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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A Walk Through the Wilderness

Jill Tomlinson, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer, co-founder of Transcend Ministries

Jill Tomlinson, Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer, co-founder of Transcend Ministries

This is a little different from my typical article writings. It is very personal, and I share it all with the knowing that someone somewhere will read it and be encouraged in the Lord.

A few months ago the Lord asked me to write another book. Forgiven, Favored, & Free  would be a book that would empower His sons and daughters to live more fully in the inheritance He provided through Jesus. It would be a book that focused wholly on the finished work of Jesus and our complete identity and victory in Him.

It was April when my family returned from a ministry trip to Australia and I finished the manuscript that He laid on my heart in the same month. Both were “high” points in my life and there was a sweet sense of amazement and satisfaction. I was thankful and life was good. I knew beyond a doubt that I was living out God’s will for my life. The moment of victory appeared short-lived, however, as the waters began to rise around me and my family almost immediately.

I was hit suddenly with sickness and painful physical symptoms. Our family was bombarded from many different directions with seemingly insurmountable issues. In the natural, everything seemed to be falling apart. It was as though I had been pushed from the mountaintop and thrown into the valley literally overnight. I felt as if I was lost in the wilderness. But I knew truth and I chose to stand upon it. Even as I prayed, took my authority in Christ, and spoke the Word over my body, family, and life, my physical symptoms intensified and other problems seemed to get more complex. Using my faith seemed to get me nowhere. Still, I held onto the hope of Christ and the message of His finished work.

The physical pain was almost constant. Some days were really dark, lonely, and at times the intensity of the battle was more than what I thought I could bear. I was fighting, but most days I felt like a wounded warrior at best. For the most part I kept it to myself. Only a few close and trusted friends and family knew about any of it simply because I didn’t want to give the enemy any ammunition.

More than once on this journey I cried. More than once I questioned what I really believe.  More than once I wanted to give up. More than once I heard the words of my accuser, Satan…how can you preach a Gospel that doesn’t work in your own life…where is God in all of this anyway…you are living a lie….give up…don’t print that book…this doesn’t work…you don’t really believe…you are not called…you can’t possibly minister to anyone…you are weak…you are sick….God doesn’t even care…retreat.

Oh, but Hallelujah! More than once, the Spirit of God comforted me. More than once He spoke to me…do not give up…submit to Me by staying in agreement with My Word…resist the devil and he WILL flee…hold on…stand fast…the enemy is trying to steal My Word that has been planted in you…you are Mine…I am for you…I have called you…do not cast off your confidence…I am Truth…you are strong…you are healed…you are whole…I love you.

Hebrews 10 35-36 don't throw away your confidence

I also heard the sweet voice of God repeatedly instruct me to rest—not only spiritually in Him, but physically. I heeded His voice and while I still had ministry engagements and things to do, I made rest a priority. I stopped writing. I cut out everything that was unnecessary, and I spent hours listening for God and pouring my heart out to Him. Sometimes it was in the middle of the night when I was in too much pain to sleep. Sometimes it was in the car for hours as we drove across the country to minister. I felt nothing. The forest got darker, the symptoms became more painful, the problems lingered. There were many times I was discouraged and afraid. Still, I rested, I listened, I meditated on truth, and I waited.

Finally, breakthrough came in the depths of my soul though not the way I expected. The revelation of God broke through the darkness somewhere along the way and I felt a sweet release in my spirit. Nearly four months later, I am writing again for the first time because it’s time. While I did not awaken this morning to a problem free life or a symptom free body, my heart is free, my mind is clear, and I am rejoicing in true victory. For true victory isn’t the absence of problems. It is, instead, the presence of Jesus.

Through it all I have learned much. My beliefs are more solidified than ever before. My God is good and faithful. My roots are deeper, and my passion more fierce. At the center of my life, family, writing, teaching, and ministry is the Word of God—the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the abundant life He provided. It is the only true message of healing, hope, and victory that exists. Any other message falls short of pure truth and fails to deliver. The enemy seeks to steal the message, but Jesus prevails!

Whatever you face today know that BECAUSE OF JESUS, for every tear there is greater peace, for every doubt and lie there is greater truth, for every hurt there is greater healing, for every sin there is greater grace, for every loss there is greater restoration, for every disappointment there is greater hope, and for every defeat there is greater victory. Fix your eyes on Jesus—the Prince of Peace. He knows the way out of the wilderness even when you cannot see!

– Jill

Jill is an author, writer, speaker, and teacher. In her book, No More Lies, Jill leads others through the same journey of biblical truth that brought her freedom and wholeness. Jill and her husband, Jimmy, are the founders of Transcend Ministries—a ministry dedicated to empowering the body of Christ and making disciples worldwide through teaching, writing, and evangelism. They reside in Colorado and have four amazing children—two daughters, a son, and a son-in-law. For more information or to order her book visit www.transcendministries.org.

Learn more about Jill Tomlinson here.

A Time to Be a Prayer Warrior

John 9:10- They asked, “Who healed you? What happened?” (New Living Translation)
Herbert Bowen, Jr.  Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

Herbert Bowen, Jr.
Voices Against the Grain Devotional Writer

(I would like to lift up Mrs. McLain, a light to many and a rose amongst the thistles.)

You are never alone. You are always in our hearts and minds. You are part of a body of Believers. Throughout the distress you never lost hope. Throughout the tests you sat patiently with the tranquility of God’s spirit to fight the fear seeping into your mind. Throughout it all you stood secure within the eye of the storm because you know God has supplanted you with the faith to stay the course. Your courage is insurmountable. Your incandescence is unrivaled. For your smile tells a story: one of joy, one of pain, and one of privilege. Three items afforded to you by the mighty hand of God. Thus, it comes as no surprise that you are overcoming a roadblock that has stopped four lanes of traffic. It was here that you improvised to pull onto the shoulder, in order to cruise by the wreckage down a clear road to a new life just over the horizon. (#GodsWay)

About Herbert G. Bowen, Jr.

 

Born in King of Prussia, Pa., Herbert G. Bowen Jr., accepted the Lord Jesus Christ at the tender age of 5. An active member of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C. where he resides, Herbert serves as a youth/discussion group leader, where he has preached and taught Sunday school, as well  as Wednesday night service. In addition, he has preached at Second Baptist Church in Pottstown, Pa., Destiny City Church in Salisbury, N.C. Moreover, Herbert serves on the pureHOPE advisory board, where his commitment to “wait until marriage” fits perfectly with PureHope’s mission to bring a Christian solution to an immoral culture.Finally, Herbert through the will of God writes weekly devotionals to combat the decreasing morality in the 18-30 age group a.k.a., “the transition gap.” This is an effort to re-introduce Jesus Christ to this spiritually starved generation. His devotionals go out to 2,000+ people and continues to grow under the Lord’s watchful eye.  He is a graduate of Purdue University with a degree in Business Management.