I have seen God’s hand in my life all throughout the 15 years since receiving the diagnosis of aHUS(atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome).
In Isaiah 61:3, God’s Word says, he will bring beauty from ashes.
When I think about ashes, I think of the aftermath of a warm, comforting fire. A fire in a fireplace is both beautiful and powerful. Beautiful in that it produces a comforting warmth, but powerful in the burning heat it generates. But, after the fire dies out, all that’s left is a smoldering pile of powdery black ash. No beauty and no power. No pretty colors, or dancing flames.
But, God’s Word says He will bring beauty from ashes. He’s in the business of taking what Satan meant for harm and using it to build up the one He loves.
Prior to my diagnosis, I was living my life mainly for me. I had my plan for each day, my goals I was pursuing, and my mind was pretty well occupied with ME.
When my world came to a screeching halt, I found that some days, I was waking up asking, “What do you have for me today, God?” I wasn’t going to work. I was no longer attending my master’s program classes. My life slowed way down and I was beginning to see things differently.
One day, I was walking through the mall, with no intention of shopping. I studied the people walking by me. I saw people smiling, laughing, quickly walking to their next stop, dealing with crying children. I began making a judgment about each person. None of them were struggling with anything as big as what I was struggling with. None of them had just come from having plasmapherisis. None of them were 25 years old and having to make the decision of whether to try the chemotherapy the doctor was suggesting “might put the disease into remission”.
But, as God was working my ashes into beauty, He opened my eyes to the fact that no one at the mall knew my struggle. They couldn’t look at me and see that I was carrying a life threatening disease inside of my cells. They couldn’t see the plastic tubes implanted in my chest, hanging out of my body, like extra limbs. They would never know the doctor had just hours earlier showed me lab results indicating my kidney function was now less than 30%.
My next thought was, I don’t know their struggle either.
Maybe the woman I just passed with the designer jeans, perfect hair and make up, arms full of packages, deals with financial issues due to her shopping addiction.
Maybe the mom I passed with the crying kids is a single mom, trying to raise her children all on her own.
Maybe the teenage boy I passed by is strugling with temptation and is surrounded by friends who use drugs.
I don’t know the trials they are facing. And, although my trial was huge for me, their trial was huge for them.
Reflecting on my afternoon at the mall later at home, I wrote in my journal. God was opening my eyes to the fact that everyone has struggles. I was not the only one and my pity party needed to stop.
Further on down the page, I wrote the craziest thing. I would erase it and then rewrite it again. I would stare at it. Look away for a while. Look back. There it was.
My disease is a gift.
“God, is this okay? I have been praying for you to take away this disease for months. Is it okay to see it as…a gift?”
With time, I realized God was okay with that. In fact, He was more than okay with that.
The Bible is full of talk about thankfulness. Here are a few of my favorites:
Ephesians 5:20, “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Psalm 100:4, Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
1 Thessalonians 5:18, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I began to see that I really had two choices, bitter or better. I could be bitter about my situation, or I could allow God to make me better through my situation. I have spent time with both choices. Stuck in bitterness, resentment, self-centeredness. I found no gain with bitterness. My situation didn’t change, my disease didn’t go away, but I just added to my problems with my spiteful attitude. Bitterness led to further ashes in my life.
In Ephesians, the Bible tell us to put away all bitterness.
The gift came through this trial when I let go of bitterness, let go of my grasp. And, let God transform my ashes into beauty.
Stayed tuned for Part III of Where Was God in All of This
Read Part I, here: Where Was God in All of This–Part I