Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About (Part 1)

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Dear Brothers and Sisters:  As you can surely attest, life has a way of turning on a dime, throwing us curve balls and suddenly placing us in the fiery furnace. During those “in the furnace” seasons, much is revealed about our faith, our trust in God, things God needs to shed from us and where we need to shore up our gaps to persevere and remain steadfast. This is a two-part writing I authentically share with you during a present season of trial. It’s more information than I would normally share publicly though I am led to do so in hopes to encourage and equip you to endure your current or upcoming trial. God is indeed with you.

My trial comes in the form of being extremely healthy for many years to suddenly battling and overcoming illness. I have learned and continue to glean much from this experience—particularly, where I thought I was in my faith walk, was not entirely so. Even so, God knows this and has still chosen me as His Daughter, His servant and co-laborer in His Kingdom. In my shortcomings and areas of weakness, His call on my life remains irrevocable for which I am grateful (the same applies to you too). I know for sure now more than ever that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He is indeed my Strength and I am learning to fully lean on Him. This has also been a season of great vulnerability and reaching out to others for help. I am thankful for dear friends, dear prayer partners and family who have truly lifted me up in this time.

Faith: Not Where I Thought Was

In overcoming illness, I’ve had to believe what I have long read and have faithfully written about: The Word of God.

I invited Jesus Christ into my heart and life at age 12. I’ve been reading and studying God’s Word since then with a fervent desire to grow more in Him, to be more Christ-like, to truly advance His Kingdom in the earth; to encourage, equip and instruct the saints in His Word. I’m led to help the Body of Christ walk out their calling while also hoping to reach the lost and point them to true freedom in Christ Jesus. I’ve recited and stood upon scriptures more times than I can count. I am a Godly woman of faith. I have refuted Satan on numerous occasions during his attacks. Yet, it is this particular trial, testing and building up of my faith that has been unlike anything I had previously endured.

It began with contracting the flu or a virus on Thanksgiving Day 2017. I felt a tickle in my throat the night before and considered it to be my allergies. However, by midday Thanksgiving, came the onset of body aches, chills and a fever. For the next week and a half, I was laid up in bed with little to no appetite, weak, and frankly feeling like I was fading away. Just before contracting the virus, I experienced great energy, health, walked at least an hour or more six to seven days a week. I hadn’t had the flu since I was a kid. I am rarely sick. Life was zinging along well. Grad school was done and because of, there was more time to dedicate to ministry and mentoring. However, with limited energy, I was forced to reach out to others for help—something those close to me know that I rarely do. Dear friends in their generosity and thoughtfulness brought me soups, bottled water, had groceries delivered, made teas, etc. I am truly loved and cared for. God blessed me through them and in turn, I prayed that God would pour out His favor on them.

To provide some background to the situation: Prior to contracting the virus, I had begun mentoring youth at a school in the most violent, crime-ridden, impoverished part of Washington, D.C., which is southeast DC.  Of the District’s more than 650,000 residents, at least 142,000 residents call SE DC home. The area experiences a high rate of poverty, violence, drug trafficking, gang activity and unemployment or underemployment. In 2015, D.C. suffered a 54 percent increase in homicides with an estimated 75 percent of shootings committed by Black and Hispanic males ages 16 to 25. A number of youth that I’ve spoken to in SE DC have witnessed violence and because of, are unsure about their future and longevity.

In short, I had entered the enemy’s territory or as another person called it, “Devil’s County.” In addition, this past September, we ministered to students at two North Carolina colleges where strongholds were brought down and life, futures, and hope were restored. We experienced great victories at both colleges that did not go unnoticed. You can bet the enemy is displeased when you begin taking territory away from him for God’s Kingdom. You can expect spiritual opposition, spiritual warfare.

As I began to recover from the flu/virus, I felt like I was getting back to myself. I felt great and my colleagues could see this as well. It seemed to bring relief to all of us. In this time of recovery, I had been praying and crying out to God. In those times, He assured me He would heal me step by step. True to His character, I would see improvements a bit each day. I praised God!

