The hope of good news brings transformation. Each week I see this in the eyes of the women I serve in prison. When they – like you and like me – hear and believe the gospel, they are transformed by the hope that God truly loves them, that he sent his Son to redeem them, and that he wipes away their sins. This is THE good news, and it changes everything!

When we embrace these truths about God, the Holy Spirit begins to work on our hearts and our lives, and metamorphosis occurs. We are now new creatures. We can look back and see that God is orchestrating even our worst life events to bring good into our lives. Eyes light up when women see God’s mercy in bringing them to prison, because there they finally came to the end of themselves and recognized their need for Christ. And he is everything.

Finishing touch Aneesh Subrahmanian via Compfight

Recently I received good news of a different kind. It was a label, a semi-diagnosis of an unknown and bothersome illness. With this label also came truth, information I had never known before. This truth showed me God’s sovereignty over even my physical illnesses, accidents, and the state of my health. He truly has worked all of these together to transform me.

This was as revelatory to me as the mystery of Christ that the women in prison encounter each week in our Christian 12-step group. The fact that God truly does change us and cause us to grow and that he orchestrates our circumstances to achieve exactly that is a profoundly comforting truth. It is evidence of God’s loving hand upon us for good.

Our Domino VortexCreative Commons License Kevin Lawver via Compfight

The facts I’ve learned about my autoimmune disorder inform me that my body has been heading this direction for most of my life. The little pieces of the puzzle came together as what we’re currently calling Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue. But the commonly associated disorders and health problems began lining up like dominoes when I suffered through many trials in my twenties, thirties, forties, and now fifties. None of these health issues by itself created this constant trial of pain and exhaustion, but together they amounted to something much larger.

Now, here’s the important fact. Each of the pieces of this illness has been used by God, step by step, more and more, to provoke growth in my life. Each was used to increasingly make me aware of my brokenness, my pride, my arrogance, and my self-reliance. Each drew me closer to Jesus to rely on him.

Bit by bit. One by one. Year by year. Decade after decade.

Combined, these have been one of the most sanctifying events God has ever worked in my life, just as going to prison often ends up holding that place in the lives of the incarcerated women I know and love.

People often pray for me to be healed, and of course I would love not to have this disorder. But as I see God’s hand shaping me over decades, just as much involved as he was when I resided in the womb, it seems to me that he knows this is the absolute best thing for me. He is transforming me into the woman he has always known I could be.

Sturbridge Village Potter Peter Lee via Compfight

Of course, he works in my life in exactly the most productive manner. I am profoundly grateful. All of this has taught me more about God’s grace, kindness, mercy, and care.

The sympathetic high priest came to earth, God prepared a body for him, and he lived a messy and difficult life. He died a painful and horrific death. He has experienced our suffering. I now know in a more profound way what Emmanuel “God with us” means.

Jesus is with me in this, right in the ugliness and pain. He knows. He is intimately acquainted with suffering, he himself was broken, and he is more dear to me than he has ever been.

Eventually our bodies fall apart. Until now I had no idea that the process of aging and chronic illness would be used so mightily for my sanctification. There is meaning in every single thing that touches our lives.

There is a point and a purpose, and it is good!