Wednesday, October 20, 2010
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted.
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.
“Lord,” he said, “if you want to, you can make me well again.” Jesus reached out and
touched the man. “I want to,” he said. “Be healed!”
What could an HIV-positive minister and the wife of one of the NFL’s greatest players have in common? More than one might imagine. Each of us has lived through difficult life situations and illnesses, overcoming the propensity for chronic hopelessness, to discover the transforming grace and strength of God—no matter how much the questions of life seemed unanswerable.
Our friendship was born from one of life’s “coincidences.” We discovered our common roots as survivors of chronic illness, but also as survivors of those chronic life situations that, oftentimes, come to define our perspectives of self, others, and God. After all, haven’t we all asked questions of God when hope seems lost or at least out of grasp?
In this book, we share our personal journeys and offer a word of hope for those going through life’s everyday struggles, and we ask the question, “Are you living in crisis or in Christ?” The answer to this question, more than any question we know, determines so much of how we both see the world and our issues. But more important, it also determines how we view the potential of our solutions in Christ.
This book is framed in the language of questions and answers, hope and despair, ache and healing. These are words and phrases that every person will understand, whether from personal experience or from conversations and interactions with others. Regardless, we have all had unanswered questions that seemed to foster unreasonable decisions; feelings of despair that promoted a sense of apathy or discouragement; or the emotional, physical, or spiritual ache that kept us from seeing God in our midst and from living faithfully as God’s person in our paths.
These questions, and this journey, affect all of life’s situations. And most of the time, we use such language when we feel as though too much is unanswerable, undoable, or unreachable. How many stories or life situations can we recount that point to our uncertainties of a life with far too many questions?
But what about the other side of that language? What about a God who provides answers for our questions, possibilities for our uncertainties, and a new story for the unrecognizable avenues of grace and hope in each of our lives? This book answers those questions and provides a picture of hope in spite of our aches and pains—emotionally, relationally, physically, or spiritually. And if that wasn’t enough, God’s wonderful gift to us through Christ not only addresses these old hurts, habits, and hang-ups, but it also gives us a new path and a new opportunity for grace and healing. More than anything, God’s gift and promise to us in Christ is the reason we wrote the book—that God’s redeeming love will meet the deepest of our questions and help us begin again. Wouldn’t you like to start over?
In fact, the unanswered life can be as simple as a spiritual ache or as complicated as a debilitating disease. It may be as simple as a bad attitude or as complex as a broken or betrayed relationship. Either way, the effects often become habitual and infectious in how we make life decisions and, especially, how we connect with others. This book describes how disconnection, disaffection, and misdirection from life’s choices ultimately create more damage than any physical illness could.
The “unanswered life” of broken relationships or misguided intentions, of habitual patterns of poor decisions, or of the wrong answers from the start invariably disrupts our relationships with God and with one another, because, as the effects grow, our natural tendency is to turn “inward” (the original dilemma from the garden of Eden) and to focus more and more on our own self-interests. Relationships become difficult for us, and we struggle to connect to God in the ways he would have us grow in and serve him. But, more intricately, we also struggle to become who God has so lovingly and extravagantly prescribed in us, and this is the real shame of the chronic life.
We believe the answers to these questions remain found within our relationship with God, especially as they are shared, expressed, and lived out in faithfulness with each other. But it took a while to learn this. We didn’t wake up one day with a supernatural “directional sign” hanging over our heads. No, we lived through the same broken, misguided, often hopeless circumstances that you may be dealing with and that continue to cause your soul to ache. But we discovered that God has a “new normal” for our lives. Throughout Scripture, God provides one example after another of not only why the chronic life is not what God intended, but also how to restore the potential of such a life once it breaks down.
In searching Scripture for answers about confronting the chronic life of choices, patterns, and problems, we discovered four primary categories for setting a new direction in life: compassion, understanding, response, and encouragement. These concepts may seem familiar and even simple. But each of these four categories provides a different way to view the world, to disconnect from our self-destructive patterns, and to take up God’s purpose for our lives. And these principles also show how living in Christ changes every aspect—yes, we mean every aspect—of our lives forever. God’s intention for us is that we will be permanently affected and changed. Remember, this is not supposed to be a series of treatable maladies; God expects a CURE.
You may be thinking, how convenient it is that the first letters of each of the four categories of answers form the word CURE. No, it is not a coincidence. Actually, we tweaked the concepts a bit to help you remember these qualities in your life and to enable you to apply them in your journey. But these categories are more than just a play on words or an acronym; they are a connection to how Christ intended for us to live in our world, free from our aches and with our deepest, most important questions answered. Thus, we believe readers will recognize this conversation, as we all confront these broken places from time to time. However, we also believe the impact of the chronic life can complicate other aspects of life. This is not a static issue; with the chronic life, a cascade effect takes place until every part of our life is touched. The results of this pattern for life leave us living “Chronic in Crisis,” thus evoking other worries of what the crisis will mean for us. And the cycle continues on from there. But God’s plan is different. God wants us to live “Chronic in Christ,” throwing off our worries and experiencing the wonders of God’s love.
This book is framed around a forty-day spiritual treatment plan and devotional guide that provide practical daily connections to life lessons, Scripture, and prayer suggestions. Forty is an important number for several reasons. Most important, it represents the number of years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness and the number of days Jesus spent being tempted by the devil. But the end of any such period in Scripture also marks a major transition point. After forty years, the children of Israel entered into the promised land. And after forty days, Jesus left the wilderness and began his public ministry, which would change the world forever. Most Christians know these stories, but few realize the significance of this period of time for framing and forming the faith that we proclaim and believe today. Forty is a period of reflection, renewal, reframing, and restoration that ultimately leads to a new beginning. How about you? Could you use a “new beginning”?
God still wants a new and whole life for us today. He no more intends for us to live in an unanswered state or with a chronic pattern of loss and brokenness any more than he intends for us to live in relationship, separate from him. God has a new normal. He has something better, something sweeter in store.
The Cure for the Chronic Life is more than another self-help book. Sure, it provides lessons for living more freely and more faithfully. But it also involves story—the stories of our lives; the stories of those whom we love and who have made a difference in our lives; and most important, the story of God and God’s love for us. Oh, and by the way, it includes your story too. Because the more you read and work through the forty-day spiritual treatment plan day by day, the more you will discover that we are all knitted into this fabric of life together. The lessons of this book work because they are framed by the story of very real problems that plague real people, every day. But in the course of your reading and reflection, you will also discover real hope born of God’s very real love for you and me. And that is the greatest lesson of all.
Copyright © 2010 by Abingdon Press