Then one night, I got ahead of what God had promised me and attempted to “fix” or “hurry along” an area that still needed healing. In my need to “fix it,” I worsened my situation and had to go to the ER. I spent 12 hours in the ER undergoing several blood tests, waiting on results, then underwent a PE (pulmonary embolism) DT test to rule out a blood clot due to a rapid heart rate I was experiencing. The very thought of possibly having a blood clot gave me great angst and actually made my knees buckle when the nurse went to escort me down the hallway to the room and machine where the test would be performed.

As I laid on my back (I was by myself at the ER), hands folded above my head as the doctors slowly ran me through a tube to scan my chest, heart and lungs for a blood clot, I prayed to God under my breath as I had to be very still for the test. How did I get in this situation?? I was escorted back to the ER room where many patients were waiting, or in their rooms coughing and hacking from terrible colds or the flu. The ER was packed with patients seeking treatment for whatever ailed them and I was trying to stay in peace as I sat and awaited the PE scan results. As I waited, I texted a dear sister in Christ to pray for me and she did. Praise God, after about an hour of waiting, I was told I was clear–no blood clots.

I was released and headed home. I was relieved. But this would become one of at least six late night to wee-morning hour additional trips to the ER as the rapid heart rate (tachycardia) returned, my anxiety increased about my health (not knowing exactly what was causing my health issues), and inflammation with my GI system. I was losing weight because of a loss of appetite and a sensitivity to certain foods. And at times, I was losing my focus on God’s Word and His promises as the situation held more of my attention, awake and asleep. I also had to temporarily suspend some activities and pass on a great opportunity in order to make wellness a high priority. This saddened me as I am known for being reliable and following through on my commitments. I felt like the “me” of who I’ve been known as was crumbling.

I cried out to God like a child. As they say, “The struggle was real.” From bent knees to curled up fetal position, I was crying out for the Lord’s mercy and help. The battle was revealing to me areas where I needed to shore up my faith. I was battling the enemy’s onslaught of attacks on my thoughts, lies about my future and God’s plans for me. I began meditating on God’s Word “day and night” as written in Joshua 1:8, reading scriptures on healing, scriptures to cast my cares/burdens on the Lord (Psalm 55:22), to not be anxious for anything (Philippians 4:6), to stay in His peace (Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27), and to look to the One who bore our infirmities and heals our diseases (Psalm 103:3).  My bible is marked up and highlighted, flagged and dogeared; His Word tucked in my heart. Yet in this trial, was I believing what I had read and had written about? I’ve written a number of blog posts using these very scriptures. 

Bible Psalms

In this time, I was beginning to understand some of the root causes of my anxiety other than the enemy’s attacks. I’m only a few years older than my mother was when she passed at the young age of 40 in 1989 from colon cancer when my brother and I were teens.  She had been healthy as far as we knew and her diagnosis that year before hit my dad and our family like a freight train. We felt blindsided. In all of our praying, she still passed and I felt like her life was cut short. Today, I know that such things are God’s business and His ways are not our ways. Even in understanding this, the enemy would send thoughts that my life would be cut short. The thoughts seemed to come one after the other, like fiery darts that I would thwart with the shield of faith, yet some of those lies found their way in the chink of my armor and would ruminate in my mind far too long. I also spoke with others about this to release it.

I am growing more to trust God in the process of healing and trusting in His promises. This means forgoing my need to “fix” situations my way and rather to be Holy Spirit-led in how He would have me to approach issues. I am also rejecting the anxious and fearful thoughts that have waged war on my body, recovery and confidence in God’s Word. I am also so very grateful for my prayer partners who have undergone and some still going through their own seasons of illness and have encouraged me with their words and prayers. This process has also given me a deeper compassion and sensitivity for those battling illnesses and a greater connection in praying for them.

