There are hard times in life and then there are "hard times." There are the dark times and then there are dark times when you can’t even remember what sunshine looks like. These times can strike with hardly a warning. Blessings can be flowing everywhere you look. Joy and friends may be filling your days, but before you know it you are walking in a very frightening valley of trial. This is the experience of every Christian on the road to the Kingdom. My guess is, the above description fits the experience of every one of you. It’s happened to all of us.
My time in Africa was going so well. Nothing had come up that I couldn't handle. No trial had been too intense, no hardship too great. Happily I cruised along in my own strength. Sure, God was the one giving me the strength, but I was doing pretty good putting it to use. Then my happy world hit something formidable. Malaria. So what? Lots of people have gotten this. I can deal with a little fever and fatigue. One full day into quinine and I don't even have any ringing in my ears or nausea. This is too easy. Seriously, I can't call this a major trial. This is a breeze. I think I'll go ahead and work the guard tonight.
Then I get a little funny feeling. Maybe that was just a fluke of nausea. Did my eyes just go out of focus? That's really strange. Must be because I'm just really tired. Despite this apparent overwhelming fatigue I am unable to sleep a moment all throughout my night shift. The hours drag and my mind doesn't seem to be working anymore. The simplest task takes twice as long and double the effort. By morning vital signs I am barely holding myself together. My world is no longer in focus. It will only get worse from here. Good thing I don't know that now. All I know is that my mind no longer works, I can't see straight and I've hit rock bottom. I desperately search for somewhere to let out some of the stress. I huddle under a mango tree and shake with sobs. Right in the middle of my torrent of tears my African brother spies me. "Rochelle, why are you crying? You should go home." Unable to explain and too tired to protest I obediently get up and stumble towards home. This is my first melt down and they are baffled as to why I am crying. I prop my door closed and try hard to stifle my sobs in my pillow. My African Mother comes to investigate. "Rochelle, what's wrong. Stop crying. Eat some sugar you'll feel better." I try to explain I'm tired and I miss my American Mom, but that is where my explanation stops. There is nothing more to say.
The next 7 days get increasingly long and dark. My vision is fuzzy and causes me to stumble and reel like a drunk. I keep my eyes closed most of the time to avoid vertigo and dizziness. Nausea is my constant companion. I barely choke down enough food to keep down my quinine. By the last few days of quinine my shakes and tremors have gotten very bad. No amount of sugar or hard candy corrects my hypoglycemic tremors. Insomnia was not a fluke. It is yet another side effect that no one ever gets--except me. I can't even sleep the miserable hours away. I just lay there throughout the days of nothingness and endless nights, unable to turn my mind off or get any of the sleep my body is screaming for. Diarrhea keeps me staggering to the toilet every 15 minutes. After a week I would give almost anything to either see straight or get one hour of sleep. Feels like I'll never be normal again. I am doing no one any good laying here. I have no one to turn to except God. I have absolutely no reserves left. I turn to God as only one can who has reached the end of their rope and fallen off the end. Oddly enough other trials choose this malaria week to hit. What timing. I have nothing to fall back on. God, only God. That is all I have. If this is the one and only lesson God brought me here to teach me...blessed be His name.
Valley of Vision
" When you lead me to the valley of vision
I can see you in the heights
Though my humbling wouldn't be my decision
Its here Your glory shines so bright.
So let me learn that the cross proceeds the crown
To be low is to be high
That the valley is where you make me
More like Christ
Let me find your grace in the valley
Let me find your life in my death
Let me find your joy in my sorrow
Your wealth in my need
That You're near with every breath in the valley
In the daytime there are stars in the heavens
But they only shine at night
And the deeper I go into darkness
The more I see their radiant light
So let me learn that my losses are my gain
To be broken is to heal
That the valley is where
Your power is revealed"
Words & Music by Bob Kauflin
My physical vision doesn't begin to clear until 2 or 3 days after I get off quinine, but my spiritual vision has a new lease on life. I've recovered from most of my physical symptoms, but I am not recovering my self-reliance. I can't go back and pretend I don't know the depths of my own weakness. It is only by the mercy of the Lord that I live day by day. It is only by His blessing that I am preserved to serve. I don't take it for granted.
In both strength and weakness I choose to praise His name.