Just days before my fourteenth birthday in May of 2015, the healthy, energetic life I had always known fell apart. Now at age nineteen, I suffer from multiple chronic illnesses, and I have lived the last five-and-a-half years mostly in bed and disabled. This is not the life I expected, but it is the life God has for me, at least for a season. This is not a detour; it is the road, and it leads to somewhere good.
When I am discouraged, I remind myself of the biblical story of Joseph in Genesis. If he hadn't been sold into slavery in Egypt, he would never had been able to save the people from famine. I contemplate over Jesus dying on the cross. It was the darkest day in history, and yet we call it Good Friday because by His death, many now have life. I think of Joni Eackson Tada, whose quadriplegia led to her disability ministry. Romans 8:28 teaches “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” and I trust that somehow God will bring good out of my suffering too.
In fact, I can already see glimpses of it. My faith is stronger. My relationships with my family and friends are deeper. I marvel at beauty that I used to rush by. I find great joy in what I used to take for granted. I've written encouraging cards and emails I would never have written otherwise. I've had the opportunity to pray with and for others who are hurting. I've taken up blogging on this site.
This is not to say pain is good or that it doesn't really hurt. Tim Keller writes, "There’s no saccharine view in the Christian faith. The promise is not that if you love God, good things will happen in your life. The promise is not that if you love God, the bad things really aren’t bad; they’re really good things. The promise is that God will take the bad things, and he’ll work them for good in the totality."
Suffering grieves the heart of God, but He has an eternal perspective in mind. He knows my pain is "light" and "momentary" compared to the never ending glory that is coming in heaven because of it. He sees the big picture and knows where the story is headed. This past November, as I sat outside watching the sunset and listening to music, a Steven Curtis Chapman song came on that I'd last heard on the radio before becoming sick. To me, it's even more beautiful now.
"I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold
And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding"
God isn't done with my story yet. I hold onto hope and wait for the glorious unfolding.