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Friday, August 24, 2018

Study Break

    We need to talk, God. I really need You to understand something. Life is tough and I’m getting kind of tired of it. Year after year after year You’ve sent me one challenge on top of another.

    Medical conditions that slow me down and disrupt my career. I’ve seen You lead me to the right diagnosis and treatment so many times, sometimes (usually) through incredible “coincidences,” but now I’m stuck again with too little energy to pursue a normal life, and no solution in sight.

    Watching a loved one suffer physically and economically, and feeling helpless. Wishing I had the resources to help him out a bit.

    The financial challenges that I’m facing. You’ve closed countless doors without opening any new ones. Yes, I remember as a newbie Christian my great respect for believers whose faith in Your provision remained firm even as they sat down to eat the last food in the cupboard. I know how much I longed to have that kind of faith. But somehow I thought the growth could come through walking with You day by day, studying Your Word and spending time in prayer and fellowship, without having to actually experience the lack of resources.

    So here’s the deal. I’m feeling burnt out on this whole learning-by-suffering issue. I need some relief. I’m sure You remember my student days and how those precious study breaks were so essential to my success. Coming home after a long day in high school. Thinking I’d better hit the books or I’d never be ready for the next class. But the brain just wouldn’t cooperate. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t concentrate. I needed time off from the schoolwork, time to refresh my mind. Then I would learn the lesson even better.

    That’s how I’m feeling now. Like I need time off from this constant emotional stress, this school where suffering is the only teacher. Do You think You could relieve me of one of these burdens—my health issues, my loved one’s illness, my financial concerns? Think of it as a study break. I’d be so much stronger, so much more ready to face the challenges if I could just take a breather for a little while.

    Even Jesus, Your perfect Son, felt this necessity. In Matthew chapter 14, John the Baptist was killed by Herod. “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place” (verse 13). He needed time to get away, time to process His grief without additional burdens.

    Yes, I know the break You gave Him didn’t last long. The crowd followed Him and He had compassion on them, healing their sick and feeding more than five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish (verses 13 through 21). The point is that He faced a very real human need and took steps to meet it. Won’t You let me take those same steps and withdraw just for a little while, just for a time of refreshment? Won’t You relieve me of some of the pains and sorrows and stresses of my daily life for a few weeks or months or maybe even a couple of years?

    A few days later . . .

    Okay, God. I know I opened this post with “we” need to talk. But I didn’t really expect it to be a two-way conversation. I expected to end it with that last question. I was just feeling the need to vent and thought maybe my readers could relate and find comfort in knowing that others are going through the same things they are. But You surprised me by answering my prayer for a study break in unexpected ways.

    First there was the burden of trying to straighten out mistakes made by my health insurance company. It involved a doctor that I see for regular treatments. Somehow, whoever processed a few of the claims had wrongly denied coverage. Then when I tried to get it corrected, they fouled up several of the other claims with the same doctor.

    It was such a mess. It looked like my only option would be to file a written appeal with the insurance company, detailing the many different mistakes made in my Explanation of Benefits (EOB). But I had no faith in their ability to get it right this time, so I was planning on also contacting the state agency that oversees health insurance. So many hours to spend correcting someone else’s errors when You know how limited my time and energy are.

    I stopped by the billing department at the doctor’s office with a copy of my EOB to explain all the details of all the mistakes made on the many claims. Their response was a shock and a blessed relief. The office had decided to just let it go. I had paid my required share. They would not be receiving any money from the insurance company anyway. They preferred to have an accurate EOB for their files, but I’ve been a regular patient for several years and have always paid my bills on time. They wanted to save me the trouble of pursuing it. The weight was lifted. I thanked You all the way home.

    The very next day I had a follow-up appointment with another doctor regarding an injury that I’d sustained several weeks ago. At previous appointments, I’d found him difficult to communicate with. I was dreading this meeting enough to ask friends to pray that I would handle it in a godly way. I dragged my feet in the door, praying that it would go well.

    And then an amazing thing happened. Instead of the doctor, his physician’s assistant met with me. Communication was smooth and clear and helpful. He patiently answered my questions and volunteered additional information. I walked out of the office smiling and thanking You for sparing me the anticipated pain of trying to understand what was happening to my body while facing a doctor who had never yet explained it well. It wasn’t until several hours later, while I was once again praising You for this unexpected answer to my prayer, that two little words suddenly popped into my mind: study break.

    It wasn’t the great big, long-lasting time off from suffering that I’d hoped and prayed for. But it was a reassurance that You hear me, You understand me, and You answer my prayers. Maybe, as with Jesus, You knew all I really needed was a brief break. Maybe You can see me through even without the extended one I was seeking. Maybe You provided this short respite to help me focus on having compassion on others and to encourage me to place what little I have in Your hands so that You can multiply it.

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