Growing up, I would often daydream about what my life would look like in the future as a wife and mother. Those June Clever images were filled with similar scenarios. Hot, home-cooked meals would be on the table as my husband walked through the door each night. He would be met by a house filled with the sound of children’s laughter as I chased after them throughout the house. My makeup and hair would be on point and the house would be impeccable.
Reality wasn’t too far off in the beginning of our marriage. It wasn’t until the birth of my son that my body began to cease cooperating. It seemed like every year there was a new diagnosis and no relief from the previous condition. Each condition piled up onto one another as the doctors threw surgeries and pill bottles my way to minimize the symptoms. Slowly the home-cooked meals were one by one replaced with takeout and the playful activities with my son were replaced with another cuddle session on the couch.
The expectations that formed in my mind on that cool August afternoon when my husband and I exchanged vows in front of our family, friends, and God were very different from what would become our reality. When I said “in sickness and in health” I imagined an elderly couple sitting together after years of adventures.
Never in a million years would I have envisioned a 29-year-old in the hospital having her heart cardioverted back into a life-sustaining rhythm or a 35-year-old woman unable to put her own shoes on at times because her joint pain is so severe. You know what else wasn’t in the picture? Fatigue, pain, loneliness, and guilt. But here we are.
I am God’s daughter and dearly loved. I believe this, yet it is so easy for me to slip into redefining myself in the midst of chronic illness.
When the joint pain is unbearable and the fatigue clouds my mind, it is hard to see past the clouds and into a new day. I begin to label myself according to my symptoms. Lazy, pathetic, angry, hopeless, unreliable.
Sister, just because your body and health are unreliable does not make you unreliable! You are so much more than that list of symptoms, diagnoses, and medications you keep in your purse in case of an emergency.
When is the last time you saw your true self? I’m not talking about the woman you avoid to catch a glimpse at in the mirror, hair falling out and bags under the eyes. No, I’m talking about all of the beauty God has knit together inside your delicate body. The things, that despite your failing vessel, is a part of who you truly are. Putting your faith in Jesus can help you find yourself once again.
Having faith in Jesus doesn’t always look like healed bodies and joyful moments, sometimes it’s just getting through the day hanging onto a mustard seed.
Spending time in scripture helps me to hang on even in the storms.
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20, NIV).
“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever” (Psalm 73:26, NLT).
“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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).
If you are also struggling I want to encourage you. While your pain is real, so is hope.
Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation, trust, and desire for a certain thing to happen. When I think of hope I always think of one particular story in the Bible:
So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5:24-34, NIV).
Just a little history lesson on this story. Because of the continual bleeding, the woman would have been continually regarded in Jewish law as a menstruating woman, and so ceremonially unclean. The flow of blood would need to stop for at least seven days in order to be considered clean. Because of her constant bleeding, this woman lived in a continual state of uncleanness which would have brought upon her years of social isolation. According to the Law, anything or anyone she touched became unclean as well. The fact that she was in the crowd pressing around Jesus means that each person who bumped into her would have become unclean, too—including Jesus. But, after twelve years of suffering, she was obviously desperate for a miracle. It was through faith and hope that she was healed.
But what if our story isn’t one that ends with healing? We may not understand why, but we can hold onto who He is.
The Bible says God is a perfect Father. If you are a parent you know you would never enjoy seeing your child suffer. I believe if God allows an illness to remain in our lives, the payoff must be far better than we could ever imagine. Perhaps He wants to grow our faith. If we don’t understand why, we can trust that He does. Hold on to that mustard seed!
Previously published on the author’s blog