As someone who combats chronic illness daily, you may not be surprised to hear that I get a lot of advice. I don’t just mean advice about how to manage it, or treat it… but advice around how to cope with it, or overcome it.
I don’t think these are individuals who are unfamiliar with hurt or pain, but I do believe they misjudge me. You see, I actively embrace labels and diagnoses, because I believe that knowledge is power…
1. Knowledge helps me be proactive, to take good care of my vessel. The way I see it, it helps me care for the body God gave me. I can cut out bad habits, adjust my diet, see the right doctors, listen to my body and just overall care for myself from where I AM, not just where I would like to be.
2. Knowledge helps me avoid dangerous situations. I have a condition called POTS… some people with POTS are actually at risk while driving, or can spontaneously fall asleep/faint. Knowing what I have, and to what extent, allows me to keep my kids safe when I run errands. It means I don’t make plans to stand for long periods of time without assistance, etc.
3. Knowledge gives me energy behind my prayers! Can you think of a time when you didn’t even know what the problem was, so you found yourself just praying “fix it, Jesus!” (That’s my favorite prayer, FYI) Knowledge allows me to have a vulnerable dialogue with God. Not because He doesn’t know the facts, but because I DO.
Truly being present in what we are experiencing gives God the opportunity to connect with us. He is a loving father, he knows his children hurt and we don’t have to wear a brave face to deserve his love or healing. To me, calling something by name removes the shadows from the equation. It enables me to look my struggle in the eye and choose faith, to trust God; which, ironically, is the very thing people have suggested I am not doing when I use diagnostic labels.
My favorite example of this is in the gospel of John, chapter 11. Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick. As scripture plays out, we see that 1. Jesus received word of the illness, 2. waited two days, 3. knew Lazarus passed away before he reached him, but 4. he expressed that he knew his friend’s story wouldn’t end in death. In this we see both acknowledgement of a human condition, while simultaneously believing that it could be overcome.
Mary says to Jesus “If you had arrived sooner, he would have been healed.” Here I think about our tendency as humans to have our idea of what “good” is, or even what “healthy” is. Who am I to say that my current health condition is not part of God’s plan to give his children good things? This is earth, after all. We weren’t promised we would be trouble free here.
In this story Lazarus was dead for four days, guys. Why didn’t Jesus go sooner? Why didn’t he just send some healing energy his general direction and heal him from far off? Why did he (in human terms) let Lazarus suffer, and die? We as believers don’t like looking at this side of scripture… this passage implies that our loving Father allows the people He loves to suffer. We could possibly argue that Mary, Martha and Lazarus just needed more faith… because if we ask for it in faith, then He will give it to us, right? Let me side bar for a moment; it is never appropriate to make assumptions about the condition of someone else’s faith. The (current) absence of healing is not proof of the absence of faith. Through scripture we know that God answers prayers three ways: yes, no, and not yet. So I agree… I just think that God, our good father, can see the big picture and will always choose to give us good things when it’s time.
How arrogant of us to think that our ways are His ways? As long as Satan is the ruler of this world, suffering will follow. Illnesses, trauma, death… young and old being taken from us, creating grief deeper than words can express. But that is not God’s doing, God is in the reparation. He didn’t cause it, but he will sure as hell finish it.
So in my pain and illness I will champion Him. He can heal me; I know this, because He has worked wonders in my emotional healing. I know this, because there was a time when I was ready to end my life… and I am not only alive still, but I am alive in Christ. Satan can throw whatever he wants at my body… but all he will accomplish is a more deeply rooted confidence. God is doing a good work in me. Period.