What I Learned from doing Camp with Chronic Illness

In January, I had the sweet privilege of attending a girls camp called Renew. For many of the girls I know, this camp is an annual highlight, and many of the leaders are young ladies who are friends of mine I’ve grown up with. I had been once before and had been challenged and encouraged in my walk with God. I had wanted to go again the following year, but had been too ill, so when it came around this year, I began to seriously consider and pray about going. It sounded ridiculous since I am mostly bed bound and have lived for a year so far in my room, and can only get around significantly in a wheelchair. But the more I thought and prayed about it, the more I thought that it just might be possible if organized and prepared for properly. I talked to my parents and they were supportive. I thought about all the details that would need to be arranged – things like what I would eat (because of my dietary requirements I needed to bring my own food) and asked for a couch to be available for me to use in the main room during the sessions. I also asked a friend of mine, who was also planning on being there, if she would be willing to take care of me while I was there – to do the things that I couldn’t do for myself, like be my legs, which she so sweetly agreed to do. 🙂 One by one each obstacle was overcome, far more easily that I’d expected! I was amazed and blessed by the way the Renew staff so willingly did what they could to help me, and so thankful to my mum who prepared all my food for me beforehand.

The big day finally came, and I arrived at the campsite with a sister and two close friends. I was excited for sure, but a little nervous because I had no idea what to expect physically, as my symptoms vary and fluctuate so much. It was a big step out in faith for I knew that it was impossible for me – but not for my God. I felt like He wanted me to be there – He had opened every door – and I wanted to see Him show Himself strong on my behalf.

The first day of camp went pretty well. We began our study of Ephesians and I drank in the sessions and small groups, enjoyed fellowship with some of the other girls, and rested in the in-between times.

The next morning however, I woke up feeling extremely weak and ill and exhausted, and my pain levels were high. It didn’t seem likely that I would be able to get out of bed and ready for the day in time for the first session. I began to feel really discouraged and to wonder if I’d made a mistake in coming. The other girls in my cabin were outside having team devotions, so I was alone to have mine in my bed. I began to cry, and pray and cry out to the Lord. “God, I thought you were going to be strong for me. Have I made a mistake? Should I not have come? What are you doing Lord?” Then I heard a quiet, convicting voice speak to my heart, “Are you doubting me, Caity?” Ouch. I opened my Bible to 2 Corinthians 4, a chapter I go to often, and read these words:

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”

As I read, the Lord began to bring these verses freshly home to my heart.

I was weak, yes, but that was so that I would rely on God’s strength, not my own. Often God allows us to be weak and broken so that He can reveal His mighty power through us. Weakness in our culture is seen as a bad thing, something to be avoided and fought against, something to be hidden behind a facade of human strength and self-protection. However, in God’s economy, our weaknesses can actually be a great benefit to us. Weakness allows us to feel our need so that we will turn unto the One who will meet our needs. Weakness allows us to feel our own frailty and limitations so that we will not think too highly of ourselves and render ourselves unusable to God. Weakness makes us lose all confidence in our own strength and ability so that we learn to depend on our Strong God alone.

My weakness was actually my greatest strength, for it was God’s chosen means of revealing to me and to those around me, His mighty strength.

Often God allows me to especially feel my weakness when I least want to, to teach me this precious lesson.

But that is not all God spoke to me through these verses. I came to Renew with a prayer that He would use my life and testimony to touch those around me. But in order for the life of Jesus to be revealed through mine, I had to die to myself, and die to my sin. I needed to die to the discouragement, to the doubt, and yes, even to the grumpiness that often shows up on such mornings. The only way my life can showcase Jesus and touch the lives of those around me is when I die to these things, say “no” to them so to speak, yield myself to God to obey Him instead, and fix my eyes on Him. I can’t bless anyone or touch anyone’s lives, but only as I die to myself and live to Jesus so that He can do it in and through me. As death works in me, God uses it to work life in those around me. It’s hard, but the results are glorious, for I am then able to bear much fruit for Him.

In order for the Lord to do His work in and through us He needs hearts that are surrendered to Him and malleable in His hands.  So there in my bed I yielded myself and my weaknesses to God afresh and resolved to trust Him. By the time my friend came to bring me breakfast I was already up and dressed. By the end of the day, I was amazed at how faithful my Lord had been. My pain levels were high, but I had enough energy to carry me through the day. The third and last day was a lot harder physically (I was in a lot of pain), but He faithfully carried me through that also. It was humbling to be so dependent on my friend, but that also took me deeper in my dependence on the Lord and my relationship with my friend. I was so blessed by the ways she lovingly cared for me.

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A skit during one the sessions. 🙂

I was also blessed by all the truth I heard from the sessions and the conversations I had with many of the other girls. The Lord gave some sweet moments. Yet I think I learned more from just being there, and from that quiet moment alone with the Lord in my cabin, then I did from anything else. It was a hard few days, but they were sweet. And though I don’t know if God did anything significant in anyone else through my being there, He certainly worked in me and for that I am deeply grateful.

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My small group team. The Lord blessed us with a sweet group of girls. 🙂

Friend, if you are faced with a situation that seems too hard for you and you feel so weak and unable, can I encourage you to cast yourself on the mighty strength of the Lord. Let your need cause you to really latch on to Him. He desires that we would know Him more in our weakness. He desires to show Himself strong on the behalf of those whose hearts are perfect towards Him (2 Chron 16:9).

With love, ❤

Caitlin

Click here for more information about Renew or to find out if there is a camp in your area.

 

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