In the course of this battle with days of progress and setbacks, I still don’t have solid answers as to what is causing my health issues. By God’s grace and prayers, I am improving. I am awaiting my next doctors’ appointments to learn more. During a good portion of this process, my need to understand “why” and “what” was becoming too much of my focus. Yes, it is good to seek answers so we can learn more how God would have us to address the situation, but those answers may come slowly. So how should we respond in the meantime?

-Nicole

NEXT: Stay tuned for Part 2 of “Overcoming Illness: I Had to Believe What I’ve Read and Written About” as I share excellent Godly counsel received from a dear sister in Christ that reframed my thinking, who I learned to forgive, what God has shown me in this process…and the next health scare.

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But I’m Not Going That Way

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Nationwide marches. Protests. Rallies. Sit ins. Hundreds of thousands and millions of people gathered to publicly display their positions and views this past week. As a Washington, D.C. resident, I see such demonstrations repeatedly as citizens utilize the public square to stand up against injustices. Who wouldn’t want to be where the action is? Who wouldn’t want to participate in these historical events? Who wouldn’t want a ride to one of these events if offered?

But I’m not going that way. 

I will explain.

Demonstrations, protests and rallies serve as our human efforts to right wrongs; to bring injustices to the surface and hold them accountable. It is a fight to ensure that justice is restored and maintained. It’s part of America’s fabric and that of other nations. Yet, these and all such activities only provide Band-Aids of temporary remedies and not justice eternal. Man can never even the score of what Christ alone can do. Yes, the flesh wounds are real. The injustices are real.

But I’m not going that way. I’m going this way… 

We’ve all been wounded by someone or something and some, more than others. There is no denying this. Yet, I know the Great Equalizer who binds up those wounds and restores what was lost, taken or marginalized. And even in my tenderness and compassion for those wounds, I can’t get caught up in the flesh wounds that would distract my eyes from Christ. If I did, how could I point the wounded in the direction toward healing?

As a dear sister in Christ wrote, “The ‘good’ intentions and injustices should never become the end goal in need of remedy because that measurement is less than what Christ will do. It distracts us from His Kingdom message of return, repent and make straight a path for the Lord.”

So true.

Jesus did not seek to right all of society’s wrongs but He did show love and compassion toward the suffering. He showed them the way to true healing and peace. He showed them that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  

As one who has been called by God to feed His sheep, to be a “voice against the grain,” to share His truth in love and to provide instruction and clarity where there is disillusionment, I do so by keeping my eyes on Christ.

Vida diaria en Iquique

To say, “But I’m not going that way, I’m going this way,” means that we seek to be Holy Spirit-led (listening for His voice) in all that we do rather than being pulled in the popular direction of the day. This often means that we’ll be walking in the opposite direction of the big crowds. It means that we are guided by a biblical view and spiritual eyes rather than a worldview that galvanizes people to jump on various bandwagons. It often means that few join us on that stretch of road to the Cross. It also means that sometimes my heart needs encouraging when I cry out “How long, how long, Lord?,” as I desire for more people to seek Him, to thirst after Him alone rather than the failed vehicles they chase after for their balm.

For the Believer and the unbeliever, I encourage you to look to the Cross, where Jesus bore it all and won it all for us.

As my dear sister prayed (Thank you, sis), “May we look upon Christ and identify with His cross, life, death and resurrection and the hope of the world to come. May our dependency upon the Lord be like little children and look to His ability to change hearts and provide the increase in their growth.  May we have faith and wait to see how our Father will work to bring His plan to completion! O, Lord, give us the grace to trust you beyond our senses and to look to you for everything! Let us anticipate O, Lord, the new Kingdom that You are creating and Your Sovereignty to create us anew.”

Amen!

-Nicole

Nicole D. Hayes is the founder of Voices Against the Grain, a bold teaching ministry launched in May 2013. Nicole’s purpose in creating Voices Against the Grain is to be light in darkness, to boldly instruct truth amid confusion so as to bring clarity and restoration.

Learn more about Nicole D. Hayes here.

