Consider It Joy?

Posted: Aug 18, 2023

I’m a long hauler; I’ve had long covid for 20 months. The symptoms include difficulty breathing, draining fatigue, and the neurological effects of covid brain, which include depression crashes, anxiety, and brain fog or thoughts that don’t line up with who I am.

The symptoms are always there and fluctuate in intensity. When I’m going through a stretch when breathing is hard my blood pressure can hit the 160s. Red-lining my energy level can cause the bottom to drop out, which forces me to pace my output and weave rest into my days.

A depression crash can mean my mood freefalls to the point of tears. Anxiety can come out of nowhere, even though I have nothing to be anxious about.

I’ve seen multiple docs and specialists for heart and lungs, had a battery of tests, plenty of bloodwork. The results are always the same: “You look great, everything’s clean, sorry, we don’t know anything about long covid.” I belong to an online group of more than 100,000 long haulers. They all have the same story; many have had it since covid first arrived in 2019.

The enemy doesn’t back off with spiritual warfare just because I’m a long hauler. He can throw darts of discouragement, resentment, lust, or other temptations when I’m at a low point.

Several years ago, I asked God to prepare my heart for eternity. This wasn’t what I had in mind… maybe clean my heart up, provide some healing. But not this.

Yet, there have been many blessings the past 20 months, it’s even been a supernatural way to live.

The Salem radio station in Phoenix where we record Blazing Grace Radio is an hour away from my office. In the morning hours leading up to the time I record, (usually, at 11AM), I’m often engaged in spiritual warfare. The topics we hit tend to be those most churches cover up or avoid; many are suffering or in bondage in these areas and the enemy would rather keep them quiet.

Earlier this year, an hour before I was to record at the radio station, the breathing constriction ratcheted up to the point where I was gasping for air. 5 minutes before we were to begin, I prayed, “Lord, this isn’t going to work. I can barely breathe, and the studio mic is going to pick up the sounds of me struggling with it.”

The Holy Spirit immediately spoke into my mind with force: “With God nothing shall be impossible!” There was a sense of rebuke, and comfort… the rebuke, as if He was saying “Don’t you trust me yet?? Don’t you believe in My power to do anything?” The comfort, from the blessing of knowing He was with me. A moment later my lungs opened wide, my breathing cleared, and I was fired up and ready to go.

Two weeks ago I got hit with an emotional crash into depression. Normally I’m able to pray my way through these situations, but this time it wasn’t happening. The dark cloud hovered over me for hours. I asked God what to do, and He replied:

”Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
James 1:2-5

To “consider a trial joy” does not mean attempting to work ourselves up into feeling good. This isn’t about managing feelings or faking it.  “Consider” is an action of the will, a choice. We choose to take our pain and move it from the “I don’t want this” column of the ledger of life to the “I accept this pain” side. To accept suffering is to say “Lord, Your will be done. No matter what You want me to go through or endure, I accept it. Please show me what You want me to learn and see from this situation. Thank you.”

Not long after I moved the crash from “I don’t want this” to “I accept this and consider it joy,” the cloud of depression lifted.

I’ve had many supernatural moments with God like this during my 20 months as a long hauler. Every time I’ve needed energy, particularly before I’m about to speak, record a radio show, or get into a counseling session, He’s given me what I needed.

We need suffering; pain burns off fear, pride, and other sin, purifies the heart, and opens the soul so it can receive more of His love. Trials force us to our knees and strip away reliance on self. How we approach pain determines whether we experience the deep joy that pain produces, or fade away into bitterness, discouragement or fear.

“The one sown with seed on the rocky places, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution occurs because of the [j]word, immediately he falls away.”
Matthew 13:20-21

Pop Culture Christianity doesn’t often give voice to depression, struggles, failures with sin, doubt, or spiritual warfare (don’t go there with porn addiction, suicide, or the occult). Look at social media. Most of the pictures you see are of people in their happy place… not unlike many churches. It’s a dangerous illusion. The lie that we’re supposed to walk around looking like a sunshine bunny all the time is a set up for a hard fall into discouragement and bitterness.

“Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of dry ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we would look at Him,
Nor an appearance that we would take pleasure in Him.
He was despised and abandoned by men,
A man of great pain and familiar with sickness;
And like one from whom people hide their faces,
He was despised, and we had no regard for Him.
However, it was our sicknesses that He Himself bore,
And our pains that He carried;
Yet we ourselves assumed that He had been afflicted,
Struck down by God, and humiliated.
But He was pierced for our offenses,
He was crushed for our wrongdoings;
The punishment for our well-being was laid upon Him,
And by His wounds we are healed.
All of us, like sheep, have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the wrongdoing of us all
To fall on Him.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.”
Isaiah 53:1-7

I can relate to (and desperately need) a savior of “great pain and familiar with sickness.” His people who are Jesus with skin on and have been through hell are a blessing too. Sunshine bunnies (who squirm when you mess with their comfort bubble) or Doctrine Heads who flippantly quote Scripture yet run from pain or medicate themselves from it (perhaps with porn, food, ministry, or other false comforts) aren’t usually the best go-to.

If Jesus gave everything for us as He embraced the horrific pain and suffering the Father asked of Him, should we not do the same?

“But He knows the way I take; When He has put me to the test,
I will come out as gold.”
Job 23:10

Contrary to many of the messages of Pop Culture Christianity, which likes to keep everything positive, encouraging, and upbeat, life isn’t primarily about comfort. If it was, Jesus wouldn’t have gone to the cross and we would be in serious trouble. We receive His comfort, strength, and unexpected blessings when we accept His plan for our lives, which include suffering, walk with Him, confess and turn from sin, and keep going, with the aim of making our lives count for eternity.

Having long covid hasn’t stopped me from bearing fruit with Him. Our weaknesses, trials, and failures aren’t dead ends, but the way to more of His grace and power.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Sometimes the best preaching we can do is to share our weaknesses and failures. God shines through the cracks of our lives.

If you’re going through a tough time and would like prayer, please contact us.