Monday, March 9, 2015

Walking through Suffering

     After many months, maybe even years now, I decided to write. I think perhaps my story might be an encouragement to someone else who is struggling.  If you are struggling in your life, you are not alone.  I can write now that my mind is clearer from the effect of the drugs needed to treat Giant Cell Arteritis and Polymyalgia Rheumatica, two auto immune diseases I have had for the past two and half years. The first causes inflammation in the arteries that lead from the heart to the brain. I causes severe temple headaches. If left untreated, it can cause blindness and a stroke.  The second causes severe pain in the major muscles, especially thighs, upper arms, low back.  The fogginess may be from the diseases or from having to use prednisone for treatment.  I'm not sure.  Prednisone causes many physical problems including lack of sleep, and it affects brain chemistry and stalls the adrenal, hypothalamus, abd pituitary glands.  The steroid takes over and does not increase when activity or stress increases, so it's very easy to be totally wiped out with very little interaction or activity. Those of you who are on it  know what I am talking about.  It's a blessing in that it saved my eyesight and maybe my life, and a curse in that I now have high blood pressure, had to have cataract surgery, gained about 30 pounds, and have very high fatigue daily.

    Fogginess has made it difficult for me to read the word of God, and remember what I read.  I've had difficulty forming thoughts enough to write them down.  So I have taken a break from trying to write and just rested and focused on what I already know.  The fatigue has made it difficult for me to attend church or visit with more than one friend at a time. With the fatigue comes nausea. These diseases have completely changed the way I live my life, and has impacted each person in my family.
     I can tell you, I am very thankful for the truths God sunk into my soul in five years prior to getting sick!  Without these truths, I would have fallen into despair for sure.  I know I could not have withstood the decreases of the steroid which made me feel a little crazy and greatly increased the pain and fatigue.  

    I have hung onto the truths I know and love, and the One who is the truth! That God loves me and that He is in control of this situation. He allowed it and He has a good purpose for it.  He allowed it because He loves me.   Isn't that an amazing truth?  One that was, at one time, very hard for me to grasp.  I know that He will bring good out this very difficult time, for me and everyone affected by my being sick.  I believe He will bring us through this together and make us stronger.  He has already been building compassion in me for people who struggle with fatigue, obesity, and a very limited lifestyle.  I did not understand what fatigue was before I got sick.  How real and debilitating it is and how unexplainable unless you have experienced it. I also didn't realize that weight gain could be caused by medications and sickness, as ignorant as that might sound to some of you. I did not realize how devastating certain conditions and certain medications are on the body.

    The questions often came to mind:  "Did God allow this sickness because of sin?  Had I failed in some way?  Had I been proud, so He shut me down?"  I do not fully know the answer, but God has not brought sin to my mind.  He has brought areas of immaturity that need maturing, like having deeper compassion for people who are going through chronic diseases.  Like, staying focused on who I really am in Christ and not identifying with outward appearance.  Prednisone caused a total shift in my body within about a month!  I went up three sizes of clothing, and went up three bra sizes! (Sorry men for this personal detail.)  This drastic change was shocking.  I didn't recognize myself when I looked into the mirror.  Some have suggested that I stayed away from church or public gatherings because of my weight.  I have to admit it was tempting.  I haven't liked how I look.  But what kept me away was the profound fatigue and sometimes the days in bed following a major use of energy. Talking to people takes energy.  Going to the store. Driving a car.  Even one outing can be debilitating. Recently, on a day I felt better, we had five friends over for dinner.  I mainly sat and listened and enjoyed the testimonies of how God changed their lives. It was a wonderful evening.  But for the next five days I could not get out of bed, I was so fatigued, in pain and nauseous. 

     God provided a couple friends who struggle as I have, to walk with me through this painful time. I am so thankful for these ladies, though we have yet to meet in person.  I met them on a website called Inspire, specifically for people with auto-immune diseases.  These ladies have had a very difficult road. Somehow it helps tremendously to know others have struggled in the same I have.  We took turns encouraging and being encouraged.
   I have begun to read the word of God again and am up to John 10.  I love John. I love truths he expresses through his writings, truths he witnessed and walked through with Jesus. (Sorry for the spacing change coming up, if it is distracting.  I could not figure out how to change it, so left it alone.)

   John 10:10 says:  The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  I believe this verse if true for us when we are well and when we are sick.  The abundant life is within, through the power of God within us through the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ His Son.   This life is found in God alone. This is more than a good perspective or positive thinking. It is the power of God living within us and in Whom we live. This power sustains us through insurmountable troubles and anchors our soul in peace.  Without God this walk is impossible.  With Him it is painful and hard, but not despairing or defeating.  With Him, we can walk in victory even when our bodies fail to move.  
     I pray that someone might be encouraged today by these words.  "God would you please speak to someone today who is struggling and alone.  Help them know they are not alone.  You are there.  You will listen.  You will be the anchor in a storm and You will bring them through just as you bringing me through."

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