Let me tell you about my genes.
I come from the line of Norwegian Vikings. On both sides of my family tree, there is incredible longevity. One of my grandmothers lived to 103. My great-grandmother on the other side celebrated all the way to 100. Most of my relatives on the Norway side don’t believe that allergies are real and rarely go to the doctor. And for the first 33 years of my life, I felt destined to follow them into medicine-free, centenarian bliss.
So, dealing with physical limitations was never really something on my radar until recently.
I made my many plans and just assumed that my body would be down with it. But, last year, I started having issues, which led to required resting, extra doctor visits, cancelled plans, a big surgery, and learning how to do life with physical limitations caused by losing my thyroid and (possibly? Jury’s still out.) dealing with an autoimmune disease.
It’s been really, fully, truly hard. And, out of necessity, it has caused me to lean into the Lord in new ways. In more frequent intervals. My newfound health struggles have also caused me to view the suffering of others differently. Here are a few things I’m considering spiritual silver linings as I navigate life with a body that is no longer running in ancient Norwegian Viking strength.
Man, do I wish I was godly in all the ways all the time. But the older I get, the longer I walk with the Lord, the more flaws I discover in myself. It’s uncomfortable. It’s not my favorite. But it is a gift, because it means the Lord is transforming me into His likeness “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Something I never thought much about was my lack of compassion for people who fight battles I’m unfamiliar with.
I’m extra emotional, so empathy comes quick and easy if I have experience with the particular hardship someone is going through. But, because of my lack of experience, when it came to people with any sort of chronic illnesses or health battle, I just didn’t get it.
I have loved ones who deal with chronic pain, long-running cancer, diabetes, you name it. I love these people. But now, I also hurt with and for these people. I now know what a big deal it is to feel constantly not right, constantly distracted by discomfort or questions, and WOW, what a victory it is to not complain every second! When I’m sick or hurt, I just want to say I’M SICK AND HURT over and over again so someone will hold me and pat me on the head and tell me they’re with me and it won’t last forever.
I want to genuinely “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), whether or not their particular trouble feels personal to me. Many months of sickness has helped me with this.
In John 11, we see Jesus grieve over the death of Mary’s brother, Lazarus, before He raises him from the dead. It strikes me as crazy and beautiful that not only does God in the flesh weep and feel “troubled” over the sickness and death of person, and over the grief of His loved ones, but He feels that grief, even knowing that He can and will fix it, both practically, in that moment, and forever, through His death on the cross. Jesus hurt. Jesus wept.
What a beautiful reality that His Spirit lives inside of us as believers. We are able, through the work of God, to feel pain with our brothers and sisters. We can feel hope, too, and be used to point others to it. I’m thankful for suffering in that it supercharges compassion and helps us live a little more like Christ.
A couple of weeks ago, I started asking God the same thing every day. I asked Him to heal me. And then I added, “If You won’t—if Your will for my life is to deal with chronic medical issues, will You please help me to have joy no matter how I feel?”
God knows what we want. We want the Garden, man. We want perfect peace. We want to feel good in our minds and in our bodies. We want to understand what God’s doing, or at least know that He’s got a plan for it.
I might not get to know why my health has failed me this past year until I get to heaven, but I know the God who is in control of whether I heal today or heal when all things are made new and complete. I know Romans 8:28 tells me that all of my twinges and heart palpitations and weird mouth infections and exhaustion and temperature fluctuations will somehow work together for my good, because I love God and I’m called according to His purpose.
That’s pretty amazing. Comforting and humbling. God is my good Father, and I can pray for healing and pray for faith, knowing that He is taking care of me when my thyroid is gone and my body is wrong, and He’s going to take care of me forever.
“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” – Proverbs 19:21, NLT
When I first read that proverb, I probably thought, Sure! I get it! A hurricane could disrupt a vacation. Or someone’s car breaking down could make them late for work.
It wasn’t until this past stretch, that I’ve realized every plan I make should be done in a spirit of humility. I need to remember where my strength comes from. I need to make plans with the filter of, Anything I accomplish is because God put the breath in my lungs this day to do it.
This is the biggest mental battle for an Enneagram 3 like me. We “achievers” who follow Christ, must constantly surrender our minds and plans and realize that we are only able to make plans and use our minds and bodies, because God has given us the abilities as a gift meant to be used for His kingdom.
Health problems have helped me learn to plan differently. I’m learning to procrastinate less and be motivated by gratitude, thanking God for a new day and new energy to type new things into my computer and make lunches for my girls.
God’s Word has said it all along—we can, as James 1:2-4 says, “consider it a great joy” when we face hard things because “the testing of your faith produces endurance …” and so on. God is using my health problems and whatever you’re suffering through to make us more like Him.
I’ll leave y’all with a quote from my preacher-man husband: “Trials are treasures.” They are. If you’re reading this today, I’m praying for you what I’m praying for me, that the Lord will produce in you a gratitude for even the bad stuff, that will ultimately cause people to look away from you and up at Him—the only true source of peace, hope, healing, and life that outlasts even the most allergy-free Vikings. We are blessed.