We have a fallacy in our American thinking. We often assume “positive thinking” will gain us everything. We rarely see sickness, death, or tragedy, and it seems foreign to us. We forget the day will come when no amount of positive thinking will keep us out of the grave. We will die.
Even if we act on all the right goals, take all the right supplements, eat paleo, vegan, gluten-free, or Whole30 diets, practice yoga, and exercise daily, we will not live in this body forever. Often our health is outside our control.
Over the past few years, I’ve been learning more about this than I ever wanted to know in my fifties. I have a chronic illness. Typically, it requires four to five years to diagnose an autoimmune disorder. I’m right on track. No one knows why there is an enormous upsurge in this type of illness, especially among women.
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Soon I will travel far from home to visit the only autoimmune triage center in the country. If possible, I hope to gain answers and an action plan. If there’s anything that can keep my illness from progressing, I want to begin. All my life decisions for the future hinge on knowing how active I can be – my work projects, my travel plans, my weekly commitments, my husband’s future retirement.
At this point my world is shrinking. If that’s simply how it is and nothing can be done, I will work within these parameters. But if something can heal my body, slow this down, or turn it around, I want to pursue it. That pursuit might change everything.
This is a test. All trials are. They teach us the answer to this crucial core question: Is Christ enough?
- Is Christ enough to uphold me when I feel invisible and frustrated by a seemingly callous, but mostly mystified medical community?
- Is He enough to sustain me through loneliness when others don’t comprehend or may even doubt that I’m truly sick?
- Is He enough to get me through the nameless illness itself?
I want to be like Christ, to follow in His steps, whether I’m healthy or not. He is my model, and He is selfless (Philippians 2:1-13). I strive to be the same. But what if there is no solution, the sovereign God allows me to fade, and I am tempted to feel sorry for myself? Will I become a selfish and embittered sufferer?
After I spent an entire car ride bewailing the situation and lamenting over my struggle, my counselor-in-training daughter pointed out that I might already be there. I hovered near Erickson’s unfavorable outcome for people of middle age, she said. When she read the chart to me (below), we laughed out loud. There I was. I prefer the favorable outcome, not the self-absorbed outcome!
Is Christ enough to help me take my eyes off myself?
Obviously I need to turn back toward Jesus. He is the solution. He knows what’s going on inside my body. He is sovereign over it. Will I yield, so He can enable me to rise above, to place others ahead of myself, to live as if I truly believe that He works all things together for my good – even this chronic illness?
Chronic illness tests this, but then so does old age. Unless we die young, we ALL face this test one day. Can we follow in Christ’s steps, keeping others first, no matter how we feel, no matter how little support, no matter how we suffer?
Illness shows who we are behind the mask. We hide from ourselves. We often don’t know who we really are. God uses this (and daughters) to show me myself.
Because God loves me, He propels my growth. Knowing my flaws helps me to submit to His strategies for my growth. Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces growth, James 1 says. The School of Suffering is the most effective catalyst for human growth.
What encouragement can I find for this journey?
There is a history. I will trust God, based on what I know of Him.
The Lord will prove to be enough, no matter what happens, because He has suffered for us, and He is with me in my suffering (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:12-16). He sympathizes.
He has always been enough. There is a record of His faithfulness to me during past trials that were deep and harrowing.
He is enough now, if I lean on Him rather than upon my fragile self. Only He can keep me from becoming self-absorbed and self-pitying. I will trust Him.
What about you? Are you ready?