Though You Slay Me…

I don’t know about you, but the Lord sometimes loves me enough to nearly kill me. And I’m not talking metaphorically.

In fact, for those who have given our lives to Him, the Lord loves us so much that some day He literally will take our lives so He then can give us eternity.

Short of death, however, the Lord sometimes kills something important to us or in us – some vision, some hope, some confidence, some quality or attribute, some accomplishment, or even something good He previously gave us.

It’s not that the thing He kills necessarily is wrong. It’s just that it needs to die so we then are free to be and do whatever He wants of us, and for us, as we move forward in Him.

As Job understood, in the midst of everything good in his life being stripped away, “Though you slay me, will I trust you Lord.” Job 13:15.

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Touching the Heart of God

Touch the Heart of God


Even in my sorrow, I also know gratitude. Jesus is able to handle both, and as they’ve merged I’ve touched the very heart of God.
http://crossroadjunction.com/2009/03/30/sufficient-grace/

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This last year has been marked by very painful and difficult health issues. Through it all, however, I’ve been grateful for what the Lord has done for me even as I struggle with the sorrow of diminished capacity.

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Sufficient Grace, Part III

Several have asked how things are going with my health, so I though I’d post a quick update to my prior posts (Sufficient Grace and Sufficient Grace, Part II).

Peace in the Storm

Two weeks ago I was accepted into a NIH Phase II clinical trial which is evaluating two drugs for treating pulmonary fibrosis in scleroderma patients.

That I was accepted is a miracle because my lung function was just below their minimum. It’s a double blind study, so I don’t know which of the two drugs I’m taking (either cytoxan or cellcept), but they are both really strong, serious medications that typically have significant side effects.

My close community of brothers and sisters here in Virginia, and others, have been lifting me up in wonderful prayer. It has been mature prayer, not desperate prayer, rooted in making our requests known but also being at peace in God’s ultimate grace and sovereignty.

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Sufficient Grace, Part II

As my close friends know, for the last seven years I’ve been dealing with a rare autoimmune condition called scleroderma (also known as systemic sclerosis).

Recent medical tests indicate that it is now impairing my lungs. This is a progressively debilitating and likely fatal development, and there is no known cure. I was not surprised by the latest test results, as I’ve been feeling my health deteriorate more rapidly over the last several months.

I’m posting this to be transparent and so none of my friends feel blindsided. I am totally open about what’s happening, and not bashful over it, so don’t feel you have to ignore it when you’re around me. If you have questions or want to just talk about it, feel free!

However, I also do not want it to define me. My life has been, and will continue to be, about so much more than this disease!

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Dealing with Chronic Fatigue

My closest friends have seen me walk through some very difficult times with my health over the last several years. Where others see the “together”, upbeat and accomplished Jim, they see the reserved, careful and slow-paced Jim who is learning to live with chronic fatigue.

This all started several years ago. I had founded and was running a number of successful international businesses, including a law firm and a cutting edge scientific consulting firm. But in 2006 I had to walk away from it all due to debilitating chronic fatigue that began more than a year earlier.

Stress As a Factor

At first, I thought I was struggling with routine burnout – which I now realize may have been a factor but was not the full story. In early 2008, my doctors discovered that I had been suffering from a very rare autoimmune condition called systemic sclerosis (sometimes known as scleroderma).

Initially, I was relieved to know that my fatigue wasn’t “all in my head” and that I really hadn’t gotten lazy. But that didn’t make the fatigue or the impact it was having on my life any less devastating.

Eventually, as I researched systemic sclerosis and talked to my doctors, I learned that stress – as typically is the case in many autoimmune diseases – was a big issue. It doesn’t necessary cause the disease, but it can trigger the onset and then exasperate the symptoms.

With me, those symptoms – which on top of the fatigue also included mild depression, chronic pain and joint stiffness – had become so bad that in 2007 I couldn’t function anymore in the basic aspects of life. By early 2008 I was reduced to walking with a cane due to the fatigue and the overall pain, and my prospects were bleak.

I ended up losing everything: my marriage, my family, my businesses, my wealth and eventually my sense of self.

Since then, God has been bringing resolution to many of the stressful relationships that were making things worse – sometimes by giving me the grace to let folks go who couldn’t otherwise handle my deteriorating situation.

As I began to find my validity in how He defines me – rather than how I and others were defining me – I’ve seen great improvements. As part of that process, I’ve also been learning to manage any stress that still occasionally surfaces by understanding, more and more, that God – rather than some circumstance – is sovereign over my life!

Overall, as I’ve been re-discovering the joy and wonder of life, most of the more severe symptoms of the disease have abated. The pain has lessened (although I still need various medications, but at greatly reduced doses) and since early this year the intensity of the fatigue has decreased.

Nonetheless, I still have fairly constant, low-level chronic fatigue.

Running Out of Energy

To those wondering about chronic fatigue, the best way to describe it is to contrast my life with “normal” folks.

Most folks wake up each morning with essentially a full reservoir of energy. Think of it as a big gallon jar (although the size of the jar will vary from person to person) that’s filled with stamina and spunk.

