God's Brave Women - Rachel's Story
It was yellow. I had prayed for yellow.
Moving day was set, our boxes were packed. A new house, a new marriage, a new job. The future was looking bright.
And then it happened. Something didn’t feel quite right.
Over the next few weeks my energy faltered and my knees swelled to the size of cantaloupes. It hurt to stand, it hurt to walk, it hurt to move.
Severe fatigue, brain fog, night sweats, insomnia, incessant pain and inflammation suddenly took control of my life. Within two weeks I lost 25 pounds along with my ability to walk, confined to wheelchairs and motorized carts. Instead of waltzing into my 30’s, I hobbled my way through.
5 months, 15 doctors, dozens of lab tests and procedures later revealed my worst fear.
I was diagnosed with a progressive autoimmune disease. The answer felt more like a life sentence and less like good news.
And with no known cause, there could be no cure.
In one swooping moment, my thoughts went down the drain, sucking my emotions in with it. The familiar tape began to roll right on cue.
This will always be your life.
The tears came, followed by insurmountable grief over what was being lost: hopes, family dreams, expectations on how life would be. I felt broken. No longer could I rely on my body to do its job. It had turned on me. And no one could fix it or make it better.
For the next five years my life revolved around immune-suppressants, flare-ups, and fear. I regained my ability to walk but suffered the fallout of disease. I did everything I could to optimize my health. I went dairy-free, gluten-free, corn-free, egg-free; all at the same time for a long time. I saw a naturopath, took enzymes, a regimen of pills, and drank dirt.
But I was still sick.
For five years, I wrestled with God. Why me? Where are you, God? Did you forget about me? Don’t You see? Do you even care?
There is tension between the seen and unseen. When circumstances are hard, doubt clouds my vision and fear weakens my faith. Truth be told, I have been more afraid than I have brave. I am tempted to despair, to give up hope, to believe there is no good future and that God’s promises will never come to pass.
Suffering has challenged my belief about suffering; weakness, my view of strength. For the Christian, strength is not health, ability and success but “faith, hope and love” forged in the fire of suffering (Kevin DeYoung).
When our hearts are breaking and our days are dark, God responds by giving us what we need most.
He gives us Himself.
"When our hearts are breaking and our days are dark, God responds by giving us what we need most. He gives us Himself."
If I forget God in the battle, I will lose the war. If I forget who my anchor is, I will be swept away by the storm. I cannot face trauma, tragedy, anxiety, depression, shame, insecurity or pain on my own.
If I want to be secure in who and Whose I am, I must remember who He is.
In the midst of suffering, our God is a delivering God. He is a healing God (Ex 15:26). He is a God of the impossible, One who brings life out of death (2 Cor. 4:8-12). A God whose light shines through the broken cracks of His people, whose power and strength are best displayed through our weakness, not our strength (2 Cor. 4:6-7). He is a faith-building, awe-inspiring, soul-reviving God who resurrects hope from despair and joy within hardship.
Strength and bravery are built, not upon grit, but on God. I can be strong and courageous, not because of who I am but because of who He is. It is the person of Jesus who makes me brave. It is His nearness that is my good, my strength, and my rest.
"Strength and bravery are built, not upon grit, but on God. I can be strong and courageous, not because of who I am but because of who He is. It is the person of Jesus who makes me brave."
My hope is then placed, not in the circumstances I see, but in the promises and character of a God I don’t see. For it is by faith we walk, not by sight (2 Cor 4:18, 5:7). And those who hope in Him will never be disappointed (Rom 10:11).
What looked like a travesty was in reality God’s mercy to me. Underneath all that physical pain was the cry of a wounded soul. Trauma that had been dismissed and minimized for decades. Tragedy that deposited lies and fears in my heart. Like a skillful surgeon, God used the pain of illness to reveal and repair what had been broken all along.
Though He could have changed my circumstances, God used my circumstances to change my heart. He is answering my prayers for healing, just not the way I expected.
My situation has not changed. But I no longer need it to.
Though I’m still sick, my God is with me, even in this. And that is what I really need. He is enough.
God sees your life. He’s still writing your story. And the future He has planned is still good. He will use all circumstances for your good and His glory (Rom 8:28). Even if you can’t see it.
Especially when you can’t see it.
"God sees your life. He’s still writing your story. And the future He has planned is still good. He will use all circumstances for your good and His glory (Rom 8:28). Even if you can’t see it. Especially when you can’t see it."
No matter what we face, we can keep moving forward because our God is near. He is present with us in our circumstances. He sees, He hears and He cares.
And it makes us brave.
Rachel is an award-winning writer and blogger whose passion is helping others flourish when life hurts. With a Master’s Degree in Discipleship, she works at her local church equipping others to grow in faith by applying God’s Word to everyday life. Her writing has been featured by (in)courage, Zondervan and DaySpring. Rachel loves to travel, meet new people and will find any excuse for a coffee date! Find out more about her at livewellworryless.com, and feel free to follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
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