Self-care for your soul is an important topic – according to Dietlind!

"But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

A few thoughts from me:

In our Christian church, there has been a lot of talk lately about pastoral care or self-pastoral care, which I think is really good, because the subject is often neglected.

We live today in a time where you always have to be well, where you think you have a right to health, where you are quick to pop a few pills so that you can continue to perform and function. — Please understand me correctly, I am not against pills as such; they have their justification.

But life, besides much joy and beauty, is also marked by sorrow, pain, fear, physical decay, sickness, afflictions (Acts 14:22) and suffering (Phil. 1:29).

Christians follow a “man of sorrows who is acquainted with suffering” (Isa.53:3). With this I do not want to deprive you, but rather encourage you to go to this Lord for self-care, who understands you like no other and wants to help you; who is merciful and full of intimate compassion (Jas.5,11).

So here briefly are the 4 points of “self-pastoral care” from one of our last Sunday sermons (with a few additions from me):

(1) Pour out your soul before God:

Lament. 2, 19a: “Arise, cry out in the night, At the beginning of the watches; Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord.”

God is there for you 24 h and 365 days, you may lament your distress to him, write your own “lament psalm”. You may lament – but not accuse: Why does this fate befall me? What have I done to deserve this? What is God doing to me?

(2) Lead your soul and its thoughts to God’s Word:

Job 36:15: “He delivers the poor in their affliction, And opens their ears in oppression.”

Ps. 1:2: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.”

God wants your attention with what is happening to you right now; He wants to speak to you. You must make a willful decision to read God’s Word and pray – just as Asaph himself made a conscious decision in Ps. 73:16: Now I have complained enough, now I am going to the sanctuary. Read his word, think about it and, if necessary, correct your wrong thinking; be active in the positive change of your own character, as we read e.g. in Colossians 3:1-17; let yourself be comforted, encouraged and edified by his word.

(3) Lead your soul to the love, sovereignty and righteousness of God:

Jude 1:20, 21: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”

Job 37:23, 24: “As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, In judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress. Therefore men fear Him; He shows no partiality to any who are wise of heart.”

We do not understand many things, we cannot explain them, certainly not suffering. And that is why I stick to the Word, because it is wisdom. God has given me his Spirit, and with his help I can understand the Word and know that he loves me; that he is almighty and holds everything in his hand; and that he is just and is not against me and means me no harm.

It is nice to be edified and comforted by others (that has its place, to bear the burdens of others Gal.5:2) but it is also my duty to edify myself and keep myself in the love of God, to put on the armor myself (Eph.6:11).

(4) Encourage your soul to have a view of the future:

Rom.15:4: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

Trust in Him whose power and wisdom you can see in creation and whose love you find in the Word of God and the Cross.

What is the Christian hope? You are already spiritually connected to the Lord now, and in the future you will be physically. Because He is risen and alive, you too will rise and live forever (John 11:25).

In everyday life I have made the experience that I have to consciously take the time for this self-pastoral care. But the investment is worth it, because I have really received new strength from the Lord. Therefore, I wish you for your everyday life that you also manage this, “so that it may go well with you in everything and that you may be healthy, as it goes well with your soul” (3 John 1:2).

Love and greetings

Report from Andreas

Dear friends and loved ones,

Almost two weeks have passed since my last letter. Many have responded positively to my open account of this experience of total exhaustion and powerlessness, and how difficult that was for me. Thank you for that! It is important for me not to hide the fact that there are also – and I have to say this about the past days and especially nights – always quite difficult hours.

Towards the end of the 3rd cycle, some side effects became noticeable, especially the storage of water due to the high cortisone intake. But what bothered me much more was increased back pain again, especially at night. If I then had to get up and could hardly walk upright without supporting myself somewhere, and I couldn’t really sit or lie down, then it does wear you down quite a bit, and all kind of thoughts come, including not so good ones. Yes, I had to practice myself what I thought about with you before. “Basically, no one suspects how you’re really doing; you’re alone with your pain. Why does that have to come back now, too?” It’s just that the pain hurts, and the restriction in mobility annoys you, and being sad about it is also completely normal. I then whine a bit about myself. I feel sorry for myself.