Someone who is healthy uses and replenishes the energy in their jar throughout a typical day. They do some things that are a net energy drain, but they also restore their stamina by doing other things that energize them. Those things vary from person to person, but their jar very seldom runs totally dry and after a good night’s sleep the jar usually is full again and ready for a new day. (And please, don’t tell me how drained you are at the end of the day — unless you have experienced chronic fatigue, you have no idea how much energy you really have even after a particularly exhausting day!)

Someone suffering from chronic fatigue has the same gallon jar, but they struggle with all of the expectations – both their own and from others – of what they once could do each day with their normal reservoir of energy. But now the gallon jar is never full – it is partially empty even when they wake up from a good night’s sleep. More significantly, as they participate in the activities of life, those things that once energized them can’t replenish their energy as quickly as before.

Two Kinds of Fatigue

With my systemic sclerosis, I’ve experienced two kinds of chronic fatigue. With one kind, the valve used to draw energy out of my jar is very, very constricted. I can’t suck much energy out at any one time. It’s like stepping on the gas pedal, but the car barely sputters along and lacks power. There’s gas in the tank, but I just can’t get it flowing fast enough to run the engine at full speed.

That’s what it was like when my fatigue started and I ended up divesting myself of all of my business and professional interests. I just couldn’t get enough energy flowing to do much of anything. The simple, routine tasks of life were nearly impossible — even when I was motivated and wanting to do more.

With the second kind of chronic fatigue, the valve is able to handle a full flow of energy and I rev up my engine just like normal people. The problem is, there’s just not as much energy to keep that flow going. In this example, I step on the pedal and the car accelerates to 60 mph just fine, but it’s just not going to go very far before the tank runs dry. To use another analogy, I am “good in the moment” and full of spunk and life, but when the task at hand is finished, so am I! This is more like my life now, although I’ve learned some important coping mechanisms.

Pacing Myself

Under either type of chronic fatigue, I’ve learned to pace myself if I want to keep from depleting my energy jar. I don’t have as much energy in my jar as most folks, and even if I’m able to get a good flow of stamina going, I know I can’t replenish that energy fast enough to take on the whole day at a “normal” pace.

This means I need to carefully regulate my activities throughout the day so that I don’t use more energy than is needed for the entire day and it’s expected activities, while also protecting my ability to do those things that energize me (howbeit more slowly than normal) – which may be a nap, lunch with a close friend, taking a quiet walk, reading a good book, generally just chillin’ out, bass fishing or whatever.

For those suffering from chronic fatigue, and those dealing with this condition in friends and loved ones, accept what’s happening. Denial is deadly! Everyone involved needs to adapt to an entirely new reality. If you have chronic fatigue, don’t beat up on yourself because you can’t do everything you once did at the pace you once did it. Such guilt only causes more stress and makes your situation worse. Rather, find joy in simplifying your life and learning to focus on what’s truly important. Also learn to let others do some of the things for you that you previously did yourself – for me, allowing this remains very hard but I’m learning to adjust.

Most of all, learn to monitor how much energy you have left in your jar at any given time, how much energy is needed (and how quickly you need it) when evaluating what you should and shouldn’t do, avoid over-doing things, and find time for the things that uniquely replenish your energy reserves (while factoring in the reality that it will take longer than normal).

Adjusting to Reality

When dealing with chronic fatigue, you will feel guilty and struggle for a season over what you can’t do. Others may not understand your slower pace, or why you can be perfectly “normal” when doing one thing but then need to excuse yourself from further activities. But if that relationship is worth keeping, they will learn to accept and understand your limitations. But most of all, take joy in learning all of the new things you can do as you re-order the obligations and responsibilities of life. If you let it, that will be a wonderful journey of discovery.

The bottom line is that you need to get comfortable with figuring out your own pace and activities so that you minimize how frequently your energy jar runs dry. It will take some time, but I’m learning that it certainly can be done.

Despite it all, I have found that a slower paced life – where I can take the time to relish fulfilling relationships, focus on the truly important things of life, and enjoy those things that renew my energy – is more fulfilling than my past life. For that, I’m grateful and I can’t imagine ever going back to the hectic, stress-filled existence I once fought so hard to foolishly preserve.

In an odd way, I have become a better and a happier person.

~ Jim Wright

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Sufficient Grace

Sufficient Grace

When did Christians start believing that God wants us to always be healthy, wealthy and free of adversity?

If asked directly, most believers would deny that’s what they think. But our actions say otherwise.

A Devastating Diagnosis

I started noticing this when I contracted a rare, degenerative autoimmune disease called systemic sclerosis (aka scleroderma). It took years to finally link my symptoms to a specific diagnosis, but when it came, it was devastating.

Although it initially hit me hard, it seemed to hit others even harder.

As family and friends learned of my condition, they often reacted with shock. Some simply deserted me – usually because they couldn’t deal with their own pain or awkwardness over my condition. Other times, they left because I couldn’t continue being the fount of money or financial security they had come to expect. I quickly learned who were my true friends, and my true family.

