Have you ever noticed how so many of the Psalms start with protest and end with praise? I’m no good at poetry, but this is my story – my Psalm. It is a story of trudging through protests, of the fear and anxiety and grief in the places in between, and finally… to singing praises.
About 13 years ago, I began having migraines and seizures. Despite millions of tests, no root cause could be found for either. Over the next 10 years, my joints began to deteriorate, and I had many surgeries, including three hip replacements (that’s a fun story). I struggled to keep up with my “normal” schedule, especially at work, and thankfully was given grace for a long while. I am also prone to depression, and I think I was probably depressed most of that time. Too sad and weary to even protest.
Suddenly, about three years ago, I had a sudden onset of a myriad of symptoms, most of them seeming to be neurological. A strange numbness settled into several places in my body, and that quickly spread and got worse. I was diagnosed with MS and given massive doses of steroids to stop the symptoms, and I literally felt better after the first dose. I think those infusions might have saved my life.
In the meantime, my lumbar puncture results were abnormal. This was not MS. I was sent to a specialist at a teaching hospital in the city, and he diagnosed me with neurosarcoidosis. Say that three times fast. Try to say it at all! And with that diagnosis, my whole life changed.
Read about Mandy’s Sudden Pain
Protest the Pain Management
It is an exceedingly rare autoimmune condition. Since it is rare and progressive; there is very little in the way of research or studies – two in a million people get it. (I was a bit miffed at this, as I’ve always wanted to be one in a million …). The strategy? Contain it. Stop it from progressing. Manage the symptoms. In addition to lesions in my brain and my spinal cord, I now have evidence of it in my liver. Sometimes the side effects of the drugs are almost as bad as the condition they are treating.
My life became consumed with doctor visits, millions of tests, and a dozen or more medications to manage. I was sick and exhausted. And angry at the disease. Angry about what it was costing me. And yes, angry with God. I was in a job that I loved, and despite the migraines and seizures (probably the onset), life was good.
Now it was bad.
Protest to Praise
Thankfully, I never lost my faith. I never turned my back on God. But I was definitely mad, sad, disappointed – and scared. I kept my distance from Him; grieving the loss of my “normal” now, the loss of my old self, and the possible loss of future plans. I was grieving hard, but I was doing it alone. My fear just kept growing.
In the end, it was the fear that turned me around to face Jesus again. The disease was consuming me. And yet from some distant place, I heard Him say my name then I heard Him say, “Give it to me. All of it. The anger, grief, fear – I’m here to take it from you.” I turned back to Him, walked closer, and saw the love in His eyes and the compassion for me.
“My burden is light. Give it to Me.” And I did. That was the turning point for me – I handed over all of it to Jesus. I surrendered all. And I found peace. Do I ever pick any of that stuff up again? I sure do, sadly. But I am quicker to set it back down now than I used to be.
Searching the Scriptures
There was a verse that has resonated with me so much, in the book of Isaiah:
“But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”(Isaiah 43:18-19, NLT)
- I clung to those words.
- I believe in the promises, even though I couldn’t see any pathways or rivers.
- I cling to them still today, but I’m done peering into my future.
He is unfolding it in His way in His good time, and most days I can rest in that.
Protesting my New Life
On the worst days, I have learned to give in to the demands of my body. I must respect it, and if I don’t, I pay a price – I’ve learned that the hard way. Finally, I’ve gotten to acceptance of what is, instead of longing for what was. I’ve had to drop the bar of expectations for myself. This was really hard, but God has used neurosarcoidosis to bring me closer to Him. With no expectations of myself, I can turn my focus from myself to Him. It changed everything!
God continues to put people in my path who have chronic illnesses. They seem to come out of nowhere sometimes, and that’s how I know that He has NOT sidelined me. I still have a race to finish, and I plan to do just that!
This verse came to life for me:
“He [God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”(2 Corinthians 1:4, NLT)
- He takes ashes and exchanges them for beauty.
- He sings over us.
- He rejoices over us with shouts of joy!
Those things will never change, no matter what happens with my health, to my body.
Finally, I’ve landed on praise.
Angie Clayton is an author, speaker and blogger who has a passion for ministering to the grieving. Some of her writing reflects those experiences. She is a storyteller, and her blog, Framing the Days, is rich with diversity. She has a ministry of presence, and spends much time with grieving women. Her blog shares with you the joys and beauty of both the mountain tops and the valleys of her life. Her book, “Peering into the Tunnel: An Outsider’s Look into Grief,” is a collection of real stories, as well as helpful suggestions for how to come alongside someone who is grieving.
Angie has been married to Greg for over three decades, and they especially enjoy time spent with their grandkids.