Why is it that ill-health, pain, suffering and being in-need feel like you are against us?
Updated: Jul 27
Why is it that ill-health, pain, suffering and being in-need feel like you are against us?
You know my struggles. You have felt my tears and listened to my repeated pleas for a healthy body. You know how I felt before my first autoimmune disease diagnosis. Knowing the diagnosis that I did not want, yet so desperately “needed” so that I could get on the road to healing. Little did I know that my body wasn’t the only thing you were talking about when you said you’d heal me…
"But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression."
It was the happiest time of my life; you remember. A sweet baby boy. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, green slime and all…at least that’s the way I remember it. My son screamed for his life when they pulled him out of the scar that remains today. By the way, we need to talk about that whole birthing process…umm gross! Yet afterward was an exhaustion I had never known. Scraping by life, one step at a time, I felt like I was trapped in someone else’s body. It was so hard, Lord. So hard. Six months later, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, due to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease. But I still didn’t feel right. Over the years, I continued to gain weight, continued in ill-health, gained another autoimmune disease, and MANY complications…no need to list them, you know. I have been plunged into the depths of depression more times than I can count. And tried every type of diet, every vitamin, every home remedy. Now, anxiety is the ever-present cousin to depression.
Jesus, some days this journey feels like a slow slog through a dry & lifeless desert. Destroyed dreams, loss of success/wealth, and people whom I’ve loved. This painful path has stolen things from me. Good things. At least, I think they were good things...My career. My busy schedule. My marriage. My freedom. My body.
“‘But all who devour you will be devoured; all your enemies will go into exile. Those who plunder you will be plundered; all who make spoil of you I will despoil. But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’
“This is what the Lord says:
“‘I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents and have compassion on his dwellings; the city will be rebuilt on her ruins, and the palace will stand in its proper place. From them will come songs of thanksgiving and the sound of rejoicing. I will add to their numbers, and they will not be decreased; I will bring them honor, and they will not be disdained."
My career right now is basically non-existent. You’ve allowed me to become a skilled professional artist; yet I have little to show for my years of study, grinding through freelance jobs, and over 20 years of student debt.
My busy schedule has always been something I’ve been extremely proud of. As a child, plagued with allergies to, “pretty much everything”, as my Dad put it, the only medication available made me transformed me into a zombie on the couch, alone. I couldn’t function; and I was made fun of for being lazy. You know the effort, as an adult, I’ve put into remaining ultra-busy to avoid such comments.
My marriage has been another casualty of illness, in part. I tried, with the patience of Job, to continue moving forward in life. Trying to lose weight, time and time again. Trying to continue on with my career. Working constantly at being a better wife and mother. Finally, after years of this uphill battle, you were with me when my husband claimed that “he didn’t love me anymore”. And after much pain & sorrow, it was over.
My freedom to do ‘what I want when I want’ has been shattered. I now have to manage my days. Remaining in constant awareness of how I feel, what I have on the calendar, and exit strategies for the appointments that I can no longer attend to, takes up mind space. Failure in properly managing these things means getting any number of illnesses…always a surprise…as well as extreme exhaustion, the kind that depletes energy levels, leaving me couch-bound for days, weeks, or even months. You know how hard this has been; I manage, but most of the time it is surviving, at best.
My body is the saddest casualty. I’ve always had to work at keeping weight off, but I could do it. And honestly, exercise and healthy eating have always been priorities for me. But the combination of the thyroid condition and RA (currently under a pain-staking 5-year diagnosis process) makes it so difficult to get to a healthy weight. It IS possible; I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t, but hard is an understatement. And I have failed, thus far, at this task.
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
My heart feels selfish for speaking of my pain after all you’ve suffered. I mean, you died for me. You endured for me. You were berated, belittled, betrayed and beaten for me. You didn’t even know what sin felt like when the sins of ALL THE WORLD descended upon you. You could have arrived as royalty in Jerusalem, but you came as a laborer with dusty, calloused feet. You hung out with people that didn’t bathe and those whose sin had made them outcasts, those considered depraved and degenerate. Every step of your earthly life was perfect & pure, until that day. Feeling the emotional burden of sin must have been far worse than the nails in your hands & feet. That sin residue must have pained you more than not being able to breathe or being scorched by the sun or being thirsty or having open wounds, attacked by insects.
You truly are worthy of our praise. You truly are worthy of our worship. You are more than we deserve and ALL we could ever want. As sinners, we have forgotten the price of sin, the ugliness of it. We have forgotten the hopeless feeling of disappointing you. And yet you’ve saved us. You’ve given your great & powerful life for ours. You must hold us truly in high regard. You truly love us.
"I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame. When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me."
Ya know, a lot of people today talk about love. I wonder if you would agree with their definition. According to the world, love is simply about showering others with blind approval, as long as it feels good to that person. According to your Word, love is a vastly different concept. As our Creator, you share the truth with us, even when it’s difficult for us to hear. You don’t simply want us to always “feel good”, but rather to grow. You teach & correct & mature us into those that are blessed with sharing eternity with you. After all, our view of heaven is so limited. We stand inside of time; you are outside of it. You see our mere lives on earth as preparation for heaven; whereas we see our lives as finite. We don’t consider what it will be like after this life.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." Galatians 5:22-26
It actually makes sense that you would allow trials in our lives to teach us perseverance and joy and faith and love. I can’t remember a time that I learned something from life being “perfect”. It seems, in my sinfulness, I only seem to learn when things are hard. That is when I grow and blossom. Like a sweet-smelling flower, the bloom is the last part of the miraculous growth; but it takes time to get there. I get better through trials.
