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July 11, 2020

Finding a Steady God in an Unpredictable Illness

By T Munroe

2 words: Multiple Sclerosis.

It was obvious before the doctor even said it. My husband, Carter, and I were invited into a room full of MS posters and diagrams for my appointment with the neurologist. For a solid month, we’d been waiting to hear where all these tests, pokes, prods, and symptoms were leading us.

Sure, it’s a manageable diagnosis for most people these days (PTL for modern medicine), but it still stung a bit to hear. It was one more ailment, piled on top of my infertility problems and disappointment in a body that wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do.

The good thing about Multiple Sclerosis is a change in life expectancy is NOT the issue. This was the doctor’s first reassurance. I remember thinking, Thanks?? I wasn’t even contemplating if this would or wouldn’t cut my life short until YOU brought it up! The bad thing about MS is that quality of life IS the issue. The disease is unpredictable. Any type of internal or external stressor can cause it to progress. And the way it’ll progress? Oh, that’ll be inconsistent too. The numbness and tingling in my legs, the fatigue, the brain fog won’t be the same in me as they are in the next patient, nor could these be my primary symptoms down the road.

Cool. As a person who thrives off of schedules, lists, and consistency, I’ve been diagnosed with a condition that will never make up its mind on how and when to express itself.

BUT. As a follower of Christ I can remind myself (a lot) — You know who is NOT inconsistent? Jesus. And you know whose quality of life is NOT in question, despite MS? Mine!

In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul writes this mega prayer for the Ephesians. It’s quite beautiful and something I have come to rely on. Paul starts off verse 14 with, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.” Wait, for what reason? For salvation in Christ and for others to know it too (check out chapter two). Yes, please. In the hard times, like when you receive a wonky medical diagnosis, I want first to be reminded of my salvation — when Christ pulled me from the depths of my own sin and died on the cross to give me new life and indescribable freedom and joy. I want to be reminded to kneel before my Father and not before fear and uncertainty brought on by a new life circumstance.

Paul continues in verse 15-18: “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth.”

Yes, please — in the hard times, when my symptoms are raging and my legs feel like they’re freezing and on fire at the same time, I want to be reminded of the Father who loves us enough to give us our names and identity. I want to be reminded of the Father who can strengthen us instantly because His Spirit is near (like straight up, in us).

Yes, God — in the hard times when my getting-pregnant-dreams are shattered by a new medication, I want to be “rooted and grounded in love and have the strength to comprehend it with all the saints.” You know…those saints who make up the community that surrounds me when the length seems too long, the height too high, and the depth too deep because I’m definitely not understanding what You’re up to in my life on some days.

Paul finishes chapter three by praying that the Ephesians will ultimately “know the love of Christ” and be “filled with the fullness of God.” At this point, you can probably guess what I’ll say to that. >> YES, PLEASE! And you must know that I’m not trying to diminish hardship. Life IS hard. I’m just calling for perspective. The things Ephesians calls us to focus on, are the things that will carry us through the hardest of times.

If you drew two columns and put all the good happenings of your life in one column and all the bad in the other — how would you judge the quality of your life? Would the good outweigh the bad? Or the bad outweigh the good? Does it even matter? If you went back to your list and wrote where you saw God in each of those moments (in the good AND the bad) — how would it change the way you view your life?

I pray that the joys and sorrows in your life paint a picture of faithfulness and growth. I pray God’s promises are evident. That in every good and bad season, you can see a reflection of the Savior somewhere. I pray that if you don’t know Jesus yet, He would use any and every moment to reveal Himself to you, so you too can experience fullness and joy.

I pray that we all rest in the truth that God is able to change our perspective because He can “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” and that we all stand firm in the “power at work within us”’ forever and ever (Ephesians 3:20-21).

To God be ALL the glory. Amen.

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