Monday, December 6, 2010

Gratitude 16: Chronic Illness

This week brought mixed news on my health journey.  The report from my lupus doctor was very positive, and my sinus doctor approved the request to continue the prescription irrigation regimen another month.  At the same time, I discovered providentially that my blood pressure has risen dangerously in the last month; I say, "providentially," because as someone with previously normal blood pressure I had not been in the habit of checking it at home.  My weight, cholesterol levels, and diet are healthy, and I exercise as much and regularly as I am able.  Once again, following the rules set by the health professionals is no guarantee of the desired outcome.

To be honest, this newest diagnosis embarrasses me a bit.  It feels like failure, a sign that I have not been a faithful steward of this dust-body where God's Spirit dwells.  My first inclination was toward image management, withholding specifics that might make you think less of me.  That's just pride talking, though, which is reason enough to come clean.  

Moreover, someone reading this might be in the same situation, trusting that everything is normal because there are no visible signs of a problem.  If that is the case, if one of you Crumbles does not know his or her blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, please, let my story encourage you to obtain the necessary tests.  Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both genders and often goes undetected until a crisis occurs.  Hypertension, in particular, is known as "the silent killer."

For the last few days of living with this latest development, I have been working through the discouragement of yet another chronic illness to manage and another prescription to add to the list.  By God's grace, I give thanks by faith that because my Father has allowed this, it is good for me.

Lupus and my other ailments have certainly brought good to me already: frequently my limitations are means of guidance in matters big and small; they have strengthened my relationship with my husband in the last six months more than I would ever have expected; they have loosened my grip on the steering wheel of life and whittled away at my pride; and they have often quickened awareness of my dependence on God.

Trust in Him is the foundation of spiritual life and an area I always need growth.  Affliction is often the classroom where such trust is learned.

Deeply felt need also enriches my experience of God's Word.  A hunger only God's promises can satisfy transforms the Scriptures from words on a page into daily bread necessary for survival.  This week alone, my reading in Isaiah 40 through 44 has been a lifeline and comfort.  Without anxiety, I might not have noticed the frequent repetition of the command, "Fear not," nine times in this small section.  Without my body letting me down, God's self-identification in those same chapters as the one who formed (seven times) and created me (four times) would not be half so reassuring.  Furthermore, He not only created me but did so for His glory (Isaiah 43:7); He not only formed me but did so for Himself, that I might declare His praise (Isaiah 43:21).

Finally, chronic illness has taught me the importance of looking past the seen to the unseen.  Isn't this part of the message of Christmas, after all?  If we dwell on the seen, we see a baby with a feeding trough for a cradle, surrounded by rumors of illegitimacy, born to a poor, blue-collar, redneck Hebrew family.  The glory lies beyond the veil of the visible in the truth revealed by God's Word and received by faith.  The invisible, eternal things teach that this baby in the manger beneath the star is Himself "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God," "God with us," "come to save His people from their sins."

Whatever seen things may be troubling and discouraging us today, let us lay them at the manger and look beyond them to the good they can give us.  Come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Thank You, Lord, for
2170. Chronic illnesses
2171. Discovering blood pressure problem before serious consequences
2172. Good report from lupus doctor
2173. Supportive, loving husband
2174. Mom's company and transportation help with doctor's visits this week
2175. Best asthma week since July
2176. Christmas music
2177. Corporate worship attendance
2178. Salmon and roasted vegetables for Sunday lunch
2179. Husband and Dad working together on soffit repair on Saturday
2180. Phone conversations with both sisters this week
2181. Early Christmas present to play with
2182. Christmas card in the mail from a longtime friend
2183. Isaiah's encouragement and prophecies of Messiah
2184. One surviving caterpillar in the parsley
2185. Ebony patrolling the backyard for stray cats

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