Pendulum swings

DJP_2179The pendulum swings continue. A week ago I was enjoying life with my wife, riding a ferry on Sydney Harbour. Today I climbed out of bed for the first time in five days since having chemotherapy. Chemo messes with my body big time. But it also messes with my mind. When I’m relatively chemo-free, I start to feel ‘normal’, like I can make plans and take on the world.  Then comes the poison again, and the world seems to collapse around me. I worry that I won’t get better and that I won’t be able to do anything much at all.

Perhaps, I need to adopt a mathematical approach to working out how I’m going and how much I can do…

(G + B) ÷ 2 = R

G is the good times
B is the bad times
R is a realistic assessment of where I’m at and what I can do!

In other words, when I feel really good, I need to realise that this is the top of the pendulum swing and it won’t be this good for long. And when I feel bad, I need to remember that things will get better and it’s just for a time. Split the difference and I will have a more realistic picture of things!

More importantly, I don’t want to be controlled by the pendulum, whether it’s mood swings or health swings or any other kind of swing. I have the capacity and the responsibility to choose how I will respond to my circumstances. Victor Frankl, who spend time as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps, highlighted this fact in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. He wrote:

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

Frankl was a brilliant and exceptional man. In the face of extreme suffering, he shaped a philosophy of life and an approach to therapy that has had massive influence. I enjoy reading his works, and find it helpful to be reminded that I can choose how I’ll respond to what happens to me. I’m not simply a victim (or otherwise) or my personal circumstances.

But I’m also a little wary of Frankl’s positivism. Yes, it’s up to me to choose, but what if I can’t? I might want to take control of my thoughts and feelings, but struggle to do so. What if I’m overwhelmed by my bad experiences or seduced by the good ones? What if I’m simply too weak to think clearly and rationally? What if the treatment impacts my mood so greatly that I don’t know what I’m feeling?

I take comfort in the knowledge that God knows what I’m thinking and what I’m feeling. He understands the full impact of my circumstances upon me. He’s aware of my tendency to swing with the pendulum. He’s seen me get cocky when things are going well and he’s seen me depressed when things seem too hard. And he cares for me in all these situations.

I’m comforted by the fact that even if I despair and struggle to pray, God will help me in my weakness.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  (Romans 8:26-27)

I’m encouraged by the promise that whatever circumstances may threaten to overpower me, nothing can separate me from the love of God in Jesus Christ.

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 8:38-39)

The pendulum will continue to swing. Life will have its ups and its downs. I will get tossed around more than I would like. But I thank God for his strength and grace to see me through.

7 thoughts on “Pendulum swings”

  1. As chemo takes people to the edge of death and then back to life, the “Pendulum” is a very apt description of that journey. Glad to hear you are on the “up”. Susan

  2. Good on you, Dave. Thanks for sharing the reality of life. It seems to me, as you put it well, you are experiencing an exaggerated version of non-cancer living. You’re doing us a favour drawing us in to that deeper reflection as we all, really, live with the same questions. Some of us just have the current luxury of putting them off for a while! Praying for you all. Your brother because of Jesus, Andrew

  3. I, too, have found great encouragement in both the story and the writings of Victor Frankl. I am reminded of another quotation I first read over 40 years ago and which has come to mind in many tough situations over the years –
    “He who has a why to live for can endure any how.”
    For Frankl the why was his love for his wife from whom he was separated during the years of horror and the hope that he would be re-united with her when one day the unspeakable suffering of how was past.
    You do not need reminding from me, for indeed you have been reminding your readers, of the source of our hope, both present and future, in Jesus Christ. As you reminded us, but a few weeks ago –
    3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
    You have also revealed something in your understanding of why in the way that you have written of your family and what it is that you want to give your family, and indirectly perhaps, give to so many other people, in whatever the number of the days and weeks and months and years of this present life may be.
    It makes me want to re-write the pendulum formula – for there is another factor to be included. You have used the symbol G for good times, so I must use another to include the Grace of God. I choose S to represent the Holy Spirit of God, through whom God’s grace is ministered to us. Thus the new reality is [(G + B) ÷ 2] S = R, where God’s grace (S)takes hold of our circumstances, the good days and the bad, to produce new outcomes multiplied beyond our hopes and expectations.

    Whilst we pray for God’s comfort, strength and resilience for you in the bad days, we also rejoice in the new and expanded ministry of Macarisms which God has entrusted to you.

    1. WHAT an encouragement Dave and kick in the tail. We have just done Philippians 1:12-30 about freedom in Christ and I referred to that quote by Frankl. Well the concept..didn’t quite remember exactly what he said and who he was so thanks for that.
      Its an empowering truth isn’t it to not be in bondage to our circumstances and yet I find it quite a challenge in circumstances that are far less full on than yours.
      I just read this verse on fb so I pass it on. I discovered Ps 73 on our honeymoon in 1988 tho my room mate at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in 1984 had this as one of the verses she hung onto as she battled ankle pain after a car accident.
      “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
      My flesh and heart may fail,
      but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” vs 25-26

      Love to you and Fiona.
      Tracey Piggott

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