Monday, February 8, 2010

Energy Crisis

You have not been long on this planet if you have not been made aware of what is deemed a universal and growing energy crisis. As the industrialized world continues to invest millions in finding new sources of energy and improving the efficiency of current energy supplies, demand keeps growing. Recently, I have been dealing with an energy crisis of my own.

With an adjustment in my pain medication regimen and in my determination to borrow courage from Christ's example, by God's grace I believe I have crossed a new threshold in my appreciation of the positive power that suffering can have in our lives. While currently much improved, I have a more-or-less constant headache (due to brain metastases), frequent flares of a pinched nerve in the left thigh (meralgia paresthetica), periodic severe muscle cramps, and episodic pains from other growing melanoma deposits.

But the undisputed winner of the most disabling phenomena in my recent course is easy fatigue ability, generalized muscle weakness, and poor stamina, accompanied by occasional near black-outs when standing too quickly. This is an interesting phenomenon to me, since while on steroids I have not lost much weight -- rather I am losing muscle mass, tone, and strength. (As a physician, I am intrigued by the high-turnover metabolic processes that accompany unregulated cancer cell growth... )

Compared to my experience during the first few months of this battle with melanoma (when the tumors had spread rapidly throughout my spine and abdomen) I much prefer this current course (where the most critical and numerous growths are in the brain, yet I am still able to reason, write and relate). For those of you who conclude that I have given up the battle, please know that is not the case. I have already out-lived the most generous predictions of my survivability, cherish each day the Lord gives, and look forward to tomorrow.

Faced with an undeniably dwindling stamina, however, I seek to mine the experience for nuggets of truth that may help me and others facing similar challenges. When it comes to dealing with our weaknesses, scripture has plenty of counsel on the subject. Here are just a few:

Psa 27:14 "Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD" [It appears that demonstrating courage (see last blog entry) is predicated on learning what it means to "wait" for the Lord.]
Isa 40:31 "Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary."
Psa 18:29 "For by You I can run upon a troop; And by my God I can leap over a wall."

As I experience profound weakness, I must learn to wait. In the original language of these passages, the process of "waiting" is more akin to posturing myself to spring into action at any moment than it is to passively sit, tapping my watch as the moments pass... Rather I need to alert all my senses to anticipate the next step I must take to keep my balance and stay on the path He has set before me.

Then I find that I begin to experience a paradoxical renewal of energy, coming from a source not to be explained by metabolic pathways or neurophysiologic phenomena. 2Cor 12:9 "And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

As I grow weaker physically, I find I am growing stronger in ways that transcend nutrition, exercise, and metabolic pathways. I find my strength coming from another source -- a breakthrough renewable energy supply found in the irresistible power of an intimate relationship with an all-wise, all-loving, omnipotent and holy God. This relationship rewards me with steadfast love, freedom from guilt, secure hope for the future, and a new passion for others.

The experience affirms an often over-looked conditional promise in scripture which I find myself just beginning to understand: 1Peter 4:1-2 "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."

The God who loves me is not capricious in the experiences He allows me to go through, but rather desires that I leverage them as tools in His hands to shape me into the very image of His righteous Son. He uses suffering to sculpt my character in ways that will last for eternity if I will but recognize and yield to the hammer and chisel of His love. My personal energy crisis is leading me to a new and boundless source of power.

Strengthened and sustained by your prayers,
Dr Dan
A much younger Dan & Linda
(before any thought of an energy crisis :-)