I wake at 3:15 a.m. and stare into the darkness for four hours. It’s one of those days.
I haven’t yet written about my autoimmune disease in the new year, but it’s still with me. That’s the nature of chronic illness. It is chronic. January and February have been consumed by pain, malaise, fatigue, and other unpleasantness. In the wee hours, I don’t think I can take it anymore. Day, months, and years like this stretch out before my mind’s eye and the impossibility of endurance overwhelms me.
I try praying, but that turns into fretting. I turn my mind toward my family. More fretting. I grab my iPhone and read, but the nauseating pressure in my gut doesn’t allow me to focus.
I’ve been sick long enough that I feel invisible. Social media has become too important to me. It’s my lifeline to the outside world, but I’ve become too sensitive in my loneliness. If I put up a post and no one likes or responds, I feel entirely alone in the world. The isolation and craziness of chronic illness is why I’ve started focusing on this reality:
I surrender to my insomnia, slither carefully out of bed, so as not to wake my husband on his day off, and pad down the stairs to make myself a cup of tea. It’s still pitch black outside. Standing in the kitchen as the water heats, I close my eyes and pray.
I know you are near, Lord. Please, help me to feel your nearness.
Because I believe the fact of “God with us,” I understand that this is the reality, no matter how I feel. But still I ask, because I feel alone in the world, unseen, unimportant, and forgotten. This is not reality, yet this is how I feel. I need God’s reassurance.
My heart is warmed. He is with me, wrapping me up in Himself. Tears come to my eyes as the Comforter comforts me.
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
I knew this part would be difficult. We found a medication that seems to be working. Over the next two to three years, we hope my disease will gradually move into remission. In the fall I began experiencing moments of wellbeing and tiny bits of increased energy. Blood work showed improvement. But recovery isn’t a straight line of continuing progress, one day better than the previous day, marching up the graph. Recovery looks more like this:
My emotions are human. My expectation of recovery has now made the slowness of it unbearable. I didn’t expect January to be quite so dark. I expected measurable moments of improvement. Yet, here I am, feeling as sick as ever and overwhelmed by the chronic nature of my condition.
Yet, God is with me in this. He doesn’t throw up His hands and storm away, disgusted that once more I’m in need of His reassurance and comfort. He’s not angry that yet again I need to be reminded that He is with me and that He superintends my days for my good.
No, He is risen and now lives to comfort me, to heal me, and to bring me to Himself, face to face. He continually pleads my case. He constantly reassures me with His Spirit.
By the time you read this, it will be a full month later, and, recovery being what it is, I’ll be in a different place. But, lest anyone think I’m more than I am, I’m writing honestly about how I truly feel on this January morning. I’m just like you. I feel despair. I feel abandoned. I feel all alone in the world. But, just like you, I am not.
I’m keeping it real. I couldn’t live if the following facts weren’t true. But because they are true, I live on in anticipation of God’s goodness and strive to be aware of His nearness. I hope these thoughts encourage you in your own despair.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Psalm 139:1-18 ESV