I’ll be 30 next February. It’ll be a Tuesday and I’ll be working, teaching students with disabilities like any other day. That morning, I’ll walk to my car and turn on the ignition without trembling hands, throbbing nerve pain, or tears dribbling to my mouth. And I’ll probably have a pep in my step—but it wasn’t always this way.
Last year (2019) was the hardest year of my life. It began in March when I was staring out our office window at the birds eating when the room shifted, my eyes became blurry, and I lost my balance and fell. What followed after my fall was a year of endless vomiting, long migraines, blindness, and a rare neurological diagnosis in October called Neuromyelitis Optica (or Devic’s disease). It affects the optic nerves and spinal cord which can lead to blindness and or paralysis. Devic’s has taken half of my eyesight away, and some doctors presume patients will go blind within five years of their diagnosis.
Despite living with an incurable disease, I wanted to share a couple of truths in how peace has finally met me.
I have peace because I’ve realized the bigger picture in suffering.
Although God can heal us, we must never presume that he must. The word shares many cases when God does not directly eliminate misery, but rather engages with it for good. Even Paul pleaded to the Lord three times for the thorn in his flesh to be removed and God responded to Paul’s prayers for healing not by curing him, but rather by working through Paul’s suffering to draw him nearer to his glory.
Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.2 Corinthians 12:9
I have peace because I didn’t do this to myself and it’s not my fault.
I know of people that live a healthy lifestyle who still end up in the ER or have some kind of illness. I read many blog articles and many swear that by living their certain lifestyle, you’ll never get sick. However, it doesn’t matter if you’re vegan, dairy-free, paleo, gluten-free, pescatarian, soy-free, or have never smoked a day in your life—suffering meets all of us in different ways. If you watch the Netflix documentary HEAL, you’ll see people who did all of the above—but still got cancer.
The thing is, no one can really control when illness strikes. You can do absolutely everything right, and still be the one that gets sick. What matters now is learning how to find peace in something you didn’t ask for.
I have peace because through suffering, I have an opportunity to bring people closer to God.
Remember Jesus’ words when his disciples asked him who had sinned and why the man was born blind. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1-3).
What we think is unfortunate in our lives could very well be one of the deepest, most amazing ways God displays His glory. It’s through the trial. It’s through the aching. It’s through the disease.
God oversees all catastrophes and all diseases. Satan is real and has a hand in it, yes, but he is not final and can do nothing but what God permits (Job 1:12-2:10). In my life, I view my illness as a way to bring people closer to Jesus and a means to glorify God.
I would be lying to you if I said that I don’t feel anguish over my diagnosis at times, but knowing my suffering can help others in their journey makes it all worth it.
For this reason, I am at peace.