Guest Post: Paul, Prison, and Paralympics

This is good stuff, really good stuff.  I hope you enjoy what Tanya has written for us today.  She is a very talented writer and I have enjoyed reading her blog Thorns and Gold.  Please take the time to check it out.  I know it will be a blessing to you.  She is a sister in Christ across the sea in the UK.  She suffers from ME, myalgic encephalomyelitis, or what we in the states call chronic fatigue syndrome.  Thank you to Tonya for sharing her thoughts today.  If this blesses you, please leave her some love in the comments!

Tanya Marlow is passionate about teaching the Bible, answering tricky questions of faith and training others to do this. In the past she has done this in student and church ministry and as Associate Director of the Peninsula Gospel Partnership (PGP) Bible training course in the UK. Right now she does it by reading Bible stories to her gorgeous toddler, as she learns what it means to be a stay-at-home mum who is also currently housebound with an autoimmune illness. Her blog, Thorns and Gold can be found at where she writes about many things, but mainly the Bible, suffering, and the messy edges of life.

Paul, Prison and Paralympics

I watched the Olympics medal ceremony, feeling a little tearful alongside the winners. It is amazing to celebrate with those who have achieved their goal, who have succeeded, who have conquered.

But I felt a bit sad as well, as I recalled some of the goals that I had had to leave behind because of illness.

  • I had always wanted to run a marathon.
  • I love singing opera; I had wanted to improve my singing.
  • I had wanted to write a best-selling book.
  • I had wanted to learn to make michelin-star quality desserts (okay – that’s a total lie; I’ve got no motivation or aptitude to cook and making desserts would be way down the list, somewhere after an MA in New Testament Greek, learning to barre chords properly on the guitar and not just play G, D and E minor, star in a local production of Les Miserables as Fantine, learn about art history, get a diploma in counselling).

I can’t do these things, and it is unlikely I will ever be able to do these. My M.E. (myalgic encephalomyelitis, sometimes known under the umbrella term of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) has deteriorated to the extent that I am housebound, mainly bedbound, and I need help to look after my toddler. I have to limit my social activity and my brain activity.

Somehow the Paralympics can be even more depressing from this point of view. They’re disabled too – but they’re achieving amazing things! Me? I achieved getting dressed today – and it took me hours to even recover from that. Is there anyone who gives Olympic medals for taking a shower?

This morning I felt so acutely my weaknesses and limitations.

My Prison is an Open Cage

In my discouragement, I read Philippians.

“…I am in chains…” (Phil 1:13)

And then a light clicked on for me. I thought of the chains of my disability. I thought of Paul, imprisoned in his house, unable to preach the gospel openly. I thought of his goal to go to the far nations, to preach where the gospel had not gone before. I thought of his love of debate and dialogue, and being able to persuade people.

I paused reading. And suddenly I was Paul, stuck under house-arrest, seeing all of his hopes and desires for ministry wither away, his substantial gifts atrophying as he spent the hours in chains, counting the hours as they passed. I was Paul, thinking, ‘Has God rejected me? Did I get it wrong? Were the other apostles chosen rather than me? Was I being punished in some way?’

And then I was Paul, feeling that it was God who was at fault, God who had failed. Surely there was much more valuable work for him to be doing. If I were Paul, this is how I would have felt: God had got it wrong.

But God hadn’t got it wrong.

Paul being in prison meant that he couldn’t do as much preaching and travelling. The only way he could keep in touch with the churches to encourage them and continue in mission was to write. So he wrote – and as a result we have most of the New Testament today.

Out of a place of weakness, limitation, the world of small things, he left a legacy for thousands of generations.

Paul wasn’t to know this. Although he was probably aware that his words were scripture (2 Pet 3:16), he wasn’t to know how many thousands of people, how many languages his words would be translated into.

His writing, his second-choice mission activity was God’s way of enabling the scriptures to be written. His weakness was a means of God’s grace. His Plan B was God’s Plan A.

What we think of as our greatest achievements, may, in the light of eternity, be nothing.

What we think of as our weakness may, in the light of eternity, be our greatest achievement.

I go back to reading the passage and drink in Paul’s words:

“For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Phil 1:21

And actually, in the end, it’s not about the achievements, whatever they end up being. Our life is in His hands, and whatever else we do we need to adore.

