Did you know it is possible to survive a freefall from the Willis Tower in Chicago or a skydive with a failed parachute? It will hurt, and it will take some time to heal, but it is possible. Our lives can be a lot like that freefall, but we can survive whatever challenges God puts in front of us if we just get back up. Join us for this interview with Sheryl Giesbrecht, Author of Get Back Up. In Get Back Up: Trusting God When Life Knocks You Down (Wheatmark), Sheryl Giesbrecht shares her personal story of triumph over tragedy to help readers understand they can not only survive their adversities, but thrive.
Q: For most authors, one defining experience drives them to write their book. You’ve actually faced many obstacles that would have kept most people down for the count. Can you share with us about a difficult time in your life when you had to trust in God and Get Back Up?
Several years ago, I found a lump under my left eye; months later, the lump had tripled in size, blocking my vision. I was afraid and skeptical when I went to the doctor. I could see the concern in the physician’s eyes when sent me to another doctor, a specialist, who sent me to get further tests. You can imagine my surprise when two months later, after no warning signs, such as being tired or sick, I was told I had stage four non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. As a cancer patient, I felt out of control. My life was scheduled for tests, surgeries, doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy, side-effects—everything changed. For a control-freak like me, this was very difficult. I chose to trust God, to place myself in His control every day. Psalm 73:26 says, “My body and mind may grow weak, He is my strength, all I ever need.” This was a daily choice for me. On days I was tired or sick from the medication, I chose God’s way and not my past methods of dealing with adversity.
Q: You used to live a life of addiction-what drew you out?
At seventeen, I was deep into drug addiction. I stayed high as much as possible, trying to fill the emptiness in my life with the highest high or the cutest guy while my need for affection only increased. I couldn’t wait to move out of my parents’ home. My family pulled strings to get me a volunteer summer job at a Christian camp. The staff assigned me lists of chores, such as washing hundreds of dishes in the mess hall, raking piles of pine needles around the campgrounds, and even moving logs around the outdoor campfire ring. Whenever I complained or threw fits over doing my chores or smoked cigarettes and dope, the staff said, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8 [NIV]). Their words, repeated over and over, immersed me for two weeks. The staff didn’t tell me to change anything about my appearance, attitude or addictions.
Instead, they showed me what the invitation of love looked like. They were kind; they offered the true love of God without forcing me to accept it. It got me to thinking, isn’t my sin too much for God to handle? That thought plagued me day and night. Their words, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” straight from scripture, began to penetrate my hard heart and foggy mind. I began to believe God’s love could cover the things that held me captive to my addictions: drugs and alcohol, lying and stealing, promiscuity and drug dealing. It was finally clear: I didn’t need to clean up my act before coming to God; He loved me passionately just the way I was. One night in my cabin, I submitted to the overwhelming love of God. He had reached out to me, and I, a most unlikely choice, finally grasped His hand. His abundant love did cover my multitude of sins. I accepted the invitation to live a new life. The invitation was from God.
Q: When we feel worn-out and spread thin, what are some of the ways we can best rejuvenate ourselves?
It always helps to remind ourselves what God thinks about us. We can do this by meditating on scripture and every person’s identity in Christ. When you understand your identity in Christ, you can successfully live the abundant life He promises. This is how one moves with the rhythm of God’s grace.
Another way we can rejuvenate ourselves is we should learn how to ask God for help. This happens by constantly maintaining conversation with God in prayer. In Get Back Up, I talk about the Mom’s In Touch method of prayer that has helped me learn to pray. God’s prayer book is His Word, the Bible. If you want to learn to pray, use scriptural prayers.
We can rejuvenate ourselves if we learn to nurture ourselves. This is very difficult because it requires self-evaluation. It may mean quitting several of the programs for which you volunteer. “Nurturing yourself is not selfish,” said message therapist Rachel Donaldson. “It actually gives you more energy and patience to manage all types of stress.” If you keep multitasking to a minimum and choose just two or three things each day that are realistic and tangible, you will feel successful and less stressed. Keep your calendar open, allowing for those inevitable family emergencies that would come up. During a busy season of life, when my children were young and their activities required transportation, I set aside about ten minutes every day for a prayer time or just to talk to another female friend by phone. Often my time of renewal was when I picked up my son from my sister-in-law’s house. Although she was my child’s babysitter, we became good friends, prayer partners and confidantes.
Q: Why do you think we tend to want to handle things ourselves rather than hand our struggles over to God in times of doubt, despair and disappointment?
Many men and women are wounded. They mourn in silence, yearning for freedom, yet they remain unable to acknowledge the love of God. They can’t bring themselves to reach out for the hand of God. Disabling circumstances sap their strength, often beyond their control, yet they don’t respond to God’s invitation to get back up. Why do some choose to live life in a state of numbness? Because they believe renewal is for friends, husband, parents, even children—anyone but them. Some think their damaged emotions are too ruined for God to heal. They don’t trust him with their pain. They need to see that the power to get back up begins when the believing starts. That’s what trusting God is all about.
Have a question for Sheryl? Leave it in the comments section below and be entered to win a copy of her new book, Get Back Up.