The process of healing from chronic illness (or at least getting to a place of stability) has gone nothing like I thought it would.
About fourteen months ago, I was officially given names for the host of symptoms that gradually led to the debilitation of my body. I saw various symptoms come and go over a period of five years, but it wasn’t until February 2016 that my health began to decline to the point where I needed serious help to get better. By the time of diagnosis, I was exhausted, in constant pain, unable to function at work, and deeply depressed.
Many days of research, blood work, and doctors appointments led to the discovery that I had Chronic Lyme Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, several co-infections, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and more.
For some, receiving test results that pointed to multiple conditions and food sensitivities would be devastating. But for me, it provided a glimmer of hope. I finally knew what I needed to treat so I could move forward toward better health. I had a plan for healing, and I love plans!
In my typical Type A fashion, I followed my doctor’s treatment protocol to a T. This meant giving up all my favorite foods and focusing only on the things I needed to get better. I had to quit my serious Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup addiction and instead fill up on Vegan Chocolate Shakeology and a (mostly) Paleo diet.
My health protocol was overwhelming, sometimes consisting of 60+ pills a day. My weeks were filled with detoxing, sleeping, lying on the couch while listening to podcasts, and working as much as possible to maintain some sense of normalcy in the office and get a paycheck (gotta pay for all those supplements and meds!).
I was doing everything “right” in my journey of healing, but instead of finding stability, any step forward was met with two steps back.
I was trying to follow Christ on each leg of the journey because I know that He really does understand my pain, and I wanted to glorify Him with all of my life. Yet, I found myself discouraged over and over again because my plans for healing weren’t working out.
Gradually, I learned that while my intentions were good, I was placing too much weight on my plans (and my doctor’s protocols) instead of trusting God’s plans and timing. I was seeking God as my refuge and hope, but I still placed too much dependence on myself and the things I thought would help me. My life was like a swinging pendulum, going back and forth between striving and seeking God.
God began stirring my heart toward Him in a way that showed me my need for complete surrender. I realized that I didn’t need all the answers and that rest was one of the the greatest gifts I could give my body.
Too often in our lives, we think we need to have things together. With chronic illness, there’s pressure to make ourselves well, and when things don’t work out as planned we feel like failures. This can either cause us to give up hope or to keep trying until we eventually burn ourselves out.
In surrendering to God, I was acknowledging that His ways are best.
God really does know what He is doing. We can be assured of this through His Word, the Bible.
Isaiah 40:28-29 (NIV) says,
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
During the times when I question or grow angry with God because things aren’t going the way I had planned, I need to remember who God is. We don’t always need to know why something difficult is happening when we know that God is trustworthy. When we know his character and can remember that He is good and He loves us (Romans 8:28), we don’t have to stress about the situation.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Knowing that God’s thoughts are higher than my thoughts takes the pressure off; I don’t have to figure everything out anymore. God already has it all figured out, and I just need to trust Him.
The idea of trust may be a hard thing for those of us with chronic illnesses because it may feel like everything we thought we could trust has been torn out from under us. When everything falls apart, we question what we thought we knew about life. But, the thing is, God is different than any person or thing that this world promises us. God is trustworthy (2 Samuel 7:28).
No matter where you may be on your journey with a chronic illness, I hope that you will find encouragement in who God is. I’m praying that you will be able to trust Him when healing is slow and know that He really is taking all of the hard things and turning them around for good.
This point in life may be the hardest season you’ve ever endured. That’s where I’m at. This is all really difficult stuff. But, while it’s hard, it’s not hopeless. God does provide what we need and has a plan for us to gain our comfort and strength from Him.
Lots of love to you today,