"In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:6-9
So, if I really think about it, you allowing difficulties in my life is actually a blessing. It actually prepares us to live in your kingdom, by your great design. Trials can make us better examples for others who are headed to your kingdom; and they make us better prepared to live in your Presence (the real purpose for heaven anyway). Boy, you must love me a lot! My trials have felt like a marathon; and more keep coming every day! It’s amazing to think that your love is so vast and so wide and so high that you can take our troubles and turn them into triumph: in testing us & transforming our souls, all while glorifying you in doing this great work IN us. It is incredible for me to consider that you use our sin to shine a light on your transparent & loving heart. You are not an enigma that cannot be found. You are exactly who you say you are. You are your Word; and that is love.
"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:14-19
It’s hard to imagine that you allow suffering in your children so that we may be “refined by the fire”.
Let’s test it:
I guess my first reflection is that all the “good things” that have been taken away from me are centered around: Me! Could it be: Selfishness? Control? Anger? People-Pleasing? Self-Consciousness? Are ALL these really sinful???
My career. I wanted to be recognized, so badly. I wanted someone to recognize how awesome I was. I wanted to be awarded for doing what you created me to do, something I loved. I had become prideful and full of myself. The many gifts you’ve given me had gone to my head.
My busy schedule. I’ve always wanted to prove myself. That I was good enough to do things on my own. That I was more than capable. I tried to do everything on my own: in my way, in my power, and under my control. And unfortunately, as you’ve shown me, control is just a fancy way of expressing pride.
My marriage. I got frustrated when things didn’t go my way. My daily-ignited anger, harbored deep in my heart, resulted in bitterness. You must have been so disappointed in me; that my view of my husband had changed, and that I no longer saw him in his best light. This changed his perception of me as well, because my perception of him had changed. My anger was not godly anger, it was selfish anger, and it was partially to blame in the destruction of the two lives you brought together. Another form of pride...I’m sensing a pattern here, Lord.
My freedom. Being so busy, consumed with people-pleasing, led me to spread myself too thin (I still need to work on this one). I’ve subconsciously thought that if I can please everyone, then everyone will like me. If everyone likes me, life will be good. Right? I think I’ve been so busy trying to please everyone else, that I’ve missed pleasing you, Lord. My lack of freedom (being frequently ill) has, quite remarkably, resulted in my spending MORE time with you. I know you MUCH better than I ever did before. I enjoy you in a deep, relational way. But again, pride was the precursor.
My body. Run as fast as you can as hard as you can until you collapse with exhaustion. Mistreat yourself because you don’t value yourself because others haven’t valued you and they must be right, Right? You told me many years ago that you would work “with me” to “heal me”. I now know that you weren’t just talking about my body; you were also taking about my heart, and my view of myself. Not tending to myself because others haven’t valued me properly, (& “they” must know best, right?) also has its roots in pride. In allowing others’ view of me to dictate how I treat myself, I have pushed myself cruelly, to seek the “world’s love”. When you’re the only one that really matters.
"The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Galatians 5:19-21
It’s pretty clear to me that your love, Lord, is a different kind of love than this world offers. Your love is REAL love. It’s sometimes hard (O.K. its frequently hard) but it produces a fruit in us that we would not have otherwise been able to grow on our own. You discipline us, for our good, just like we do for our own children. You test us, not to pain us, but to prove us, blameless. You remind us that our gifts, or accomplishments, do not define us. You shower us with blessing for sticking with you and trusting in you, not ourselves. You call us to know you better, putting other things that do not serve us & you, away. You call us to stop judging others so that we may see what is blocking our own vision, trusting that you are the Great Judge. You call us to slow down and focus on pleasing you. And finally, you teach us to love ourselves when we just don’t see how anyone could possibly do that. You wrap your arms around us and remind us that we are daughters (or sons) of the Most High. We are princesses & princes. And we are yours.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:3-5
Thank you, Lord, for your Spirit, living within me. Without it, my pride would have certainly gone unchecked and ruined my life, my witness of your glory, and yes, my eternity. Lord, please forgive me for my pride, in all areas of my life; I have sinned against you and I no longer wish to walk in opposition to you. Please forgive me, Lord. Please guide me toward the life you’ve created me to live. It’s in your name I pray, Amen.
God, you are so good. Your heart is all over your amazing book, the Bible. You speak love and life over us in a way that we never knew was even possible. You are truly worthy of our praise. For you are the Great Provider. And you provide everything we will ever need! You’re not against the suffering; you’re FOR us! Your riches are more valuable than any wealth, or momentary treasure this world can offer. You are preparing us for eternity; where all riches will be ours! Being in a place of suffering CAN be a blessing! Like you suffered here on earth to secure our place in your kingdom, our suffering carries us to a place where we can walk alongside you, sharing in your victory! Thank you, Jesus, for such words of wisdom!
"You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain."