A couple months ago I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. It’s nothing too serious, but it does cause me to suffer with pain from time to time. After the diagnosis, I only told a select handful of people because I didn’t want sympathy from others. But really, I was just in denial. People usually say after going through a medical condition, you’ll face a series of steps. First you face fear, then denial, then anger. For me, it went more like this: denial, anger, acceptance, freedom.
Denial: refusal to believe a doctrine, theory, or the like.
I remember walking out of the doctor’s office with a million questions going through my head. Will this be what kills me? Am I going to endure a long and painful life? How did this happen? WHY ME? Once I sat in my car, I prayed for peace and then my brain just turned off. For those of you who know me well, you know it’s only by the power of God that I’m able to actually stop thinking. After a moment of silence, I informed my family of the news and then went about the rest of my day. Honestly, I didn’t know what to think anymore or how to handle it. I eventually settled in my mind that the doctor misread test results or mixed me up with another patient. It just couldn’t be possible that I was the one she meant to diagnose.
Anger: wrath; a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong.
After a couple weeks of denial, I started having pain. As pain came, denial turned into anger. Why did this happen? God, didn’t you create me healthy and whole? I don’t care about the label of this disease anymore, I’m in pain. Make it go away, God. My anger became demanding. I questioned God then demanded He heal me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about anger in the past few years of my life, it’s this: anger turns into bitterness which the dictionary says is “characterized by intense antagonism or hostility.” Once bitterness grows, it forms into rage, hate, and hostility towards everyone – even people that never did anything wrong.
I remember spending time with an old boyfriend that I had built up anger and resentment against. I used to absolutely hate confrontation more than anything in the world, so whenever he would upset me, I just bottled it up. Eventually that bottle started to overflow. I remember this one particular day with him so vividly. I’m a laid back person that rarely ever raises my voice. As some put it, I’m a lover not a fighter. But on this one day, I had enough of bottling my emotions. Everything I held back – hurts formed from the relationship, fights that I wanted to fight back and didn’t, and memories that I wanted to leave in the past – came out. He really didn’t do anything wrong on this day, I just finally had enough. My bitterness turned to anger. I yelled. I called him names. I even slapped him. . . Ha! Poor guy didn’t know what was going on because he didn’t do anything wrong. My bottled anger finally wanted to be free.
Most everything that happened during that time of my life is a blur, but I believe God left this day so clear for me to remember because it’s a reminder for me. A reminder of what anger does. A reminder of what my life will look like if I always avoid confrontation. A reminder of God’s amazing grace throughout that whole situation. Because of that day, I was finally able to let go and move on. I didn’t like who I was becoming and realized I needed to give my anger to God.
Acceptance: the act of assenting or believing; favor; approval.
After being in denial of actually having an illness, and after my anger resided, I learned to accept the fact that I was diagnosed with a chronic disease. Acceptance at first was me realizing my body was changing. I started noticing things about myself that I never noticed before the diagnosis. The more I noticed, the more I started to research my illness. I started critiquing every little new thing that happened to my body. It was borderline obsession. I got to a point that I didn’t want to just accept that my body was going against what it’s supposed to do. I wanted to be free of it. I wanted to no longer worry or be afraid that any new changes to my body are because of this disease.
Freedom: the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint; personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery.
After seeking prayer from family members and leaders in my church, I started experiencing freedom. No, my diagnosis isn’t gone. I’m still not 100% according to MD’s. I still feel pain. But I no longer allow this disease to define who I am. I’m no longer held back by the “why’s” and the “but’s”. I’ve moved forwards. The way I look at this speed bump is if God’s allowing me to be covered with an illness, then it must be for a good reason. Even if I were to die from this, I’d be dancing disease-free in Heaven. How amazing would that be?! So I say to this diagnosis: do what you want, cause pain whenever and wherever you want, because I have a God that’s greater and stronger than any diagnosis. I won’t allow this to stop me from becoming the woman that God has called me to be; I’ll continue to move forward, disease free or not.
There are a million and one scriptures from the Bible that pertain to healing and freedom, but Psalm 103 speaks to me the most. It’s a reminder of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and forgiveness. He’s created us whole and in His image. Even when things in life come our way that we didn’t expect, there’s a reason for it. Whether it’s to shape us or force us to rely on God, it always ends up the way He intends. Think of an artist who paints and there are people watching. The bystanders usually can’t tell what the finished piece will be, but the artist has the whole idea in his mind. It’s not until the picture is complete that the people watching can see and admire the finished masterpiece. God is much like the painter and we are the bystanders. He knows the finished piece, but we can’t see it. It always turns out beautiful in the end. We just have to trust that God knows what He’s doing.
“Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the LORD, all his works everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the LORD, my soul.”