I Was a Chef, Until My Arm Stopped Working
Written by Bernice Yap, Philippines
It all began one day when my shoulder started hurting. At first I thought it was just a bad case of stiff neck, but it worsened to the point that I couldn’t turn my neck anymore. So I went to a doctor, who prescribed a month of physical therapy. But that didn’t work, and it became so painful that I couldn’t get out of bed, much less go to work.
I had to take an indefinite leave until it got sorted out. So I took about two weeks off, to rest and wait for the doctors to decide on the best course of action, which was surgery. However, things at work came to a head such that I ended up having to resign immediately.
It so happened that my husband had just resigned from a pastoral job to plant a church. We had not been worried about his earning because I was sure my income could support the both of us. Losing my job meant we now had no income, plus my injury now prevents me from going back to my line of work (how can I be a chef if my arm doesn’t work?).
After the surgery, I stayed home for a month. I spent many days alone in my room, crying, refusing to see or talk to anyone. All I could think about was how we were going to pay our bills. All the anxiety led to nightmares that made me lose sleep.
It also didn’t help that I couldn’t even do the simplest tasks on my own, such as getting dressed, showering, even brushing my hair. Everything was either too painful or too tiring, and if I exerted too much effort, my left side would have to compensate, which could cause new problems. For someone used to doing a lot of things, this made me feel useless and helpless.
My husband tried to urge me to spend time with the Lord, but I refused. Instead, I chose to numb my mind with Netflix. I reasoned to myself that talking to the Lord now would hurt even more. “My life is in shambles. I’m angry with God, I don’t want to talk to Him.”
Even though I knew that things happen for a reason and that God is sovereign, I refused to accept that He had new plans for me. In fact, I was afraid to ask why He had allowed all this to happen. Because deep down, I felt that it was because I had made my work and career my idol.
Refusing to be comforted
Since I didn’t want to have anything to do with God, I was left with only my thoughts. Fifteen years of my life down the drain. The thought of working in the same industry made me recoil. A change of career? Fear haunted me. Thinking about what’s next was terrifying.
Then the lies began to flood my mind:
You can’t do anything else. Because being a chef is all you know.
God wants you to suffer because you wanted to follow your own way.
Your family will be disappointed in you.
You have failed. Everything that you have worked for is a failure.
Resentment also came rushing in when I thought about what led to my resignation.
Was it fair? Where’s the justice in that? Should I fight?
Where is Your vengeance, God? Are You not going to do something about the wrong that was done to me?
Even as I continued to struggle, my husband did his best to minister to me. Every morning, after breakfast, he would open his Bible to the book of Psalms and choose one for us to read. At first, I just listened since I wasn’t ready to say anything.
One Sunday evening, while I was alone at home, I went back to Psalm 77:
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. (vv.2-3)
Here the psalmist was saying how he refused to be comforted, which I could very much relate to. He asked the question I wanted to ask: God, have You forgotten to be gracious? Are You so angry that You have withdrawn Your compassion?
Mourn, grieve, but do not forget the Lord
My husband kept reminding me that it’s okay to mourn what I had lost. So I cried, I grieved, I mourned.
Yet, even as these psalmists mourned and felt despair, they eventually go on to talk about what the Lord has done. They reminded me that even in my depression and suffering, I can go back to the Lord and trust the works of His hands.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples. (vv.11-15)
These words reminded me: How much of my life has been blessed by the Lord and how much has He already shown me, to prove that He has not forgotten me?
My parents had been supportive of my career. I have travelled to and worked in places that not a lot of people would have the opportunity to. The Lord also answered my prayer for a life partner.
The lies the enemy wants me to believe cannot compare to the deeds of the Lord.
So as I poured out all the hurt, pain, and anger, I also told the Lord that I was desperate to hold on to His promises, that I wanted to believe that He is still good, that He is still in control, and He is still God.
Even though my future is still unknown to me, I am holding on to the promise that I am known and loved by God.
Recovering and rediscovering God’s provision
On days I become anxious, I remember the Lord. Whenever we’re worried about our finances, my husband would encourage me to pray for our daily provisions. And the Lord has answered our needs. He has provided funds, enough to pay for the bills, our house, and even for a mission trip.I am constantly reminded that it is the Lord who provided. Not me, not my work, but the Lord.
On days I feel sadness closing in, I remember that the Lord has given me joy in being able to rest in His presence. I have found more time to study the Bible, read books that I’ve been longing to read, to rest and recover from my injury.
To date I have recovered partially. I can do more now, though there are still things that are difficult to do (like not being able to reach and scratch my back).
One of my doctors suggested for me to continue baking, as it allows me to exercise my shoulders when I’m rolling the dough. So I’ve gone back to cooking and baking, slowly testing to see which tasks I can do without help. I’m also teaching our youth in church how to cook/prepare food and sell them so they can earn their allowance.
Aside from my volunteer work at church, I do consultations once in a while and God has provided me short-term work every so often too.
I’ve realised that not knowing what’s next means I am free to pursue new adventures. I remember the advice I tell my kids whenever they have a hard time letting go. “Be excited for what the Lord plans for you next.”
I have entertained thoughts of studying again or trying a new career. Plans are coming and going around my head, and it gets exciting yet terrifying. I am still hesitant, but I know the Lord will lead me somewhere. One chapter in my life has ended, and a new one is on the way.
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