One rainy afternoon, I remember praying to God:
God, I know this sounds crazy, but I’m asking you now to give me a struggle. I am constantly battling to control my life, and I believe a real hardship would bring perspective, humility, trust, grace, strength, and beauty that I have yet to know, all because I am holding on too tightly to what I want. Am I crazy for asking? Maybe I am, and I’m pretty scared to ask you this, because what if you really send me something terrible? I have to push those thoughts aside though, because the only way I have ever learned anything in my life up to this point wasn’t always in the good times. Life-altering events usually happen in the midst of struggles, don’t they? Will you give me a struggle and grow my faith to a place I’ve never known? And God, whatever way the struggle comes, if you even choose to send one, I need you to know in advance that I will thank you for it.
And as an answer to my very own prayer, in February of 2013, I was diagnosed with a chronic disease known as multiple sclerosis. MS is a chronic progressing disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which usually causes numbness, impaired speech and muscular coordination, along with blurred vision and severe fatigue. Since I was only 26 when I was diagnosed, I was sure the doctors had to be wrong. But after several different doctor visits and opinions, it was clear that I did, in fact, have this rare autoimmune disease, and apparently there wasn’t much I could do about it. There is no known cause or cure.
But see, that’s only where the story begins—not where it ends.
At first I chased after prayers for healing. “Please take it away Lord, and make me whole. Heal my body completely.” Blah blah. You know the drill, right? What I didn’t realize at the time though, was that I was chasing after the healing, and not the Healer. It didn’t take long for God to show me what a blessing this actually was to receive such a gift.
God blessed me with MS, because I honestly believe He trusted what I’d do with it, and that’s when I knew I must have found favor with God. I’ve learned over the years “favor” doesn’t always mean roses and sunshine. Sometimes it means God trusted me in the midst of a little rain and thunder, because my light shines the brightest to others in my darkest moments.
Little by little he’s turned my tears into triumphs. Instead of complaining about things in my day, I looked for ways that the day is already beautiful. Instead of seeing what is wrong, I see how God has already made so many things right!
People still don’t understand why I would ever call MS a blessing, but it honestly is! Every day, I wake up with a unique perspective. I see life for what it is today, a blessing to be enjoyed and stewarded well. I love walks with my son, and making dinner for my husband. I love folding the laundry, and picking up toys off the floor. I love it all.
God gave me a gift, and I promised him I’d make the most of every conversation, opportunity, and sunset. Some days I waste the precious opportunity, and I get busy with meaningless things or become too focused on stress. Other days are perfect. I thank God for them both alike, because they are shaping me into who God wants me to be. I may not have perfect health, but it’s the perfect place I need to be right now!
At 29, I still have a long way to go in life, but I’ve often wondered if God will still heal me someday. Maybe he will. Or maybe not. I hope so in my heart. But what if God wants to heal more people’s hearts through me than I could have ever reached or touched on my own, healthy and whole by human standards? What an amazing thought! He’s given me true peace among chaos, no matter any outcome, and a true appreciation of life’s best moments, which are here and now. Just as I promised God three years ago, I will continue to thank Him for this struggle.
I hope today you find comfort and joy I knowing that God can and will do anything for us, but he often does what is best for us, and what will shape our hearts and draw us close to Him, bringing the most good to us and His own eternal Kingdom.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." James 1:2-3 MSG
We’re in the middle of a series called When God Doesn’t Make Sense. Does it make sense to ask God for a struggle? Maybe not, but God uses our prayer life to prepare and shape us, so we would love to pray with you about any struggles you might be facing.