I am 27 years old and I suffer from chronic illness.
I never feel well. Honestly, I don’t remember what “well” feels like. My life drastically changed one afternoon when, out of nowhere, I began to feel dizzy and–“off”, you could say. That moment spun my health into a fast-moving downward spiral into complete debilitation. I was bedridden–moving in and out of endless doctors’ offices, seeing varying degrees of medical professionals–none of whom knew what was wrong and none who could help me.
My life now is lived at the mercy of, oftentimes, agonizing symptoms. I, as do countless others, feel sick every moment of every day.
And, this is my letter to you–whoever you might be–to you who are suffering. This is my letter to you asking you not to waste your pain.
Don’t waste your pain.
Don’t waste your pain by doubting the character of God.
God is more than able to heal. We worship a God we cannot exaggerate. He is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or think. I believe with all my heart that God is able to heal your and my broken body. But if not. No matter the circumstances of our lives, God’s character does not change. He doesn’t become less good, less able, or less powerful. We are not always saved from going into the fires of this life. We are not promised health, wealth, and prosperity. We are not promised immunity from suffering. God may choose to allow us to go into the fire, but this I know to be true: He meets us in there. He doesn’t leave us in the fire alone. He hasn’t left you in this fire alone. And He will never leave you. God doesn’t always save us from going into the fire. Sometimes He saves us in the fire. And sometimes He doesn’t. In all things He is wise. In all things He is working for our good and for His glory. In all things He is good. Rejoice in that.
Don’t waste your pain by not seeing it as a gift.
A gift? I know–the worst gift ever, right? But, our Father in heaven only gives us what is best for us. He is our perfect Father. As Tim Keller writes, “God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows”. God is sovereign over your pain. Somehow, someway, this pain is the best possible thing for you. Somehow in the midst of pain and suffering, God has not abandoned you. The “good” in Romans 8:28 is found in Romans 8:29–all things work together for believers to be conformed into the image of His Son. God is deeply committed to our sanctification and He will see to it that you are made more like Jesus. Elisabeth Elliot writes,
“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering. The love of God is of a different nature altogether. It does not hate tragedy. It never denies reality. It stands in the very teeth of suffering. The love of God did not protect His own Son. The cross was the proof of His love – that He gave that Son, that He let Him go to Calvary’s cross, though “legions of angels” might have rescued Him. He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
Don’t waste your pain by making healing your hope.
Misplaced hope. This has long been a theme in my life. Looking horizontally for what I can only receive vertically. Looking to everything else but Jesus to satisfy the deepest longings of my heart. Elisabeth Elliot writes, “My heart was saying, “Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long.” The Lord was answering, “I must teach you to long for something better.” To long for someone better—to long for Him instead. This is the battle I face every day as an idolater. My heart is plagued with that which cannot give me life. I often look to anything else but Jesus to be my savior, to give me joy, to fulfill me. I think, “If only I have____ I will be happy.” Then I will be content. Then I will be fulfilled. Then I will be saved. But my health cannot save me. And, it cannot save you. Don’t want to want to be well more than you want the Lord to be glorified. Don’t want health more than you want Him. It’s hard. So hard. Praying for healing, but trusting the Lord’s goodness if He does not heal. Desiring to be well, but not letting that desire rule your thoughts and to become ultimate. Learning how to rejoice always, even when the darkness will not lift.
I pray for healing every day, but I don’t want my hope to be found in being well. Our pain is not wasted when we declare that God is better than healing–that His glory being made known through pain, is better.
Don’t waste your pain by not allowing God to teach you.
I have learned so much this past year or so walking (sometimes crawling) through life with chronic illness. I have learned dependence. I have learned to pray for the Lord’s help constantly–for help to take a shower, to go grocery shopping, or to sit in a coffee shop and read a book. All of which, are sometimes extremely difficult. I have gained a new longing for eternity. I long for the day when Jesus returns and restores this broken world. I have learned to more deeply hate sin for its effects on the world that include sickness. This has deepened my desire to fight against the sin in my life and to long for the day when sin will be no more. Being sick has also made me a more patient person and someone who can identify greatly with deep pain. The Lord is always teaching me about Himself and others through this. Don’t waste your pain by not allowing God to teach you.
Don’t waste your pain by believing yours is a wasted life.
Lastly. You are not a wasted life. I understand the bitterness and the jealousy that can come from observing others with seemingly carefree lives. I have always been a “doer”, and my symptoms often rob me of the ability to “do”. My life may never look like how I imagined it would. I can play the comparison game and feel as though my life lands short of others’ lives who do not suffer from chronic illness. This is a lie. You are valuable. You are of great worth. God wastes nothing. And He hasn’t and will not waste you. Yours is not a wasted life. Whether you get well or not, trust that the Lord’s plan for your life is perfect. Be willing to let go of your plans and take hold of His. This God, His way is perfect. You are not a waste.
Don’t waste your pain.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.