Like a bird from prison bars has flown…

We just returned home from Disney World on Easter Sunday, as many of you already know. Our trip was an incredible blessing. This last year has been quite a bit of a whirlwind, and the upcoming year is likely to be just as crazy and filled with surprises. We needed to take this vacation. Not needed like we need to breathe or something. But needed to prove that this isn’t over yet. My life isn’t going to be limited from doing fun things with my family. I can be away from home for an extended period of time, in a hotel, eating somewhere that isn’t my kitchen with many facets being out of my control and I can still enjoy myself.

I’ve been terrified to do anything away from home because I was scared I would have an episode. My very first episode began in a restaurant far away from home. The last time I’d stayed in a hotel was when I first started having symptoms back in August. I was so incredibly miserable and there was a big part of me that was afraid to be very far from home and eat out for every meal for a week. When I visited a friend for a weekend back in October I felt sick the entire time. I tried really hard to cover it up as much as possible, but every moment I thought I was going to pass out or throw up…or both. So, when I visited my family in Wisconsin back in March and did pretty well, I thought I could try to step it up and do something even further from my comfort zone…something I’ve always wanted to do and, a year ago, would have been losing sleep for days due to my excitement rather than anxiety.

Two days before our trip I started to feel pretty panicky. I’d been having a lot of headaches and dizziness that week and thought, “this was a bad idea. I should cancel. Wait…I can’t. The boys are so excited. I can’t do this to them. I can’t let this stupid disease ruin this for them. I have to do this. But wait, what if this is God putting it in my heart that I’m going to regret this whole trip? What should I do? I can’t go. I have to go. We are going. It’s too late. We can’t change our minds now. I’m just going to have to live with it. It’s only a week. If I’m miserable, I will get through it somehow. We will figure it out.” I was freaking out in my mind.

On top of that I’d been feeling pretty frustrated with myself. I’ve been reading through the Gospels (if you’ve never done it, Christian or not, I highly recommend it. They’re easy to read and are kind of like a story. Get through the genealogy in Matthew, which is fascinating if you know any of the Old Testament or anything about Jewish culture, and you’ll swing right into stories. Even if you don’t believe in God, I guarantee that reading those books will change the way you view the world and view Christianity…) and there are so many accounts of Jesus healing people. In Matthew 9:35 it says that Jesus went through the cities and villages and healed every disease. EVERY disease. He brought people back from the dead. He even healed people who had absolutely no commitment to him just because they asked. The 10 lepers, for example, were all healed (Luke 17) and only one of them returned to him to thank him for being healed. The rest all went off to their lives and we have no clue what became of them. But Jesus healed them. He cast out demons, rebuked the storms, gave sight to the blind, sound to the deaf, a voice to the mute, strength to the paralytic, hope to the hopeless, food to the hungry, love to the unloveable, forgiveness to the unforgivable, grace and mercy to the sinner, and life to the dead. He sent out his disciples, empowering them to do the very same things. Even Paul, who never followed Jesus during his 3 year ministry but met him later on the road to Damascus after the persecution of Christians had already begun, had healed the sick and brought a dead man to life.

So I asked myself, “why not me?” How many times have I read Jesus’ words, “your faith has made you well,” and here I am still sick. Why can’t I get rid of this on my own? What is wrong with my faith that it hasn’t made me well? What am I doing wrong?? I went to sleep Saturday night on my knees praying and begging God to take this away…to somehow bring me some comfort through this frustrating time. And he did. But not in the way I had expected.

That Sunday morning our pastor spoke about sickness and disease. It was as if God had spoken through our pastor directly to me. He emphasized what I’ve been having to repeatedly remind myself every day, that not everything Jesus won for us on the cross is meant for this lifetime. Someday, in heaven, my body will be healed and perfect. But not right now. Not while I live in a fallen world. Does He choose to heal some? Yes! Yes he does! I think of one of the many blind men whom Jesus healed (John 9). He had been born blind and had lived his whole life up to this point blind. How many years must he have wondered what he’d done wrong or been doing wrong. It didn’t help that in Jewish culture diseases, infirmities, even infertility were often attributed to some kind of sin. The idea was that it was a consequence of something you’d done so you deserved this disease or impairment. Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied, “It was not because of anyone’s sin, but that God might be glorified,” and Jesus gave him sight. (Reader’s digest version…).

I think about Job who, because of his faith and devotion to God, was allowed to be tested. That book has always been extraordinary to me. Job had done nothing to deserve the suffering that took place in his life. It is easier to read when you know the ending and when it isn’t happening to you. But I imagine being in Job’s position…to lose everything and then to have your friends ask you what sin you have not repented from to deserve what you’re getting. Good friends, right?? But God was glorified through his affliction. God gives the most amazing speech ever written in the book of Job and it is a constant reminder to me of who God is and who I am in comparison. It makes the wisdom and knowledge of this world seem like absolute rubbish in comparison to what God has done. My understanding is so limited…so small…so insignificant compared to the complete understanding God has. And yet, in that same speech, He tells of his knowledge down to every single detail. He knows when the mountain goat gives birth. He knows when it learns to walk and leaves its home. He knows about every little detail of every creature on earth. He knows how many hairs are on my head. No wonder David writes in Psalm 139, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

I remember the pastor of the church I attended in college giving an amazing sermon about the knowledge of God compared to the knowledge of man and he said that he had a smart dog. She knew when to come in, when to go out, could follow basic commands…etc. But no matter how much he tries to teach her calculus, she’s never going to understand it. Just because she cannot understand it, does it make calculus not true? No. It is true regardless of the dog’s understanding. The dog’s mind is limited. So is mine. My mind is limited here on earth. There are so many things that I cannot understand (calculus included…) and it doesn’t make truth any less true. God is still God. God is still good. God still loves me even though I cannot understand this disease and why it is happening.

Every other time of difficulty has been given an ending point for me. The pains of pregnancy and labor cannot last forever. You breathe knowing that at any moment the baby will come and the pain will end. The newborn phase is exhausting but you know they don’t stay small for long. A cold is no fun, but you know it will go away in a few days or weeks. The stomach bug is like death, but it lasts for a day or two. There has always been a definitive ending in sight. This is different because my definitive ending may or may not come in this lifetime.

So why was I given this disease? Somehow God is going to be glorified through it. Whether it is through my healing or not, I don’t know. I may wake up one day with completely normal blood work, no pain, no anxiety, no frustration…and never feel another ache again. Or, God may give me the grace, as he gave Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9), to live this life with disease and perfect His strength in me.

What I do know is that, because of the cross, the battle is already won. “It is finished!” He already took my sin, suffering, pain, disease, and rebelliousness upon himself at the cross. One day I will wake up whole…even if that isn’t until I wake up on distant shores, surrounded by the glory of God, and basking in the light of His presence. That is the hope that will not disappoint. That is the confidence I have in Christ.

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