourn! But if you dig deep into the story & stop to think about it, Naomi’s trust in her Heavenly Father through it all was quite remarkable.
The devotional states, “Naomi’s trust is further evidenced by her determination to travel to Bethlehem alone. If Naomi felt that God had truly abandoned her, she would have never begun that journey. She would have stayed in bed, pulled the covers over her head, & died in Moab, bitter & angry at God. But she doesn’t do that. She acts in faith, trusting that God will provide for her.”
I actually admire what Naomi did next. She arrived back at her hometown & she didn’t plaster on a fake smile & pretend everything was perfect. She didn’t suffocate herself with an exhausting façade. She openly admitted she felt empty, she confessed she’d endured tragedy, & she invited those around her into her vulnerability. Risner expounds, “Naomi’s words were raw, but she speaks truthfully about God. She acknowledges that He is in control of all things, & everything is ultimately from Him. Her theology is profoundly God centered. Underlying Naomi’s lament is a deep trust & understanding of God. She is not resentful of God & has not turned away from Him. Quite the opposite, Naomi is moving towards God with honesty.”
Wow, I can only imagine the courage that must’ve taken. I’ve always been private about my pain & suffering. I have built impenetrable walls with every single person I know. I’ve never felt comfortable being completely vulnerable or honest with anyone in my life due to fear of judgment or condemnation. I’ve become a master in the art of faking a smile & saying, “well, things have been tough, but here’s what God’s been doing!” even when I’m not completely convinced. It never occurred to me that raw authenticity might draw those around us to God more than pseudo cheerfulness does. It invites them to be honest & real too without the fear of rejection/judgment. It shows them their brokenness is welcome here. But most importantly, it shows them Jesus doesn’t condemn us for our human moments.
& you know, that uncensored honesty might have made some townspeople uncomfortable. There are always those people who ask how you’re doing, but don’t actually want to know. & it’s never comfortable to hear about someone else’s heartbreak, & no-one ever knows exactly how to respond. & you know, maybe some people judged her & questioned her faith. But I think some people–maybe even the majority–held her & accepted her. Maybe they even felt inspired to knock down some of the walls they’d built. Maybe they felt relieved that they had someone they could cry with without her questioning their faith. Maybe it was the proof they needed that they could lament to God without condemnation. Maybe it even drew non-believers to learn more about her loving, patient, merciful God.
We know it had an effect on Ruth. Ruth was an unbeliever at the beginning of the story, but she had a front row seat to witness a completely different God than the one she believed as she watched Naomi.
What did Ruth see? She saw a woman who’d lost everything remain loyal to her God & strong in her faith. She saw a woman who believed with every fiber of her being that God saw her tears & heard her prayers & would heal her. She saw a woman who trusted her God enough to be completely free & uncensored. & she saw a God who gave her absolutely no condemnation or judgment for it. So what does Ruth do? She gives up everything & follows her mother-in-law to her homeland, & it is in the midst of Naomi’s pain that Ruth comes to Jesus.
While it may sound strange, there is true beauty in lamenting in suffering. Lamenting is a way to keep us engaged with our Father. Lamenting is a way to invite God into our pain & heartbreak so He can comfort us & work in our hearts.
So you know what? I have a deep respect for Naomi & her honesty & abandon. But even more-so, I have a deep admiration for her trust in our Father. She has taught me some very important life lessons that I know I will cling to in the coming days.
I am learning that, “Godly lament does not repel people from the gospel, but rather draws them to the Lord; it strengthens rather than destroys the faith of others. When we live authentically, we naturally draw others to God’s grace. Naomi’s pain & bitterness could’ve pushed Ruth away from God, as Ruth saw Naomi’s struggle with God’s goodness. But instead, Ruth saw that Naomi’s hope—even through catastrophic loss—was in a sovereign God who was loving enough to hear & respond to her lament.”
& as we see later on, God does respond to Naomi’s lament. He gave her the gift of a faithful daughter-in-law Ruth, a loving son-in-law Boaz, & grandson Obed, who was in the line of Christ. & He gave her Himself…His presence & comfort, which was the greatest gift of all.
& if that doesn’t give hope to a hurting spirit, I don’t know what can.