This past year, I scraped the bottom of my physical illness. But then, by the grace of God and the boldness of my doctors, my body began to inch away from the black hole. My rheumatologists started me on a disease-modifying medication before they even had an exact diagnosis. Four months later in early November, tiny signs of healing began appearing piecemeal – moments of well-being, incremental relenting of unbearable symptoms, quicker recovery after exertion, slight improvements here and there glimmering through the pain to instill hope.
A miracle! An answer to prayer! All the grace of God!
Given my doctors’ strategy and the Lord’s mercy, we now hope that I may be able to recover within two to three years, rather than remaining sick for the rest of my life. This is now our hope and prayer. Please pray with us!
Yet, having experienced the most intimate fellowship of my life with my Suffering Savior, these are the things I fear if I recover:
- Will I quit relying on Jesus for my daily strength and His sustaining grace?
- Will I rob myself of His intimacy through self reliance?
- Will I once more take on too much, crashing my health yet again?
I am resolved, by the grace of God, to remember the lessons learned. The intimacy of dependence on Christ each day during unrelenting pain, isolation, and inner turmoil has been near and dear and precious to me. I want to maintain that unity, that closeness with Jesus, that reaching out to Him at all hours and in all circumstances, no matter how I feel. This two- to three-year recovery will provide training in greater dependence on Christ, for I already know its up and downs and my deep, deep need for Jesus.
Likewise, no matter how I feel and how far my recovery progresses, I want to submit to Him all my decisions and ministry efforts, yielding everything into His hands. I had thought that was the case in the past, but my tendency to take on more than a mere mortal can accomplish made it clear that there was brokenness at my core, an attempt to gain more of God’s love through my efforts.
I have learned and continue to learn important lessons. I cannot gain any more of God’s love and approval than I already have in Christ. I am already beloved. He doesn’t love me more because I’m a do-gooder, an efficient worker, or a writer who produces for His kingdom. I cannot gain His acceptance through my efforts. I already have it.
He loves me simply because I’m me, and I am His. Illness taught me this.
Hopefully, this more balanced understanding of Christ’s acceptance of me as precious and this closeness with Him for the past three-and-a-half years of sickness will draw me deeper into His arms as I improve, bit by bit, over the next few years. I don’t want to lose the intimacy of Christ with me in the sickroom, the most precious and affectionate devotion I’ve had with Him in my entire life.
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NIV).
This is not my home. I feel that more than ever. The “groaning” of sickness and the inward blessing of God’s Spirit clarify that, driving it home repeatedly. The nearness of Christ with me in sickness has made heaven dear and anticipated.
What heavy trial has drawn you closer to the Lord recently? How has He been dear to you in it?