Although I had been gradually going deaf since my late teens, in 2004, my thirty-eighth year, I lost all hearing in my left ear. This crippled me. I had to leave the church band, could not engage in social dialogue, stopped listening to music (one of my greatest pastimes), could not hear the television, and almost drove my family crazy asking them to constantly repeat themselves. Otosclerosis, an inherited disease that causes the calcification of the bones of the middle ear, was the cause of this ailment. Yet of equal concern to me was the accompanying tinnitus. Although both ears suffered from it, my deaf ear produced a cacophony of continuous, ‘deafening’ sounds, including roaring, thundering, grating, and an extremely deep humming that was extremely unsettling.
Not long before losing my hearing in one ear, I was diagnosed as suffering from complex partial epilepsy, confirmed by undergoing MRI and EEG scans. Prior to this, I had never heard of this condition, thinking the partial-seizures to be a symptom of depression. At this time I ceased taking anti-depressants and took anti-seizure medication, which had (and still has) quite horrid side effects. I lost interest in almost all of my hobbies, entered a continual state of exhaustion, and both short term and long term memory deteriorated significantly.
During these years a recurring injury received from my childhood worsened to the point that I was frequently afflicted by agonising, throbbing pain for ten hours a day, for up to three months at a time. (An operation in 2006 healed this injury.)
It was a Sunday morning in November 2004, when I had come down with the flu for the sixth time in a row, (which may have had something to do with burning the candle at both ends recently…) that I reached a crossroads. With the deafness, epilepsy, injury and apparent inability to return to any semblance of health, I felt the crushing weight of despair threatening to descend upon me. This was the last straw.
I had a choice. My life appeared to be in a state of utter disarray. I could succumb to despair and slip into the miry pit of depression, or I could turn to Jesus and rely upon His strength in my weakness, as He said to Paul in 2 Cor 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
I chose the second option. While I drove down Canterbury Road that November summer morning, I waited upon Jesus and recalled something I had heard in a sermon. My life was like riding in a bus, and the bus driver was Jesus. I was comforted by the fact that the bus driver always knew the destination and how to get there. This was my situation in a nutshell. Although my life appeared to be a complete mess and out of control, this was not the truth. The truth was that Jesus was in control of my life. I had nothing to fear. Jesus said in John 10:27-28, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”
So rather than let these burdensome troubles drive me to depression, I surrendered them to Jesus and placed my trust in Him. The pressures faded away and hope, joy, and peace prevailed.
May I ask you, the reader, a question here?
Considering the breadth of my troubles at this time, does it seem too easy?
I know the Bible says in James 1:2 to ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,’ but trust me, although I reach this place eventually, this is not my initial reaction to trials!
Perhaps you are wondering why it did not take me days, weeks or months to learn to cope with these trials. How could I, after going through so much, ‘seem’ to shrug off their debilitating affects and yet live a normal life?
The only reason these afflictions did not drag me headlong into depression’s merciless grip was because I had already been down that road, back in 1990. It began with an eight-month period of living hell which included an endless cycle of debilitating anxiety attacks, chronic insomnia, crippling feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, utter despair at what was happening to me, and much more. As the days turned to weeks and then to months, I was crippled by the fear that this ‘thing’ that had overcome me would never lessen or end.
Here is an extract from my diary dated February 20th, 1990. (At this time, I had no idea what was wrong with me.)
Oh Lord, when will this end?
Day after day, I remain trapped
In this endless personal hell of pain and confusion.
I want to get out of myself!
To be someone else, anyone but me.
The me I know is gone, yet somehow I am still me.
I must escape from myself, but
I'm trapped in a suffocatingly small, dark room.
I know there is sunlight outside.
I run, push, and strive to reach that light,
But the room comes with me--I cannot get out!
Why? Because I am the room.
Jesus, for what reason have you allowed this?
Where are you? How long will you remain silent?
They say that others who have been down this route
Have left signposts along the way
To help those like me find the way out.
But where are these signposts?
By His grace and provision, Jesus helped me overcome depression and live a normal life again. And in learning how to cope with depression, Jesus set me free so that I need never again succumb to its depths. Galatians 5:1 ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ In conclusion, it was because of what I learnt during my trials of the early 1990s, that I was able to endure the trials of 2003 to 2006 and through Christ, overcome them.
The purpose of this blog is to encourage all (myself included!) undergoing trials and tribulations to establish Jesus Christ as the cornerstone, or foundation upon which to build our lives, and through His strength, endure and overcome those trials in order to live life to the full. John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
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