I am constantly amazed at God’s handiwork. When I see a sunset I am reminded that the heavens declare the glory of God. I hear the birds chirping in the morning, and I am amazed that God created so many similar creatures, but they are all different enough to know the sounds of their own kind. I understand that God is perfect is every possible way, and I am not perfect in any way whatsoever. What I believe about Creation matters. If I falter even a little bit, in my faith about Creation, then I risk losing my faith in everything every single day. I must know, with every ounce of my being, that God breathed the universe into existence, including all the details— from the vastness of the heavens, the sky, the oceans— down to the arrangement of the molecules of all forms of matter, into the very DNA that separates me from all other living creatures. When I know this truth, I can also know that He is fully capable of caring for me and my needs.
And yet, this God who loves me— the same God who created the entire universe, breathed it into existence without ever growing weary— this God of all creation— He has afflicted me with a chronic illness. It’s an illness that causes me to suffer, but only sometimes. It’s an illness that most people probably cannot even tell I have. It’s the sort of thing that I say, “I’m sick today,” and most people would probably roll their eyes in disbelief, because they cannot see any outward signs. When I am sick, I cannot sleep. I lay down at night trying to sleep, to fall asleep quickly, because I know the night is going to be very, very long. I hear the sounds my tummy makes, and I feel the irreversible damage happening to my insides, like a hundred tiny knives ripping my abdominal wall to shreds. No position in which I lay makes a difference. No drink, no pill, no blanket, no —absolutely no— thing makes it any better. It’s called Celiac disease, and, six months post-diagnosis, this is the new normal for me. While I try very hard to be very careful about the food I eat, somehow, every once in a while, a bit of gluten gets into my system and wreaks havoc for a variable amount of time. Sometimes it’s only one night, but sometimes it lasts longer, like a week or two.
But God— incredible, awesome, beautiful, Lord of my Life— He gave me this illness, and He gave me children, a husband, a home, dogs, a career, a church family, many students, coworkers, committee assignments, and a slough of other responsibilities. Some people would probably think I have every right to refuse to participate in all these duties— that I should get other people to take care of my family when I am sick, that I should call in “sick” when I am not feeling well, that I should excuse myself from committee work when I am having a “rough day.” — There are a few people, who very lovingly, with very good intentions, tell me to “take it easy.” I know they care about me, and I truly do feel their love.
But God— infinite in His wisdom, and Almighty in His power— has called me to obedience, and He continues to sustain me. When I begin my day praying for His help, and I lean on His understanding, but not on my own, I see that there are no excuses— no excuse is acceptable. And He shows me day by day the fruit of my obedience: the moment that my child seeks forgiveness when she has wronged her brother, the moment my son asks questions about baptism and grace and mercy, the moment my daughter tenderly dries the tears of her younger brother and helps him to his feet, the moment my baby asks me to sing “Amazing Grace” just one more time, again. — It’s more than that, though— these little activities in my own home are just the beginning— The student who walks in faith and boldly travels to the closed, hostile nation— she sat in my classes for two semesters, and I know that somehow God used me, if even in a tiny way, to impact her life for His kingdom purpose. And the young lady who desires deeply to learn and grow in her faith in order to lead other women to Christ through her own study, her future teaching and writing career— this young lady, like a mirror, reflects the glory of the King of Kings to me nearly every day— reminding me of why I serve Him.
I serve to show them how to serve Him. It’s not about me, my illness or my discomfort. It’s about Christ, His kingdom, and His will. When I am in pain, in desperation, in need— “I lift my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121)