The next day I was not in a good mood, grumpy. In the German word for “grumpy” (“unleidlich”) the word “pain” (“Leid”) comes in. That went on for two or three days. Of course, clarifications with the doctor followed; the back was x-rayed again, and yes, some of the lower lumbar vertebrae were also somewhat dented. But then it was decided together to increase the painkillers (“I am still at a low level”), and to continue to exercise patience until the therapy takes effect and later the body stabilizes the bones again by itself.

During that time, our oldest son and his wife were also with us for a few days of vacation. How much should I tell them when they asked me how I was doing? After all, I didn’t want to put an unnecessary load on them. Maybe I also had to change something in my inner attitude? Of course, they honestly wanted to sympathize and comfort and encourage me. But that’s also an interesting question: How much should I really tell about the details of my illness and its effects; what is really important? Maybe it’s much better to talk honestly about the experiences of the soul rather than the physical details of treatments, symptoms and therapies.

Yes, one of the next days I had to consciously say to myself in the morning, “No, you are in pain and suffering, but still you can’t forget the good. Yes, these circumstances are not nice, but I don’t want them to define me. God has given me the freedom to decide: Do I want to concentrate on the negative things (and complain), or do I want to rejoice in God in spite of the circumstances and thank him?” 

And so I shouted to myself the words from Psalm 103: “Praise the Lord!, my soul! And do not forget what good he has done for you!” It had already gotten better with the pain, and it was also getting brighter inside me, and I could go into the day with a completely different attitude. That’s when I notice again what a difference that makes in my behavior as well, for example, toward my wife.

That day I treated and reacted to her more lovingly than in the days before. Yes, she is right with what she wrote above 🙂 . I am very “objective” there!

Last Sunday I could only attend the Sunday church service online from home, because I had not enough strength to participate physically. This made me quite sad. Two days before, Dietlind had to drive by herself to Stuttgart to attend the funeral of her mother. It would have been unrealistic for me to expect that I could stand such a day, while a was at the end of the 3rd chemo-cycle. Also there, my head had to accept the reality of my weak body. I am thankful that it went well for Dietlind, and that this last goodbye from her mother was not too difficult for her; she came home thankfully, as the whole ceremony had been quite dignified and she had been glad to meet the family.

This past therapy-free week, there was another pretty bad day, literally. Not sure what triggered it – but I threw up violently twice. Possibly it was the water-draining tablets, which I stopped taking afterwards. At the same time, I had taken a strong dose of painkillers in the morning because of the back pain, which left me pretty dizzy and powerless. That was a really bad day. After that, I felt much better and was able to sleep very restfully and long the last few nights, and now feel stronger for the next and, for now, last round of chemotherapy.

If you want, you are welcome to continue praying for us, for Dietlind and me, specifically for the following reasons to thank and requests:

  • Thanks for the improvement of the back pain!
  • Thanks, that I could attend the whole church service today.
  • Pray for a good course of the 4th cycle of chemotherapy.
  • Pray for further improvement of the blood values and effectiveness of the therapy.
  • Pray for an early appointment for the bone marrow transplant, as soon as possible after the chemotherapy.

Especially encouraging for us is the exchange (of visits and phone calls) with a couple who are friends and believers, not living far from us. He got the same diagnosis as I a few years ago, and went through similar and often more difficult situations. That is why we mutually understand each other when talking about our experiences, but beyond that it is so great that we can talk about topics from the Bible and pray together.

And we received again many encouraging messages, greetings, flowers, songs and cards, for which we thank you really from the bottom of our heart. Even if we forget to respond everyone please be assured that we have appreciated it as sign of your sympathy and love!

Thank you so much!