Many of you know that I live with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). My symptoms began at age 22, just before I graduated from college. Since then, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of living with a disease that doesn’t go away. I’ve enjoyed the benefits of great medications that very much reduce discomfort and joint damage. But, I’ve also endured the physical pain of going off of those drugs to have a baby and breast-feed.
I’ve found even with the best of medications, I still tend to have significant flare-ups with my joints. Just last week my left wrist, knuckles and fingers were extremely swollen and painful. I could barely even move my hand without experiencing serious pain. You can imagine how this effected my day as I cared for my two-year-old and attempted to carry out daily household tasks.
Besides dealing with the physical aspect of a chronic illness, there is always the inner struggle of staying hope-filled in the midst of a hard situation. Truthfully, at my worst I just want to lay down, cry, and ask my hubby to fix dinner (which I did last week, by the way). But, at some point I have to force myself to think on truth so that I don’t just waste these days that God means for me to use for His glory. Here’s now God used His Word last week to bring me some much needed hope, comfort and perspective.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul asks God three times to remove a “thorn in the flesh.” This is God’s response:
“He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
God is actively giving me grace. There is not a time in my day when God is not providing me with all the grace I need. He is offering His strength and then delivering it to my weakness as I look to Him for it. And this grace is sufficient- It is enough for my weakness, right where I am. This brings hope because my weakness makes everything seem impossible. I feel my weakness, my inability, and God says yes, now here is just what you need- grace and strength. I can be content (not angry or depressed) with this weakness because I see a God who is rescuing me with His strong grace. What a sweet God who brings hope to hopeless situations!
I find comfort in God’s Word by being reminded of His love for me.
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
RA may make some things difficult in life- like unbuckling Jude’s car seat or picking him up with achy hands. It may even separate me from accomplishing certain things- like the possibility of ever running a marathon in my lifetime. But the one thing it cannot do is tear me away from the love that Christ has for me! If I have this most important blessing in life, I am ok! I am actually better than ok, I am loved! This chronic illness can never separate me from the treasure of Christ’s love.
God’s Word reminds me to see my life through His viewpoint, not my own.
“He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” 2 Cor. 5:15
During severe flare-ups, I become depressed because things aren’t going my way. I become sad because I physically can’t do the things I want to do. I mope around because somehow I think it’s not fair that I should have a life less than perfect. As you can see, I seem to be the center of my universe. My desires, my way, my pleasures (or lack thereof) are ruling me.
God used 2 Cor. 5:15 to change my perspective and attitude. The purpose of my life is not my own personal benefit! Jesus paid the highest price for me- death that He didn’t deserve. He willingly allowed sinners to cruelly murder Him. Then 3 days later, He came back to life, and now He gives me life. I must live for Him! He deserves all of me!
So, when I am moping around in pain, I force myself to think, “Christ died for me. I must live for Him.” Sometimes this is a rebuke to myself, and other times it gives hope. I can’t do some things with RA, but I can live for Him well with my attitude and by willingly submitting to His plan for my life.
How about you? Are there areas in your life that need a new perspective? Or hope or comfort? I pray that God will use a little of what I’ve said here to provide that for you. I’d love to hear how He’s encouraged you!