I think a lot of people when newly diagnosed with a life-long, incurable illness feel like the bottom just fell out of their world. I know I did when I was diagnosed with diabetes at age 32. Little did I know it was a precursor, a training ground, a boot camp if you will for what was to come 10 years later when I was diagnosed with a whole slew of autoimmune diseases.
Those of us with autoimmune disorders and chronic pain feel like we have been imprisoned by our health. We ask Why? We beat our self against the bars of our prison. Some of us become angry then bitter. Some of us fall into depression so deep it scares us. Some of us are in denial. Then there those of us who come to the conclusion that this disease is our battle ground where we are being tested and honed into the people that God wants us to be.
The Bible tells us what evil intended to decimate us, God intends for good. As pointed out by Max Lucado, in his book “You’ll Get Through This”, “(Satan’s) strategies always backfire. The imprisoned Paul wrote the epistles. The banished John saw heaven. The cemetery of Lazarus become a stage upon which Christ performed one of his greatest miracles.” What good has come out of your struggle? Can you see it?
Christians are tested every day. God uses what Satan intended for evil, as testing. These tests help “refine us like silver” according to Psalms 66: 10-12. “Everyday God tests us through people, pain, or problems” (Max Lucado).
“For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1: 3-4. NTL
There isn’t one verse that I know of in the Bible where Christians are guaranteed a easy life. In fact, if you are a Christian, you already know that living for God is anything but easy in a world where Christians are now a minority. At the same time, you know if you are a Christian, that you have peace in the struggle. While in your mess, don’t think for one minute God has forgotten you. In fact, when you find yourself going through difficult times, ask God what you need to learn through your difficulties.
In my personal testing, I could see I was being stripped of my pride and my love in spending money. As a former charge nurse over a chemotherapy and renal dialysis unit, I was striped of position, title, and rank when I had to leave that job for a desk job in a less than prestigious position than paid less than what I desired. When I filed for disability, I experienced the prejudice others imposed on me and I felt belittled and even shameful for not working. Rather than tell people I was disabled, my pride said, “I’m retired”. I went from being middle-class to being poor. I got striped of my dreams of having a child of my own via invetro fertilization. An emergency total hysterectomy left me barren. My plans were not God’s plans. God had to strip me of all these external things and the life plan I had in my head in order to hone me into the person he wants me to be. He had to slow me down, pull me out of the rat race, and get my attention, so I could do his work. Now I am flat broke, living alone on a social security income with medical costs that outweigh my monthly income, but I am closer to God than I have ever been in my life. Old dreams have been replaced with new dreams. My priorities have shifted. I have reclaimed my joyful spirit in the midst of the struggle.
These realizations didn’t come to me easy or quickly because I’m stubborn. The first two years I ranted and raved like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. I went to counseling for six sessions because I felt like I was going crazy then quit because I thought the counselor was crazy! I raged because of the physical pain and the imposed pain of my life imploding. I screamed at God. I was mad then I became bitter. I told myself that if God was going to let this happen to me then I would stop talking to him and I did! He didn’t stop talking to me. He didn’t abandon me. He didn’t mock me. He stood by my side. He was there when I decided I was finished rebelling. He picked me up when the answer for my healing was, “No”, “…he said my grace is sufficient for you for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 13:9).
I am 48 years old now, 6 years into diagnosis of sero-negative rheumatoid arthritis and it’s ugly autoimmune step-sisters. Rather than see my illnesses and pain as a curse, I can now see the blessings. Rather than being stuck in myself, I can see that I am meant to reach out to others who are hurting. “God comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (2 Corinthians 1:4 MSG) Who can you help today? Who can benefit from the lessons you learned while walking through the crisis of chronic pain and illness?
As Max Lucado says, “your mess can become your message”. He points out these scriptures:
- He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way. (Lamentations 3:33 MSG)
- God began doing a good work in you, and I am sure he will continue it until it is finished when Jesus Christ comes again. (Philippians 1:6 NCV)
- He will work in us what is pleasing to him. (Hebrews 13:21 NIV)
- This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children …God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best.” (Hebrews 12:8,10 MSG)
Whatever your struggle may be today, know that God is there waiting for you to accept him. Only he can give you peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). You are not alone. Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).
Reference: You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado. pg 45-55. 2013 Edition.