Faith and Illness
November 2013 – Present
I started feeling ill with what I thought was the flu. The normal flu like symptoms, aching, headache, fever, and just overall ill feeling. What I thought was the flu turned out to be the biggest trial I would face in my life to date. After the initial flu symptoms appeared they were followed by a time of numbness from my waist down, partial blindness in both eyes, no balance, couldn’t walk, zero strength and one scared dude.
The beginning of the doctors’ appointments –
My regular family doctor decided that he wanted me to go see a neurologist. I went, and the neurologist ordered a round of MRI’s of my brain and spinal canal. December 16, 2013 the results came in from the MRI’s. Now, my lovely wife is a nurse and has some connections so she had seen the results before this but chose not to share them with me because she was scared to death and wanted to hear it from the doctor. This is what the radiologist who did the MRI’s gave as a possible diagnosis. Exact words were, Differential diagnosis includes neoplastic processes such as lymphoma. WHAT? I am 28 years old with a 3 year old son and a 1 year old son. I can’t have cancer. The neuro didn’t think it was cancer but he wasn’t sure because this wasn’t his expertise. He advised me to go get a second opinion, but I didn’t even know what to think. He didn’t think it was cancer but that thought was still in my head. I remember sitting in my recliner for 3 days not reading, not watching TV, not really being able to move at all, and I would just cry, staring at the wall and thinking about my family. On that third day I experienced something that I will never forget. I was praying and just asking God to allow me to be here for my boys and this overwhelming sense of peace came over me. I heard God speak to me and he said, you will be. I can’t explain to you the feeling of peace that I had and still have thanks to God. He is in control and always has our best interest in mind, even when we don’t thinks so. I went to a different Neuro and he was sure that it was not cancer and continued testing to try and figure out what was going on with me. I was not able to walk for about 2 months and then started re gaining feeling in my lower body and eventually was able to walk again in about mid-January 2014.
35 MRI’s, 2 spinal taps, 3 different neurologists and 4 nerve conduction tests later, on June 25, 2015 I received a diagnosis of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is an auto immune disease that causes your immune system to attack your nerves in the brain and spinal column. Overtime the nerve damage can become disabling. There is currently no cure for MS but there is treatment for it. After my diagnosis I immediately began taking Gilenya, an oral treatment for relapsing remitting MS, and stayed on it for about 6 months. My lingering symptoms were not improving so my doctor decided we should switch treatments. I have now been on Tysabri for 8 months.
After this journey God had blessed me with an attitude that wants to praise him no matter what is going on in my life. There is a false view of Christianity in the world where people think that once you become a Christian everything is going to be easy because God is on your side, but that is not what Jesus preached. If you go to John chapter 16 verse 33 in the second part of the verse, Jesus is talking to his disciples and this is what he says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE. He doesn’t say, you may have trouble, he says, YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE. He tells us that it’s not going to be easy but to take heart because he has overcome this world. AMEN. Jesus does not give us this false view that everything is going to be easy once you have accepted him as your savior. You have to expect some suffering if you are going to live for Christ.
If you look at 1 Peter chapter 4 and the first part of verse 1, and I like the way the NLT reads, it says, 4 So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too.
I think we could all agree that Jesus suffered. His life on earth was full of suffering, people hated him, cursed him, and eventually crucified him. He endured more suffering than we could ever imagine. If we can arm ourselves with the same attitude that Christ had while he walked this earth nothing can hurt us, nothing can cause us to be afraid. See, when you expect suffering you can arm yourself with what you need to endure the suffering. Jesus knew that he would suffer. He knew that he would be hung on that cross. Because he knew these things he was able to arm himself with what he needed to endure that suffering. If we look in Matthew chapter 26 verse 39 when Jesus went to Gethsemane He asked God to help him through this trial that he was going to face and that God’s will would be done.
39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
We can also think and act that same way. We can expect suffering and ask God to help us to endure every trial that this life is going to throw at us.
If we can allow God to work in our lives the way he wants to he can be glorified through our weaknesses.
My favorite example of this way of thinking comes from Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 12. Paul had what he describes as a thorn in his flesh. I don’t know exactly what that thorn was but I do know that it was some kind of weakness. Paul came to a point where he was content with his thorn because he knew that in order to be who God needed him to be, he needed this thorn.
7b So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 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. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul needed that thorn to keep him from becoming proud. I also have a thorn. It’s called MS, and I need it to be who God wants me to be. He knows what’s best for me, I don’t. Nothing evil comes from God but he causes everything to work together for the good of those who love him. Romans 8:28 NLT says,
28 And we know that God causes everything to work together[a] for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
That’s where I am right now. If God wants to heal me, then glory to God. If I have to live with this disease for the rest of my life and that is what is going to bring God the most glory then, glory to God
To God be the Glory.