At 9pm, I got a call from my oldest daughter. She and her husband were very sick and needed help. My toddler grandson was fine and the nursing baby was also well, but they were literally fighting over the toilet because they were vomiting so violently and often. I rushed over to their house to take care of them. At around 11pm, I got a text from my oldest son. He, my youngest daughter and my youngest son were still living at home. The text read "by the way...the rest of us are sick too." In other words, come home Mom! I stayed until about 3am at my daughter's house, helping to feed the baby from a bottle and making sure that the sick were at least trying to hydrate.
When I arrived home, our two bathrooms were being put to the test. Four people were violently ill. I felt fine though. I had eaten very little of the store bought food. I went to the store and loaded up on Gatorade, Popsicles, and chicken noodle soup. I called off work to take care of them. That evening I began to feel ill as well and ended up joining them in the bathroom runs just as some of them were starting to feel better. I missed another days work because I was laid up too.
On day three, I called the health department to let them know that we had gotten food poisoning from the restaurant. Their first question was, "did you go to the hospital and get stool samples?" I informed him that we didn't because I couldn't fit nine people, two car seats, and a toilet in my van all at the same time. Because they couldn't match our bacteria to bacteria at the restaurant and because no other people not related to us reported food poisoning, they had to deduce that we had caught a virus. I laughed as I said that he had better call the Center of Disease Control because this virus spread faster than yellow fever and the Bubonic Plague.
After recovering from the initial poisoning, my husband began to have trouble. He had two hernia surgeries. He started to get sick during dinner. It took us several months of cutting certain foods out of his diet to come to the conclusion that he had developed a yeast intolerance. We later learned that this is common after having a serious case of food poisoning. This caused us to totally revamp what we ate. I read every food label at the store before putting it in my basket. We quit eating out except for two restaurants because all the other places made him sick. Basically we started eating like cave men without the fancy label of Paleo. That summer, he got to a place where he could not eat anything except water melon. For three weeks he lived on water melon and lost 30 lbs. He went to the doctor who ran every blood test you can run and did a sonogram on every major organ of his body and pronounced him completely normal. Eventually he began to eat again but nothing was ever found. After that, he began to have painful abdominal attacks. They were so severe that I would practically carry him into the emergency room. This happened every 4-7 weeks for the next 2 years. Every time we went to the emergency room, we got a different diagnosis.
One x-ray revealed that he had a large hiatal hernia and his stomach had gone up into his chest cavity and lodged against his lung. A surgeon operated and sewed his stomach back in place, attaching it to his diaphragm to keep it in place. They also took his gall bladder, just in case. We were hopeful that this would end the attacks he had been having but they didn't. Within one week he was back in hospital and then again in a few weeks after that. A gastrointestinal specialist was called in. She did an endoscopy, a colonoscopy and a stomach emptying test. All were normal. He was officially declared a mystery.
Over the last 3 months I noticed that he seemed sick more often. In fact, about 3 weeks ago, he was just sick all the time. He tried to brave it out with me begging him to call the doctor again. Two Thursdays ago he asked me if I would mind staying home from work because he was feeling very rough. I of course agreed. By 8am I knew we were in trouble and I rushed him to the emergency room. A CAT scan revealed that he had a band of tissue, much like a rubber band growing around the outside of the colon and squeezing it off. So back to the operating room he went. After 7 days in the hospital, 4 of those with a large hose up his nose and down his throat to drain his stomach and prevent nausea, and a six inch stapled incision on his abdomen, he has come home to rest, recuperate and gain back the 14 lbs he lost when he went 7 days without any solid food.
To say that this and many other serious situations that we faced over the last 3 years were anything but excruciating would be a lie. Never in my life have I ever been so pressed, crushed and persecuted than I was then. The physical, emotional and yes, spiritual toll that life took on me was greater than I could have ever imagined. After all, I've been a dedicated Christian for 35 years. I've seen a lot and been through a lot of crushing situations. I would have never imagined that I could ever be in the place that I came to be just a few months ago.
In the last week someone texted me to encourage me and said something about how strong I am. That immediately scared me. You see, I know that I am strong in the Lord but I also know that I am not as strong as my enemy. I am not invincible. My life over the last 1 1/2 years proved that to me. I suffered greatly in several situations. It was so bad that I even questioned God on many levels and spent two weeks totally prayerless doubting and accusing God. I'm not proud of this but it's the truth.
So often we face our giants without a word to anyone else. There are times when that is necessary. However, God has given us something called "family" in Him. They are there for the purpose of support and help and prayer. Unfortunately there is much teaching in the church that discourages us from using them. Some teaching would tell us that to be needy in faith is lack of faith. We don't want to appear weak in faith, so we say nothing and bear our pain alone, leaving us isolated and vulnerable to an enemy who is much stronger than we are.
My fear was that people would look at me and say "She is strong. She can handle this." and then they wouldn't pray for me. I didn't want to imagine that I was going to have to make it through my struggles on my own prayers alone. Perhaps they would be enough but it's a whole lot better to have numbers when you are facing something that is larger than you. As humbling as it might be to admit that you are having trouble keeping "the faith", we have to realize that it can happen to anyone and I mean anyone. It can happen to the strongest person you know. It can happen to the leadership in your church. It can happen to your Pastor, your mentor, or the person who led you to the Lord. We are all subject to the devil's wrath and he is stronger and more cunning than we are. He is out to destroy us. If we allow our pride or the false teaching that tells us that we are invincible to keep us from humbling ourselves in times of need and admitting that we need support, we will surely fail in our spiritual lives.
The Apostle Paul not only prayed for others but he asked for prayer from others as well. He was strong but even he still needed prayer. He faced opposition and situations that were much larger than he was. I believe it was the prayers of others that sustained him and made him victorious in every situation that he faced. In Philippians 1:19-20 Paul said " for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." Notice he said provision of the Spirit AND the prayers of the saint. Both were asked for.
So the next time you see a brother or sister facing a situation, don't assume that they are strong enough to handle it on their own. You don't know all the facts. You don't where they've been or what they're facing. You don't know the unseen torment they may be experiencing or the flack they are taking from the enemy of their souls. You don't know how high the enemy has piled their plate. So even if it seems that they should be able to weather this alone, pray for them anyway and if God lays something practical on your heart that you could do to make their load a little lighter, do it, even if it may seem unnecessary. I can tell you from experience, it could be a lifeline that they desperately need to make it through and glorify God.