Gospel-Medicine for Acid Reflux, IBS, and Sinusitus (And Pretty Much All Suffering in General!)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lately I've struggled with another round or two with my persistent IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It can be quite painful at times, leaving me doubled over praying for dear life for some divine relief. 

IBS develops in the large intestine, generally as a result of diet and/or stress, and happily for me (sarcastically speaking here) these are the same causes of my acid reflux disease also! Isn't life wonderful in these horrid, decrepit, dying and cracking clay pots in which our souls are encased?

The triggers seem largely unknown to the medical field, for IBS. I was diagnosed during my second year of marriage while working a commercial construction job. The stress was incredibly high. Many trips to the Port-O-Potty usually incurred the wrath of the superintendent with charges of laziness and ineptness. And as you can imagine, that very much helped my condition.

What seems to happen is that the large intestine somehow seizes, tightens, or constricts causing an intense, burning cramping in the abdomen. To tell you the truth, it honestly feels like I'm digesting razor barbed wire, if that were possible. 

There are minor remedies for it, the chief of which, for me personally, is taking deep breaths to relax and calm my body. Other people take medication for it (which never seemed to work for me), and new progress is being made in this field with regard to natural remedies.

In short, if you have IBS and work a stressful job, I'm really hating it for you. Quitting only makes it worse because the stress grows exponentially as you try to find something else less stressful.

Long story short, there's just not much 'real' help for IBS sufferers out there. Diet may change a little, and it may help. It did for me....a little. But the stress probably can't change. 

How we respond to the stress of our jobs can change and that has had a lot to do with my success in treating my IBS. Building a gospel-centered worldview has helped in a tremendous way to manage what I experience and encounter through the filter of sound doctrine. When that happens, as it should, the stress is filtered out and inner peace occurs.

That said, what do we do when we suffer with problems that seem untreatable? What about my acid reflux? The burning is awful sometimes. And the fact that my life transition has turned from ministry to sales hasn't lessened the stress any. I'm bound to my anti-reflux meds, and I've got to take them every 24 hours...sometimes even less. 

I rely heavily on my mother-in-law to bring me samples of Prevacid left in the pediatrician's office where she works. It's about the only thing that really helps me, but since my insurance no longer covers it, I'd be paying upwards of $130 per month if it weren't for her. And if I don't take my Prevacid, it doesn't matter what I cut from my diet....even water will give me heartburn and cause reflux to resume.

And what about my sinusitus, my physiological nemesis in life with which I was born to suffer? I went from approximately October of last year to the middle of summer this year with my sinuses clogged up. There are times where I literally cannot breathe at all through my nose for months at a time. Do you know how hard it is to eat and drink when you can't breathe through your nose? Or waking up each morning feeling as if someone has poured expanding concrete into your face while you were sleeping?  Next meal you eat, hold your nose and try chewing and swallowing and you'll see what it's like. I can say with a clear conscience I've tried every single sinus medication, over the counter and prescription, one can try, and if it works at all, it works for no longer than a month and a half.

So what do we do with all this? Some learn to deal with it and eventually overlook it. That's toughening up and we need a fair amount of it in our soft, westernized, safe, secure, padded, American environment. 

But on the other hand, adapting and overlooking it may cause us to escape multiple opportunities through which we may learn lessons from God that only suffering can teach. Jesus proved this well, and so did Paul. And the latter's personal testimony in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 has proven to be a vital medicine for me when seasons of suffering hit me or when all of my sufferings combined threaten to bring me down.

The first thing I see in the text is that the grace sufficient for being sustained in suffering is gospel grace. The most obvious thing this means is that since it is grace, it is not of ourselves, but the gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9). It is grace, which means it is all about God, and nothing about us. That's why it is sufficient...because we are not.

If grace means we bring nothing to the table of suffering and weakness to confront, console, or even stop or heal it, then really, what sufficiency is there? God, and the grace He gives us freely in the gospel of His Son, is really all we have, and more than that it really is all we need. 

It cures the soul of the sinful attachments and demands which the body still has and makes upon the soul, thereby enabling it to live free from worry about the condition of the body.

The second thing I see in the text is that the power that makes us perfect in weakness is nothing else but gospel power, of course. Our power cannot make anything perfect. But God's power can, and it has made us perfect...perfectly righteous in His sight. It has made us perfect before the Father because of the weakness of Christ on the cross. 

The cross is the most magnanimous symbol of weakness ever. That is why it is a stumbling block (1 Cor. 1:23-24). Yet through this weakness God's power was manifested in a way that takes weak creatures and perfects them. Again, it's all about Him! 

What strength or power is there in depravity and foolishness and humanity in general? This builds endurance...the kind that is observed in the martyrs of the faith, or in the great heroes of the faith like a Luther, Calvin, or Edwards all of whom suffered repeatedly from bodily maladies in one form or another. The gospel power pumped into their souls through the gospel gave them the fuel to endure amid and despite what they suffered. And that kind of endurance can only be attributed to Christ.

Together, the grace and power available in the gospel trains us to be content with weaknesses, insults, persecutions, and calamities...including suffering. When we are weak, then we are strong, because when we are weak, God is most glorified, most visible. When we are weak, God's gospel power rests upon us.

Every moment of suffering then becomes a moment of crying out to God for His grace and His power, and the cross has already created the channel for receiving them in more gracious and abundant measure. Asking for it becomes the only thing we can do then, right? Asking and seeking and knocking and waiting....and most importantly, believing.

You see, when we are weak, God is strong. When we are suffering and crying out for help to God, God is being glorified because He is a satisfying, saving, and rescuing God. And when God is glorified, we are satisfied....yes, even amid our suffering. God becomes our all, amid our pain. 

We cling to Him, thereby proving that He is all-satisfying, thereby satisfying our souls though they are encased on decaying and dying bodies. Our asking and receiving of gospel grace and power while we are suffering is a gospel-witness to ourselves and those around us that we are truly satisfied and content in what God has done for us in Jesus, despite the condition of our bodies.
This gospel medicine is a glorious thing, beloved.

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