It’s not about thinking of the medals we’ve gained or lost but it’s about Jesus: the saviour who lost so we might receive and gave that we might gain.

Over to you:

  • What goals have you had to surrender because of illness or life circumstances?

Like this? Stay in touch with Tanya: Like the Thorns and Gold Facebook page here



I did not get a blog written last week.  Boo!  Let me tell you why.  We were faced with a possible hurricane (it skipped us, we are fine).  We have been looking for a new house, found one, went through several days of emotional turmoil to try and get a contract.  We got it.  My husband worked 85 hours last week to finish a deadline – so I was single mom last week.  And my in-laws came and visited over the holiday weekend.  Whew!  That was a bit stressful.  Glad it’s over.  Good things.  But even good stress is still stress.  So, here is my post for this week.  Hope it makes up for last week.  Love to you all!!

My Inspiration:

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped.  He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.
Job 1:20-22

My Thoughts:

Do you ever blame God for the things that go wrong in your life? If anyone on this earth had reason too, it would be Job. He lost everything. The family he loved, all of his possessions, and his health. Sometimes bad things happen because of our poor choices. But sometimes painful things just happen in life for reasons that we don’t understand. I don’t think I have ever blamed God for bad things, but I have questioned Him. I recognize that both believers and non-believers encounter all kinds of earthly suffering due to the curse of sin. As a believer though, I have often questioned why suffering happens to those who are trying to please Him. I have also felt angry and frustrated that we don’t know these answers. I have grieved and continue to grieve a life that I thought I was going to have and still desire.

My illness started my last year in college. I have been dealing with this for basically my whole adult life with very little hope that I will ever be “well”. I have ups and downs physically that range from completely bedridden (did that for 2 years) to all appearances of normal. I managed to finish college and even get a Master’s degree. I married the love of my life and spent the first 18 months of our marriage in the bed. Literally. I grieve that I never had a honeymoon or the first years of marriage were covered in illness and doctor’s appointments, but I am blessed beyond measure that he stuck with me and doesn’t complain. Life has become more manageable since the early days. I know my body’s limitations and triggers. I appear to live a “normal” life, but no one sees the meds and lifestyle changes that have been made to appear that way. Although I am in a good place with my health right now, I still suffer consequences of this chronic illness, everyday. That is my life.

I have discovered that dealing with chronic pain and the loss of “normalcy” is a continual process. It is not something that can just be conquered emotionally or spiritually once and for all. Wait. Read that again. It is a continual process. Just when I think I have a handle on how this illness works. It surprises me. And just when I think I have laid this to rest, accepting it for what it is, something happens that sends me spiraling into tears of frustration. And just when I think I have put all of this into God’s hands, I am tempted to doubt and question His ways. This is a journey! A constant, active mindset of laying our lives and our plans at the feet of Jesus.

My thoughts from the beginning have always been to allow the Lord to teach me through it – to use it for His purposes. But what do you do when you try to find purpose in it and sometimes come up empty? We know that God ordains everything. Nothing surprises Him. He chose you and me to suffer chronic pain and fatigue. Why? I search for reasons why all the time. Maybe I am to minister to those who chronically suffer. Maybe this lesson is for me to trust completely. Maybe it is the only thing in my life that keeps me running to His Word. Maybe the desires and ambitions I had for this life were not good for me. (Blessings)

I am currently a stay at home mother of five kids and I am thankful and blessed. But I am also full of ambition and passionate about what my career would have been. I still dream of going to get my Doctorate degree. But for what purpose? I don’t know that I could ever work a full time job. Why would God give me talent, ambition, and passion and then allow my body to fail me? I don’t know. I think it’s OK to question why, to question His purpose. But always realizing that HE DOES INDEED HAVE A PURPOSE!!!

I don’t have answers, but I can offer you encouragement. Keep trusting, praying, believing, and looking for ways to use your suffering. Remind yourself of all the good in your life – the abundant blessings that we often take for granted. I hope and pray that in our lifetime there will be a cure for fibro and cfs and that the suffering will one day come to an end. Until then, I allow myself to grieve and question, but I am also confident that He controls it all. Sometimes it stinks, but His purposes are always for the greater good. ALWAYS!

Love and Blessings,
Ann 🙂