Three things I’ve learned in the eye of the storm
Chronic illness threatened to derail pastor Eric Gaudion’s faith. Now he’s told his story in new book Through the Storms, and shares three lessons he has learned in the tough times …
Storms are big news where I live on the west coast of the Channel Island of Guernsey. Gigantic Atlantic swells hurl themselves on the pink granite outcrops, crashing like thunderclaps and throwing seaweed and stones into the air. When storms combine with spring tides in the winter, local flooding brings misery to homes and businesses alike.
Nothing could have prepared me, though, for the storms that engulfed me in my forties. I was a Pentecostal pastor who had been a missionary, leading a large and busy city centre Elim church in Cardiff. I became seriously ill with chronic pancreatitis with recurring acute episodes. This is one of the most painful diseases known to humankind and is often fatal.
Over two decades I was admitted to hospital over 100 times, endured over 30 surgeries, and needed opiates like morphine in industrial doses, but was still in relentless pain. I often wonder how I kept my faith, but thankfully I did (just about). Here are some of the lessons I learned on the way.
1 Be grateful for every day
Jesus taught that we should live one day at a time and that tomorrow can worry about itself! I have heard it said that we should not burden today’s strengths with tomorrow’s worries. Surviving storms is about narrowing your focus to manageable boundaries. There are so many aspects to storms – wind, rain, flooding, trees falling, etc – that trying to second guess the outcome can be a hopeless task even for forecasters. But one thing is sure, the storm will pass, and after it comes a serene calm. All you are promised is today – grab it and live.
2 Allow yourself to be real and vulnerable
I was the guy other people relied on in a crisis. It was crucifying for me to have be changed and nursed like a baby. During one long ICU stay I suffered from a drug-induced paranoia. It’s so hard for men to be real and admit mental as well as physical needs. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) has been a huge part of the storm’s aftermath too. But we are all much loved children of God, and the only perfect one around is called Jesus. So, let’s be real and let others know and love us as we are.
3 Lean back on love and the prayers of others
The Bible teaches that there are times in life when you must ‘make level paths for your feet’. My wife’s love and the praying support of family and friends has helped me through the most appalling storms. But God’s love is even more powerful and challenges me to let go and trust him. I had several near-death experiences during my hospital stays over the years. What kept me going through them was partly leaning back on God’s love, and the glimpses I had of what lies beyond death.
- Through the Storms by Eric Gaudion is published by Instant Apostle (£8.99)