My brain is broken.
It’s been five years since I had chemo, but I still wrestle with neurological side effects of chemobrain. My struggles cause frustration and anxiety about making a fool of myself. The extra effort required to remember and recall information exhausts me. I even wonder if my weakness will hinder me from fulfilling what God has called me to do for Him.
I’ve experienced Pregnancy Brain and Mommy Brain, but chemobrain is even worse. I read about a study that proved the long-term effects of chemotherapy on the brains of some survivors. I have been dealing with these effects for years, so it’s comforting to know it’s not just in my head! (Sorry-not-sorry for the pun!)
One of the difficulties I have is that my brain has a hard time switching gears. My recall is slow, and if I ask my brain to switch from one department to another, it slams on the brakes. Last year, a dear friend of mine from church was diagnosed with cancer. I was sending emails and texts to our circle of friends to set up a meal calendar. One day, at a school function, a friend asked me, “How’s Ashley doing?” I stared at her. I had NO CLUE who she was talking about! A few minutes later, I remembered my school friend was also a church friend. She was asking about the very friend whose recent cancer diagnosis was consuming my thoughts, just not at that moment.
I’m tempted to view these mental struggles as a disqualification for certain tasks. I recently shared my cancer story in a podcast interview. It was a great opportunity to bring God glory by talking about what He’s done in my life. But thinking on the fly while being interviewed terrifies me.
When I write, if I can’t think of the word I need, I can use a thesaurus or come back to it later. If I’m asked to speak, I can write out the talk and practice it over and over. But getting words right spontaneously, especially if I’m nervous – that’s just not my strength right now.
Before the interview, my stomach was a ball of knots as I wondered if I’d be able to speak eloquently or if my brain would go on strike. I asked several friends to pray for me. I laid the interview in the Lord’s hands and asked Him to glorify Himself through me.
As I reflect on the interview, 2 Corinthians 12 comes to mind. Paul writes that God gave him a thorn in his flesh to keep him from becoming conceited about the revelations he received. He pleaded with the Lord to remove it, and the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (verse 9a). Paul continues, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (verse 9b).
Chemobrain is one of the thorns in my flesh. I feel weak and disqualified from certain aspects of God’s calling in my life. However, my struggles force me to rely on the Lord’s wisdom and strength. If I was confident in my ability to speak spontaneously, I wouldn’t have asked friends to pray. I would have stolen God’s glory for myself when the interview went smoothly. Because of this thorn, I know it was God at work through my words and not my own skill.
God is teaching me to boast in my weakness and glorify His strength. If my identity is rooted in my attempts at perfection and my confidence is in my strength, then the thought of failing in front of others is terrifying. I will wear myself out trying to maintain a façade of having it all together. I’ll avoid tasks that might expose my weakness.
But when my identity is rooted in Christ’s perfection and my confidence is in God’s strength, I am free to say, “I have no clue what you’re talking about right now. Can you slow down and help my brain catch up?” Rather than becoming frustrated or embarrassed, I can use my broken brain to boast about the Lord’s power. I can boldly take risks and trust the Lord to use me for His glory, even if I fail.
I hate admitting weakness. But God is teaching me to boast all the more in my limitations instead of trying to hide them. He is using this thorn in my flesh to point me to the truth of who I am in Christ. My Heavenly Father can even use a broken brain for my good and His glory.
What deficiencies or shortcomings do you fear being exposed? How is fear holding you back from tasks or ministry God is calling you to? What would change if your confidence was in the Lord’s strength rather than your own?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
If you’d like to hear my podcast interview with Amy Bennett, you can listen on her website.Share