This is one of those things you never see coming.
One of those, this-feels-like-way-too-much-to-handle-things.
Awhile ago I was diagnosed with a couple health disorders. Diagnoses that not only brought severe pain and frustration, but swept me up on a long journey of learning loads about myself, my (apparently massive;)) sin nature, and God’s grace, like nothing else has.
For years I’ve sorted through medications and continuously changing diets.
I’ve eliminated gluten, fructose, most processed foods, and most dairy. (And if you haven’t noticed, these food groups are in, um, practically everything.)
I used to have A LOT of bad days. Days I couldn’t get off the couch. Days I was sapped of all energy. Weight loss. Hair loss. Debilitating pain. Depression tendencies. Constant nausea. You name it, I experienced it. It. Was. Horrendous. For years, I didn’t know what it felt like to feel good.
It has been incredibly trying. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually.
But. I have to tell you.
If I’ve learned one very unexpected thing, some of the greatest trials God takes me through are the trials He seems to use most to not only mold me into Christlikeness, but to encourage others–and this experience has been no exception.
Thus you get this rather personal post. 😉
As I spoke with a sweet girl who is going through something similar the other day, I was struck by how far God had brought me on this journey, how His grace had sustained me and provided for much learning and healing. How most days are no longer “bad days,” but good. How those horrendous symptoms are all but gone.
Yet in that moment I was humbled, as I realized I had learned three lessons with value beyond compare without even realizing I was learning them.
1) Discipline: learning to say no. Learning self-control, learning discipline has perhaps been one of the greatest lessons. I’ve come to realize the importance of discipline is often overlooked in the Christian life. How making the right choice and reaping the benefits later on (from avoiding blatant sin to the less obvious right choices) is not only incredibly rewarding, but spills into all other areas of life such as sleep, physical fitness, rising earlier than is comfortable each morning, and carving out set-aside time with the Lord. The results of those choices (starting with saying no to my favorite foods that, if consumed, will leave me miserable) have influenced my mood, my interactions with others, my energy level, my demeanor, my relationship with the Lord, and the list goes on.
*Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27*
2) Patience: not much else in my life has caused the amount of frustration that this has. Frustration at the wait. When it’s-just-not-getting-better-fast-enough, ohmygosh. But. It took tremendous time, dedication, and patience to see results. And recognition of my utter dependence on prayer and a God who does listen and does act. Sound familiar to any trial you’ve gone through?:)
3) Grace: and then came the grace that sustained me through the wait and the impatience and anger. Because. When your body isn’t working correctly, let me tell you, it is life altering, and scary, and confusing. So the little drinks of grace through the wait kept me hanging on–the website that mentioned a new diet, the doctor that made a suggestion that worked, a new medication that produced results, the chiropractor that unexpectedly helped an unrecognized symptom, the person that provided unexpected understanding and encouragement. And now, looking back, I don’t see the pain as much as I see the grace. The grace, the answered prayers, the healing. So now, when there are any changes in the condition, I can easily look back and say, without hesitation: He’ll get me through this, just like he got me through the last challenge.
I often write in more abstract terms. But I write this very specific post not for sympathy, but to encourage you. Whatever your trial might be. Whether it’s a health struggle or a trial of an entirely different nature, I understand how huge it can feel. How insurmountable. I understand how emotionally and often physically draining it is.
But I promise. There is always grace in the storm, there’s always purpose in the pain. You may not see it right away. But you will. He will never ask a child of His to walk through a valley without a thousand reasons for it— for your good and His glory.
And if you or someone you know is going through a health struggle, please recognize the enormity of the storm. It can feel incredibly huge. And it can feel incredibly lonely. Your encouragement, grace, and refusal to minimize it or brush over it could make all the difference in the world.
May you too see the beauty in your divinely crafted trial, or may you be encouraged to trust that beauty and purpose will emerge.