Everyone has a limitation.
We are human, and it’s impossible not to have one. I came to this realization as I sat in a hospital bed recovering from an autoimmune disease that tried to kill me a couple of years ago.
I didn’t understand affliction well. Or at all, really. Affliction was not even a blip on my radar prior to age twenty-eight. Suffering was something other people experienced and I prayed for them desperately over.
But that year, a crack split through my perfect bubble. I felt the world crash around me as a doctor said my dad would die of terminal cancer. My life halted. Six years later, friends would abandon me and my mom would also die of terminal cancer. And one year from that, I would be diagnosed with a chronic lifelong, sometimes life-threatening disease. My losses accumulated to an unbelievable point.
I’ve known my entire life about the Bible. It’s a privilege I don’t take for granted. But knowing about God and knowing God intimately are two separate deals.
Four years have passed with this disease. Although I’ve grappled, cried, and found myself pleading at times, I’ve come to terms with the seriousness of my situation. This disease may stay in my life this side of heaven.
Miracles are a certainty in my life, I’ve witnessed a few. Could God work a miracle and cure me of this disease? Absolutely. Will He?
I do not know.
And that’s the sticking point for me. I accept my life is going to look different and it doesn’t take God by surprise. More than I want His cure, I want to trust Him. I’m tired of just wanting things from God—fix this, heal this, make this right—and I’ve come to a place where I just want to walk with Him, despite the treachery of the road.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV
We all have our journeys and I realize that. But I want to hold my hands out-shaky as they are-and say, “I know who You are. I know what You can do. You can heal me at any given moment if it’s Your will. But if You don’t, help me trust You.”
And as that prayer takes root into my painfully prideful life, I learn this disease is less of a burden and more of a gift. No, every day it doesn’t feel like a gift, in fact it rarely feels like one, but that’s not the point. The point is, it can be a useful tool just like any other gift in my life. I can wield it for God’s glory.
A million and one things that are good and honoring can come from it.
I’ve learned how to manage in the best ways I can, for the purpose of exalting Him. There’s an acceptance that says, If You’ve handed this to me, I want to take it and make something of the days that are utterly painful and devoid of joy. I want to find the best ways I can to steward my life well to complete your purposes for me. The Spirit guides in this way. My physical pain is deep and my life is literally at times on the line. It’s not something I can will up inside myself and think I’ll just be a good follower today.
Only God can make good of what isn’t.
I struggle with the way people view others with disabilities and chronic illnesses. It’s the labeling and the assumptions that are of this world. The way a person is only seen as far as their illness. We are not an illness. It’s a part of us and something we must manage, but Jesus has our names carved into His palm, and that’s who we are. His. There’s more to a person than what they are struggling with. More than what you see when you think you’re really seeing.
And that’s when I think about Paul.
When I ask, “What do you think about Paul in the Bible?” I hear various descriptions of this fierce warrior for God’s kingdom. But the first thing is not usually “Oh Paul, he was afflicted. He had something God wouldn’t take away.”
Never do I hear this. I hear about Paul’s boldness and tenacity, his missionary travels, the way he faithfully shared the gospel. The way he persevered.
That’s how I want to be known. Not for what afflicted me in this life, but how I yielded every aspect of my life to Christ.
The next time you encounter someone struggling, I hope you remember there are purposes and plans behind their suffering. And if you are struggling, remember God has given you ways to encounter His goodness through the pain. There’s more than this circumstance, more than this moment.
You are designed. You are purposed.
You are seen.