The Present: Your Inadequacy, His Strength Revealed

Today’s post is from the daily devotional book, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. Each devotional is written from the perspective of Jesus speaking to you.  A necessary message to appreciate the freedom and limitations of “now” in a society that strives to live outside the bounds of time.   -Nicole

WHEN SOME BASIC NEED IS LACKING—time, energy, money—consider yourself blessed. Your very lack is an opportunity to latch onto Me in unashamed dependence. When you begin a day with inadequate resources, you must concentrate your efforts in the present moment. The Here and Now comprise the coordinates of your daily life. Too many people miss the present by worrying about the future or longing for a better time and place, forgetting that as humans, they are limited by time and space.

This is where you are meant to live—in the present; it is the place where I always await you. Awareness of your inadequacy is a rich blessing, training you to rely wholeheartedly on Me. The truth is that self-sufficiency is a myth perpetuated by pride and temporary success. Health and wealth can disappear instantly, as can life itself. Rejoice in your insufficiency, knowing that My Power is made perfect in weakness.2 Corinthians 12 and 9 His Strength perfect in our weakness

Accompanying Scriptures: James 1:2-3, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trial of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (New International Version)

Walk in God’s Amazing Gift of Grace

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9- Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (King James Bible)

Ana Martinez, Chef and Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Ana Martinez, Chef and Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Something that was said during the March 26, 2014, Voices Against the Grain radio show episode entitled “Celebrating Faith and Family,” truly spoke to me.  One of the guests (Lilly Hayes) mentioned the importance of walking in grace.  I did not truly recognize exactly what it meant to walk in His grace.  I knew I was forgiven, set free and His amazing grace is what rescued me but I still was trying so hard to do everything right.  I can’t change my past or failures and I will continue to fall short—yet I have found hope in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ rest upon me.” (King James Bible)

His grace is so precious and so sweet and I am basking in it.  I can feel His peace within me and His grace and strength rest upon me. Once we truly “Fully” walk in His Grace we can see ourselves the way Jesus sees us.  We can walk in truth and know that through Him we are more than Conquerors and He alone is what is holding us togther.  We then must extend that same grace toward others along with mercy to those who mistreat us. By doing this, we are not only walking in grace but living in it.

I leave you with a song of encouragement (play video below):

“In Heavenly armor we’ll enter the land the battle belongs to the Lord

No weapon that’s fashioned against us shall stand the battle belongs to the Lord

We sing glory and honor power and strength to the Lord

We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord

When the power of darkness comes in like a flood the battle belongs to The Lord

He’s raised up a standard, the power of His Blood the battle belongs to The Lord

We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord

We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord

When the enemy presses in hard do not fear the battle belongs to The Lord”

 

Take courage my friend. Your redemption is near and the battle belongs to The Lord!

Ana

About Ana Martinez

Ana Martinez was born in Michigan. When she was age 4, her parents Pastor Juan and Deborah Martinez founded the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship in Almont, Mich.  Ana grew up in the church and in a humble, loving Christian home.  Her parent’s faithfulness and commitment to ministry for over 27 years has been a testimony to her.  In her youth she was like the prodigal son.  She knows what it means to walk away from your call and to stray from the Word of God.  Her life experiences have taught her that God’s way and His principles are worth upholding.  She is a God-fearing Christian woman determined to do the will of The Lord.  Her heart’s desire is to reach the lost and win souls for the kingdom of heaven by sharing the Good News, according to Matthew 28:19. Ana truly believes people are hurting and need to know that there is forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give ye rest.”

Ana has served on the Missionary Field, and has served in and led praise and worship, web design, children’s ministry and youth ministry.  Ana’s most recent initiative is Georgia Peach Ministry, a non-profit she founded that serves widows and orphans.  Ana is also on the board of the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship. Ana is a private chef and has worked with professional athletes over the past five years. She is also an entrepreneur and is part owner in an interior design business, a chef placement business, and is entering into the food product industry.