Praying At God

Among my remaining friends, many responded by asking to pray over me. Sometimes they’d say that God told them I’d be healed. Although God hadn’t told me that, I would be gracious, let them pray and listen to their assurances. I appreciated their concern, but what struck me most was how they were reacting more out of their own anxieties than anything else.

Because their theology couldn’t explain why God allowed this to happen to me, they needed to vigorously pray at God and at me in order to drown out their own uncertainties and insecurities. They knew that if this could happen to me, then it could happen to them or their loved ones. That’s not what they signed up for when they became Christians!

Rather than “hearing” from God about my situation, they were telling God what He needed to do or what they thought He should do. After all, if He’s God and all powerful, loving and just, then they couldn’t understand why bad things happen to good Christians.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate prayers! But prayers motivated by anxiety over God’s seeming failings, and by our own fears over sickness and adversities, quickly become tiring to the purported beneficiary.

I have one very close friend who’s an associate pastor. He has cancer and would duck out of church several minutes early to avoid all of the “words from God” and anxiety-filled prayers that otherwise descended on him at the end of each service. I could relate (although things have since cooled down for me, and, I understand, for him too).

Touching God’s Heart

When I was first diagnosed, maybe one out of twenty-five of my remaining friends and acquaintances, at most, would actually come and pray for me in the security of God’s sovereignty and could then truly touch God’s heart regarding my condition. And God’s heart was to simply say He was with me. By ministering from that place of peace which only comes from total surrender to God’s will – without presumption or expectation of outcome – their prayers were like cool drinks in a barren land.

Those ministering out of anxiety, however, couldn’t understand why God would let this happen. Implicit was the assumption that God owed me, and Christians in general, a free pass when it comes to the realities of our fallen world and imperfect mortal bodies.

But there’s no such promise in Scripture. Rather, God simply assures us that His grace is sufficient for all that may befall us.

Peace Despite an Uncertain Fate

I have several very close friends who also have faced a life threatening issue or other major crisis. Once they were able to accept God’s grace in their situations, and surrender to His will without precondition or expectation of outcome, a depth of fellowship and understanding developed that’s hard to describe. To a person, we would not trade that grace for anything – including health and healing.

I’m no saint, and I have my down days. I want to be a good steward and so I struggle at times with my future and with what, if any, plans and decisions I can make given my uncertain fate. But generally, the high price of admission has been worth the grace gained as God embraced my infirmities.

Unless you too have been there, I suspect this is hard to understand.

It’s not fatalism – far from it. It’s life from brokenness. It’s peace and calm from being able to finally surrender to God’s perfect will, even with no idea what His will may be, because you finally understand – both at the logical and also at the emotional level – that life only has significance and fulfillment in him. He created us, so who knows better what to do with our lives?

It’s not premised on any assumption of outcome, other than knowing that your life never belonged to you anyway and it’s God’s to do with as He pleases – even to the point of death.

Becoming Whole Despite Infirmities

I’m in God’s hands. If His will is to call me home, that’s OK. If His will is healing, that’s OK too. If it’s something in between, then there is peace in the promise of His grace for the journey.

It is, more than anything else, being with Jesus in the garden on the night He was betrayed. He was all too human as He cried out for deliverance from His impending cross. After getting past His initial deep, deep anguish, Jesus found assurance only when He could truly say to the Father “not my will, but thy will be done.” He could then endure the cross because of the resulting peace that comes from trust and obedience.

To my healthy friends, think about this. If everyone who made Jesus their Lord suddenly experienced perfect health, perfect wealth, and no adversity or pain, then who would come to Jesus for Jesus’ sake? No one, that’s who! We would all flock to him for what He can do for us, rather than for what He wants of us.

And what does He want? Simply everything, including our will and our very lives. He then uses our total commitment to redeem His creation, despite its fallenness

… and to reconcile people to Himself, despite our brokenness.

In His wisdom, God normally doesn’t exempt us from our frailties or the consequences of a fallen world. Rather, He makes us complete in our weakness. Our lives then demonstrate that His grace is sufficient, despite the consequences of humanity’s rebellion, and that it is only through Him that we become whole, despite our infirmities.

I truly don’t know what God intends for me. I only know that I need to walk in His grace and abide in His will day-by-day as I trust my future to Him – without any presumption of outcome.

When He’s done with this life, He’ll take me home. Until then, my life is His and my imperfect desire is to serve Him with all I have, and all I am, as He gives me grace for the journey ahead.

(c) Copyright 2009, Fulcrum Ministries. All Rights Reserved.


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Soon after writing this in early 2009, my systemic sclerosis began to slowly and miraculously retreat and by the end of 2009 had gone into low level remission – to the astonishment of my doctors. Needless to say, however, the experience of dealing with the implications and initial health effects from the disease changed me deeply.

In late 2011, my symptoms started re-surging, and in early 2012 a pulmonary function test indicated that the disease had entered my lungs, which is not good.

Although I don’t know what the future holds, I nonetheless remain eternally grateful to have found sufficient grace. Or, to put it more accurately, that Sufficient Grace found me. 

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