In the cold, dark, lonely hours of the night, I used to call out to Jesus. “Heal me! Let me touch the hem of your robe! You don’t even have to say anything to me, or even look at me. I won’t bother you but for a brief second. Please!” Sometimes, I would pretend that my linen bedsheet was His precious garment. I’d stroke the linen longingly, praying for a miracle. I was exhausted from the daily nightmare of symptoms that plagued my body, mind and soul in benzo withdrawal.
I would close my eyes and think of the pool of Bethesda. It was near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. The disabled hoped for healing in the waters. Jesus was on His way to a religious festival when He stopped by the pool. He saw a crippled man who had been unable to walk for 38 years. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The man replied that indeed he did, however, there wasn’t anyone to help him into the pool when the water was stirred up. Someone always got there before him. Jesus said eight words to him: “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” The man did! At night, when I felt I couldn’t go on suffering another minute, I’d imagined myself resting on a mat by Bethesda, waiting for Jesus. “Don’t pass me by Lord!” I’d call out to Him. To be honest, I felt incredible jealousy rush through my veins when I thought of the man Jesus healed. Why wasn’t Jesus healing me with a few words? I often felt abandoned, unseen and unknown. It was as if God had forgotten all about me.
The words in Isaiah reminded me: “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.” If Jesus hadn’t forgotten me, what was going on? Why was I suffering?
Suffering is part of humanity. Jesus even told us that. “You will have suffering in this world.” (John 16:33) My suffering was simply part of my human existence. To think that I was special and exempt from suffering was rather foolish and pompous. Instead of spending my energy daydreaming about the pool at Bethesda, waiting for Jesus to work a miracle in my life, I could change my perspective of my situation. That is what I did. Instead of seeing myself as a victim of the medical and pharmaceutical community, I viewed my situation as a way for God to work His good in my life. Romans 8:28 promises: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Could it be that benzo withdrawal was part of God’s plan for me? Could He use it to better me? Of course, He could (and He did)!
Once I accepted that time was the only thing that would heal my brain, and God *probably* wasn’t going to miraculously heal me in the blink of an eye, I stopped suffering as much. I was able to take the withdrawal symptoms more in stride. I trusted that God loved me more than a mother loves her newborn baby. I reminded myself that God wrote my name on His palms. Not because He is forgetful, but because He holds me with His gracious and loving hands. He’s got my entire life, from the time I was seed within my father and mother, to conception, to life, to death, to eternity. God knows who I am, for He created me!
Did I wait beside Bethesda in vain in my dreams? Of course not. It’s true that God didn’t heal me quickly. (But then again, neither did He heal the lame man “quickly” for he was lame for 38 years!) God used my suffering to draw me closer to Him. He used the time it took my brain to heal to polish me into a much better human being. Had Jesus allowed me to simply reach out and touch His hem, or had He spoke eight simple words like He did at Bethesda, I’m most certain I would not have become who I am today. I would have remained lost in my pride, ego and fears. I read John chapter 9, the account of why a blind man that Jesus encountered was born that way. It wasn’t due to sin or punishment. He was born blind so that people could see God’s glorious works through him. Jesus spit on the dirt, made a paste, and wiped the mud on the man’s eyes. His vision was restored! My benzo withdrawal, with all of its nightmare suffering, was so that God could make His work manifest through my experience. If I only remained focused on my suffering, I wasn’t focusing on God’s will and plan for me. When I shifted my focus over to God and gave my life to Him, I felt so much better.
Acceptance of my withdrawal crisis allowed me to lean into God’s divine plan for my life. I was able to “pick up my mat” and go. God did heal me, in His own way and in His own time. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) Indeed, I am in God’s hands. I trust that God is using my benzo withdrawal suffering to bring others closer to Him. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for all of my blessings, and one is benzo withdrawal. Yup, you read it right. It was a blessing. I can see that now.