I’ve been living with a debilitating chronic condition for over four years now. Very shortly after the birth of my third child, I experienced a series of traumatic events that seemed to be the catalyst for what has unfolded over the last few years. I have been all over the country to specialists for testing. I have seen medical doctors. I have seen naturopaths. I have seen herbalists. Though through this searching we gained partial understanding about what’s happening in my body, unfortunately, not a single expert has been able to give me a comprehensive diagnosis, nor anything to relieve my symptoms. Most often the advice was "Take it easy and adjust your life accordingly". What began as insomnia and chronic flu like symptoms has turned into a lengthy list of very unpleasant symptoms such as chronic dizziness, the inability to stand for more than a couple minutes due to Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, and perhaps the most frustrating are the effects on my brain function that inhibit me from tasks like reading, organizing, anything more than simple math, or even processing information (like in a lengthy conversation) without excruciating head and eye pain.
I give you that information not in a plea for you to feel sorry for me, or to complain, but to give you the context for the situation in which God has been intervening in my life. I'm writing to testify to the goodness of our God even in the most troubling of circumstances. It has been a long road these last four years, and the journey continues every single day. Along this journey I have fought to keep my mind, because, as you can imagine, all that pain and disability could drive any person mad. The Word of God has been my salvation. I say that with the utmost sincerity and confidence. It's truth has pulled me out of some very dark moments. There has been no other source that I have found to truly sustain me. And as a strong side note, were it not for my believing brothers and sisters who continually turn me to God’s word and literally surround me in prayer, I don't know where I’d be.
The thing is, I'm not writing this on the other side of it all. I don't have a pretty finishing bow to place on this season of my life, because it is not yet wrapped up. This isn't a testimony of miraculous physical healing. Nothing is hindsight for me yet. I’m still wrestling daily with my illness and the emotional and psychological effects that chronic pain brings. Im working hard to keep fear, anxiety and despair at bay, and instead cling to the peace found in being near to God and doing what his word says, like taking every thought captive to obey Christ or, considering it all joy because my character is being perfected or, believing that God is working all things together for good. My testimony, however, lies in the fact that God has been so near amidst my suffering. I feel this is a testimony the world needs to hear.
Human beings experience suffering. It's part of life. The spectrum is large and the causes are endless in number. We don't always get relieved of it, even despite our most sincere pleas to God. I think of Joni Earekson Tada from whom I've received great encouragement through her audio books over this last year. She has been a quadriplegic for the majority of her life due to a tragic diving accident at age 17. If paralysis weren't already enough, she lives with chronic pain due to a lifetime in a wheelchair, and is also a cancer survivor. She has suffered greatly. But let me tell you- she is a woman of great faith. When hearing her speak, you have to ask yourself- HOW is this woman still so full of genuine joy and an unwavering faith in God?! In her books she explains her life, her struggles, her faith journey, and the powerful ways God continues to meet her and sustain her. I want to share with you one quote from her that powerfully sums up both her experiences, as well as the way in which I am learning to bare my own suffering.
"When God refuses to grant your deepest desires, He will give you Himself"
(From- "A Lifetime of Wisdom: Embracing the Way God Heals You")
I think it's also appropriate to quote Paul the Apostle here as well.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this (thorn in my flesh), that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:8-10
Again, my testimony resides in the fact that God has been ever present in my life, and in my family, through this long season of suffering. He has not granted my desire to change my objective circumstances (i.e.- relieve my symptoms) which I will admit was, and often still is, a hard reality to accept. But he has given me more of Himself. His grace and His presence have been enough to sustain me. Daily His Spirit comforts me. Daily the truth from his Word lifts my downcast soul, moves me from fear to faith, and fills me again with hope. Daily He blesses us through our friends and family, lightening our burden.
I had a really hard time accepting my human limitations and finite understanding surrounding the presence of my illness. How could a good God allow this? I just couldn't hold my present circumstances, and that truth, in the same hand. But I had a turning point about a year ago where I said to God, If I'm going to be sick, if this is what I have to work with, I want to please you in it more than anything else. It’s been over a year now of flooding myself with scripture and prayer daily, as well as having truth poured into me by loving friends and family that have brought me to a place where I can even write and testify to the goodness of God. He has been so faithful.
Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. - Psalm 55:2
I invite you into this kind of journey with God, no matter your circumstances. That’s the amazing thing! As Paul says in Philippians 4, circumstances do not dictate our nearness to God, or how He can use us. When we give our lives in service to Him, no matter how much or how little we feel we have, He will be near and even give us strength to do things we could only see as impossible.