Over the past eight years of my chronic illness journey, God has brought so many blessings upon my heart. One of which – friends to walk this journey alongside my struggling spirit. More times than I could ever recall, God has placed some amazing women to pick me up, encourage me, and most importantly turn my eyes toward the only One who can lay peace as a covering over my aching soul.
One of these dear friends is Rebecca Cassmeyer. Even before I knew we shared a diagnosis, God wove our hearts together. She checked up on me and sent texts of encouragement. And when the diagnosis of Lyme Disease left me in shock, Rebecca was the first person I told. And this is why.
In a text message that same day, she sent me a picture of a lit candle and these words, “Maybe we can be each other’s reminder to call on God’s light when things get really dark”. She is that exact reminder to me and her encouragement is contagious. Today, I would love for you hear her heart and the blessing she brings to so many.
The following is written by my sweet friend, Rebecca Cassmeyer. May she bless your heart as much as she blesses mine.
“Imagine if Six Flags had a new roller coaster with the moniker “Chronic Illness.” Would anyone willingly get on the ride? Let’s check the common criteria… Nausea and fear-inducing. Check. Death-defying twists and turns. Check. Headache producing. Check. The thought – “is this ever going to end?” Check.
Maybe it all fits the criteria for a thrill ride, but the reality is no one would ever want to get on if you knew that there was no getting off. No sigh of relief when your ride pulls in to disembark. No “whew…don’t think I’m going to do THAT one again.” Chronic illness is this roller coaster in “continuous mode.” Every once in awhile there will be those slow, coasting moments where you can take a breath, but most of the time, you can’t really prepare yourself for what’s coming next.
So, how does a person with chronic illness face this daunting challenge?
Every single person’s illness creates a different experience for them. Each diagnosis, support network, and all the minutiae in between create a different story. But there is one area that we can share in common – the fact that the love of our ever-present God never changes for you and for me.
I have been actively battling Chronic Lyme’s disease for over 6 years now. I really thought I had my life on target with a fulfilling, albeit challenging, career, a loving family, and a brand new home.
And then things changed.
My health declined pretty rapidly for 3 years. I was traveling all over to find someone who could diagnose what was going on in my failing body. I look like someone with Multiple Sclerosis, but I never met the diagnostic criteria. My emotions and my spirit were all undergoing an endless assault. My identity was changing. My ability to be a wife, mother, and health professional changed.
But God didn’t.
Looking back over the years, I always felt that my faith was strong. Yet, chronic illness has become my ultimate test of surrendering to God’s plan for my life. The days of crushing fatigue, unrelenting pain, failing body, and whirlwind emotions would be a challenge to anyone.
But do you know who understands? Jesus does.
And that has been one of the most grace-filled realizations that I have made over the past 6 years. Jesus understands, and he is walking every step with us. Breathing every breath with us. And he will not lead us astray.
He will carry us when our bodies cannot continue, wipe away the tears that fall, and remind us without fail that he loves us. If we find ourselves doubting, we can ask God to help us in our unbelief. He NEVER fails.
But I do.
I get wrapped up in “how in the world am I going to accomplish task A, B, C, etc.” and forget to seek His guidance. I forget to thank Him for the innumerable blessings and for his faithfulness, even when the challenges seem to be front and center. I fail all of the time, but I’m trying. I’m building that relationship with God he so desperately desires with all of us.
Now, back to the question I proposed at the beginning. Would anyone willingly get on the “Chronic Illness” roller coaster? Willingly accept pain and suffering?
Jesus willing entered His passion…willingly suffered through the anguish of the road to his crucifixion. He did it for all of us. And there was such love in His actions, and such beauty in the resurrection.
If I can trust…if I can surrender to God’s “roller coaster” plan for my life…then my life will produce beauty and love much greater than I could ever have done on my own.”
What a beautiful testimony of what it looks like to walk willingly straight into God’s will, no matter the storm clouds that loom overhead.
Whatever God is calling you to do, dear one, He is first and foremost calling you to submit – submit to His ways over your own ways. It’s not easy – I understand that. Especially whenever God is calling you to walk some seemingly treacherous and winding roads (or rides).
BUT, as Rebecca reminded us, God NEVER fails us! And someone who never fails is Someone I can definitely put my trust in. I encourage you to today, right now, take all that pain, all that frustration and all that confusion and submit it right into His trustworthy hands. Trust that no matter where His will takes you, you will come through the fire stronger and more in love with the One who protected you from the burns of this world.
And maybe, just maybe, you will learn to enjoy the ride.