Last week, Erin wrote about being honest with God. Today, I want to talk about being honest with ourselves. For two days last week, I had the privilege of seeing a doctor who thinks outside the box of modern medicine. The first day we worked on figuring out what was really wrong with me. The labels that have been attributed to my condition are not the root cause of the pain tormenting my body. We made progress and I learned a lot. One thing I learned is that as much as we crave a diagnosis, sometimes words do more damage than good. Think of the words “chronic illness” – what do they make you think of? When I hear those words (or say them) my hope is shaken. Chronic conditions don’t have any chance of going away. That’s a big deal. They may be accurate words, but they don’t leave room for the God factor. With God, there is always hope.
On the second day, the doctor I saw wanted to work on emotional healing. Almost six years ago when I got sick, my heart was cold. I didn’t deal with emotions. I hardly ever cried and really, my life was pretty good. No one close to me had ever passed away and God was blessing my life. I didn’t realize my heart was cold. When I got sick, that changed. God broke me. I lost people I loved; I lost dreams; I may have even given up hope. I became a much more emotional person – my heart was getting softer.
I have always been open about being sick. I didn’t think I hid things. If someone asked me something, I would answer. I was really good at being positive. I grew up in a Christian home and I’ve loved Jesus as long as I can remember. I’ve always done the right things and said the right things. I’m a hopeless optimist. Part of that is because I know who God is. I know that He’s in control and that He’s using this sickness for His good.
I’ve mourned things I’ve lost because of illness, but last week I realized that I’ve never mourned being sick. The eternal optimist in me gives a great pep talk when I’m feeling down and my brain reminds me that God is in control and everything will be okay. So I stuff my emotions down a little deeper and put on my happy face, never letting others know I’m struggling…never letting myself admit how much it hurts.
I can’t tell you that I remember everything the doctor said to get me to deal with my emotions, but I can tell you that as soon as he mentioned how sh**** the sickness makes me feel, I lost it. (Pardon my implied use of foul language, but that’s the word he said, and I think the shock of it is what hit me and allowed me to mourn.) I cried and cried and cried…and cried some more. I allowed myself to feel sad and horribly angry at the illness, and even at God for allowing me to be ill. I was finally forced to be honest with myself about how I’ve been feeling, and then deal with those emotions.
My parents were sitting on either side of me when this happened. The doctor wouldn’t let them touch me as I buried my face in my hands and sobbed my heart out. Eventually, as I was still crying, he made me lift my head up so they could all see me. See me in my pain. See me lose control. See me not be perfect. See me in a vulnerable position. It was hard. I hate it when people see me in my weakness.
I learned that having the courage to deal with my feelings and let people see me for who I truly am is not weakness. It’s strength. It’s more strength than I’ve ever had. For when we feel weak, that’s when God is strong. He gives us His strength, and we can overcome anything.
There is power in words. I saw it. I physically felt it. When weakness turns to strength it can only be the work of God. It reminds me of when Jesus asked the man who had been sick for 38 years if he wanted to be healed. We find the account in John 5:5-8 (NLT):
One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!
I praise God that He loves us enough to do the hard work of transformation in our lives. I praise Him that He doesn’t leave us as we are. I can’t, but my God can, and I offer Him my broken hallelujah.