So now that the holiday season has come and gone, the New Year is usually a time when we all reflect on the previous year and think about how we want to change going forward. I took this time, however, to think about how I spent my holiday season – sick. And no, I wasn’t having a flare and out of control Crohn’s symptoms, which is what the holidays (mostly over-eating) usually bring for me. I had the flu.
Type A and B. Let me tell you: when I was in that doctor’s office and I was told that the flu test came back positive for both Type A and B, I was floored. A flu diagnosis is usually maddening for a typically healthy person, but for someone with a chronic disease and a suppressed immune system, it’s terrifying.
What could usually last a week could possibly last 3 weeks or more with an immune system so compromised like mine is. I just couldn’t believe that I actually had the flu; I had gotten the flu shot and was pretty careful about washing my hands and keeping my areas at work and home cleaned so I just couldn’t understand why this was happening.
When I got home from the doctor’s office, I threw myself a pity party. I mean, I deal with Crohn’s stuff on a daily basis and not just gastro problems but joint pain, anxiety, medication side effects, and painful injections, so adding something on top of all this just threw me into a spiral of self-pity. It was also difficult to miss out on holiday events with my family, and my fiancé’s family.
The constant disappointment I feel from so many people for missing things is such a burden sometimes and it’s hard to remember that my health comes first, no matter what the event is and no matter if others understand what I’m going through or not. Feeling left out is something I often experience too and I hate that feeling. I hate that most of the time, there’s nothing I can do about it because I have to make sure I’m taking care of myself first.
It wasn’t until I had laid in bed all day and had notified my boss that I would be out for the rest of the week that I realized that I needed to change my mindset.
I began feeling so grateful. Grateful for my gracious boss who was so kind in the midst of this uncomfortable circumstance, so grateful for my parents who let me stay at home and take care of me when I do get sick, and so grateful that I was sick when work wasn’t in a crazy season. I was, however, totally NOT grateful for the never-ending nausea and loss of appetite while everyone was enjoying awesome meals and treats. But despite the things I had to miss out on, I just kept coming back to how grateful I also was for my God. I knew I needed to praise him during this storm and thank him for a supportive family, a kind boss, and for the health I still had.
When you have a chronic illness and experience more health problems on top of what you deal with daily, it’s easy to throw a pity party and give up on God. One verse that comes to mind when I reminisce on this flu situation is Ephesians 3:20 which says, “Now all glory to God who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish more than we might ask or think”.
It’s easy to forget that our God is ABLE to do anything. Literally anything you can dream of and more. He can heal our chronic disease and He can certainly rid my body of the flu. It’s very sobering to read this verse and be reminded of the fact that God can heal me. He can heal my inflamed colon, my anxiety, and my joint pain, I just have to believe that He can do it. I have to boldly pray that I am expecting Him to heal me and I can’t let doubt interfere with that. After all, God constantly pursues us and only wants us to trust Him and fully depend on Him.
Thankfully, with much prayer and lots of rest, I was back to feeling better in about a week. I was so thankful that the flu didn’t keep me down for longer than that and I’m proud of myself for continuing to pray and trust God through it all, even when that nausea got unbearable. But even though the “flu” symptoms may have been gone, I still had to deal with the residual symptoms that my body was dealing with.
With a chronic disease, it’s never just one thing and then you’re back to feeling better again.
If you have a flare or get the flu, the major symptoms may be relieved in a week or so but we all deal with the smaller things that tend to continue for several weeks, sometimes even months. For me, that has been serious sinus issues, horrible stomach cramping which comes as a result of taking so much Tylenol and cold medication during the week I did have the flu, and even a fissure, which is the most painful of all.
When things like this happen and sometimes take months to completely be relieved, it’s very difficult to understand what God is trying to do. Why would our able God who is mighty to accomplish more than we might think or ask let this happen? Our physical body is affected, our emotions are affected, and it’s hard to maintain normalcy at work or school and at home, and it’s definitely difficult to maintain any type of workout routine (that part really annoys me). So how do I handle times when it feels like I will never go back to feeling okay? I’ll be honest, it’s a constant struggle; I wish I could just pray and pray and things got better and I only had to deal with maintaining my disease, but that is often not the case.
I usually push through the pain while telling people I’m fine and also being a little mad at God.
It’s a very difficult thing to understand how God could let us suffer, but we don’t need to understand His plans, we have to trust that He knows what He’s doing. One thing that I constantly remind myself of is that we live in a broken world. People get sick and people even die, but our true home, where no sickness or pain exists, should be our focus. We should never lose sight of God’s eternal plan for us.
When eternity is my focus, I find that the painful things I must endure (sometimes on a daily basis) seem much smaller than they did before. This is when I am able to feel grateful for the things God has actually done in my life instead of focusing on how sick I feel.
Receiving that diagnosis of Crohn’s disease almost 7 years ago changed my life, and not for the better; however, it has made me realize that I need to depend on God rather than things that I can do to fix my health. How do I know this and trust God with my health? Because I’ve tried it my way and I’ve depended completely on my doctors and medication and it didn’t work, things actually got worse. This is how I’ve been able to decide that God is the only one who is able to heal me, whether it’s long-term healing completely from Crohn’s disease or acute healing of my anxiety or joint pain or stomach cramps.
My prayer for you is that you can trust God with all of your heart and mind and that you truly believe that He is able to heal any sickness or disease you may have, it will just be in His time, not ours. Even when things get difficult and it seems like we will never feel better, pray boldly for healing because God is the almighty healer, He knows how painful your circumstances are because he endured even worse pain in our place. We have to expect great things this year from our amazing, wonderful and able God!
Bethany Miller is a 24 year old who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2008 at the age of 18. She lives in Houston, Texas and works as a Project Analyst at Texas Children’s Hospital. She believes that relying on God through the ups and downs of Crohn’s disease is the most effective way to stay sane and continue leading a joyful life. Follow her journey on her personal blog, Crohn’s, Christ, and my Crazy Life.