As I approach this topic, it humbles me to think of how unable I really am to encourage others in it. I have not gone through this season of my life with a perfect heart. The harder God presses me with this sickness, and the longer it lasts, the more rebellion I find in myself. So, please understand that I am speaking to myself. I want to say “thank you” to all the people who have prayed for me, sent me encouraging notes, and those friends who have looked me in the eye and said, “Ashley, persevere!”
The first thing I want to mention is humility. The Bible says, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God,” 1 Peter 5:6 It is terrible how much pride you find in yourself when you are tried! So many things are difficult to stoop to when you are sick. It may even hurt your pride to ask for help.
There are many things about my illness that have been hard to accept; for one thing, it is hard to accept that I can’t do everything I could before. I am someone who really enjoys being industrious. I like to get up at 5 am to read and study, get ready, then make a big breakfast just as everyone else is coming downstairs. I used to do that fairly often. I’m also a checklist person. I make a checklist nearly every day and try to check off everything before supper time.
The past few years haven’t been that way; my checklists have become shorter and aren’t completed as quickly. I can no longer physically get up at 5 am, on a good day I can do 6 or 7. Here I notice the pride in my heart because I feel embarrassed to even write that on my bad days I sleep until 9 or 10:30! Was I taking pride in my self-discipline to be an early-riser? Was I taking pride in my industry?
Another thing that has been hard for me to accept is medication. I started taking this medicine over a month ago and, I must confess, I had a bad attitude in my heart about it. I don’t want medication… I’m too young to be on medication. Was I taking pride in my youth? I’ve always considered myself healthy; I eat healthier, drink more water, and am more athletic than anyone else in my family (or was). But did you hear the pride in that? God is truly, breaking me. I am constantly having to remind myself to let patience have its perfect work and to humble myself under God’s hand.
Prayer is a necessary aspect of dealing with an illness. There are times throughout the day when I have to stop and say, “Lord, give me the strength: I don’t have any more!” I think God likes to hear us cry out to Him. We need to know that we can’t make it without our Savior!
Something I have been trying to do recently that helps me is to pray for others at my worst moments. When I wake up with a migraine that hurts down the side of my face, I think of my neighbor who just had cancer removed from that area. When I have my muscle aches, I think of the man I met with MS, or the woman who had her leg amputated. These can be great opportunities to remember to pray for people and also to realize how good I actually have it!
Seeing God’s Hand
Maybe this is right where God wants me. If I were never sick, I might get too confident in my own strength and I would never need to ask for His. If I never had any problems, why would I ask for His answers? Truly, it is only when my own well runs dry that I discover how much dirt and grime is in the bottom. This is when I can come to the realization that I am in desperate need of the pure water that only Christ can give. This is true of salvation, but it is also true of life after salvation. We don’t need to be saved over and over again, but we do need a constant supply of the water of the Word.
Many times our ailments and insufficiencies are just what we need to keep us from pride, and they help us to desire our Father’s guidance and strength! Like a small child who has a fever, we sometimes don’t understand what is going on. The child may ask for medicine again and again but the parent knows that his body is using that fever to kill the virus. Just the same, we may cry to our heavenly Father to lift some burden or difficult situation and even though He sees our discomfort, He also sees how it is helping us.
I have grown fond of calling God my Father recently; He is dearer to me now than ever before. Yes, He is humbling me… yes, He is breaking me… but all the while He is drawing me closer to Himself! Each new day He gives me; no matter how late I sleep, no matter how little I accomplish, and no matter how much medication I have to take, I feel a little bit closer to Him. There are still times that I get impatient, lose my temper, and give in to irritability or depression; but my “Father” is breaking me and molding me so that He will be able to use me. The question is, “Will I surrender myself to His hands?” Will you?