Finding God In.......Chronic Illness
A dear friend of mine, Bethany writes an awesome Christian blog, (which I'll link at the end) and she recently contacted me asking if I would be willing to share my testimony and how I found God through my chronic illness. I was truly honored that she would think of me to be a guest writer for her blog, because she is a much better writer and her blog is so very good. That being said after the honor wore off and I stared putting pen to paper I started to wonder if I was really the best person for the job! The truth is that I haven't had the strongest belief in God in recent years. In all honesty over the last six years I’ve really struggled with my faith. I have struggled to understand why I've faced so many struggles and what I did to deserve the things that have happened. I have felt at many times in the last decade that if God was truly a good God that I wouldn't have faced the trials that I have. I wouldn't have had to go through a bad marriage or lose my grandpa so suddenly. I definitely wouldn't have had to live through the trials surrounding my health. But through the eyes of others and the work that he has done in my life I've come to realize that this isn't true, I know that my God is good God. I still struggle daily to truly understand why things happen, but I suppose I may never completely understand. Lets rewind and take a look at the journey that got me to where I am today. In the of Spring 2012 I was living the life that I had dreamed of. I was working as an RN, serving as charge nurse most shifts and helping to train nursing students and new co-workers. I loved my job, I loved that I was able to work three twelve hour shifts a week and that I had a job with direct patient contact. In January 2012, I was hired as an adjunct Clinical Instructor for a local nursing school and I was so thrilled because that is something I had wanted to do since I graduated nursing school in 2007. I also started working on my Masters in Nursing Education in January 2012 as well, and I was so excited to be moving toward my goal of teaching in a nursing program. My life was on track and I was happy with my the direction it was going.
Then in February 2012 all that changed. I was hospitalized for a week with a respiratory infection that no one could quite figure out. Looking back I can see that, that was just the beginning of the decline in my health. I had to be off work for a MONTH at that point because I just couldn’t breath, despite all the treatments we tried. On top of having trouble breathing, I was also always exhausted, and was dealing with so much joint pain. More pain than I had ever experienced before. That July, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus among other things. Though troubling and scary, it explained so much. It explained why I had been feeling the way I had and the symptoms that no one could ever figure out that I had experienced over many previous years. In the months and years following my Lupus diagnosis I was also diagnosed with so many other life altering diagnosis that made it hard to see any kind of future for myself. Just to name a few, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, Endometriosis, Interstitial Cystitis. Not to mention the migraines that morphed into hemiplegic migraines in 2016. Following the Lupus diagnosis it became clear that I wasn't going to be able physically to continue working as a nurse on the floor. And due to my health I not only had to leave my job, I had to step down from my teaching position with the nursing program. And I had to drop out of the masters program that I had just started. To say the least I was crushed. I just couldn’t understand why God would allow these things to happen and what I had done to deserve so many trials.
At that time I honestly couldn't see past the diagnosis. I couldn't understand why my ability to do the things I dreamed about was being taken away. My job, furthering my education and the ability to have children. As I mentioned above I was also diagnosed with endometriosis. Having Endometriosis along with Lupus has made it so I will never be able to carry my own baby, which is something I have always wanted more than anything! As long as I can remember I have dreamed of being a mom and all the things I would do with my children. And all that has been taken away. I do hope to adopt one day if I get to a place where I can care for another person. At that time though I couldn't fathom what I could have possibly done to deserve what was happening.
In the months following my diagnosis I really began to struggle with my faith. Even though I grew up in church and knew all the teachings of the Bible, I still struggled. I stopped going to church and just couldn’t understand why a God who was supposed to be a caring and loving God would let all this happen! I couldn't see past the present to see what he was working on for my future.
I spent so much time the first couple of years following my diagnosis praying to God, yelling at God, and asking simply asking why, before the plan God had for me finally started to become clear. My world as I knew it had essentially came to an end or so I thought. I was no longer able to work the job I loved, my most recent relationship had come to an end, and people who I felt were life long friends just up and walked away, saying they couldn't handle the changes I was forced to make because of my declining health. I knew what I needed but I couldn't find it. I knew I needed to find support in people who were or had gone through the things I was dealing with. I needed a place where I could be totally open and honest about how I felt and what was going on without fearing judgement. Because so much of the time people who don't have chronic health issues can't really provide the kind of support needed.
I searched and searched for a place I could go for support. Someplace I could go and talk to others who were living through the same issues that I was. A place where I could go and openly express my feelings without being judged, and also a place where I could find information on the issues I was dealing with. I looked for local resources and online resources, but I couldn't find a place where I really felt comfortable. After spending time searching, it became clear to me that I was supposed to create the place I had spent so much time looking for.
After I realized that I was supposed to create this place of solace and education that I had been looking for. After I finally came to the realization I spent a lot of time researching support groups & educational groups. I wanted to find out what made these groups successful, and what made them flourish. In the weeks after I realized Gods plan for me I spent a LOT of time praying that God would help me create the place I had been longing for. And he did just that.
I recruited a few of my fellow Lupies (aka someone with Lupus) to help me and we created a Lupus & Chronic Illness Support Group on Facebook. A group called Lupie Groupies. My friends and I created a group where those of us dealing with chronic issues could go and be real. A place where judging others for their thoughts and feelings is NOT allowed. A place for those who were newly diagnosed, as well as for those who have been diagnosed for decades and everyone in between. A place to find education on their conditions and as well as information on treatments.
At first we were a very small group, but over the last 4+ years we have grown to over 600 members. When I started this journey I could never have dreamed that I could develop a support group that would grow to be so big! I have received such amazing feedback over the last four years from people in this group. People telling me that the group has given them hope, and that they have made life long friends in the group. I know for sure that I couldn't have done what I've done without God's helping hand.
I did finally figure out Gods plan and worked to implement it. But I would be lying if I said that I haven't questioned God and his plan for me more recently. I definitely questioned my faith when I had a car accident last summer and totaled my car due to seizures, that have restricted me from driving for almost a year. And during the times I have had so much physical pain that I couldn't see past the pain. Or when the car accident led to me losing my job. I have definitely questioned God and his plan. I think it's only natural to struggle to see his plan when you're life is not going the way you want. But Isaiah 66:9 has given me some peace as I've made my way through the trials.
Looking back I realize that God put me in situations with certain people for a reason. At the time I didn't understand but now I know he put me in those situations and put those people in my life to help me reach my goals, and to help me get back to him! When I had to move home at the age of 31 I was devastated. But now looking back I know this was imperative for my health. I needed to be with my family so they could help me care for myself. Had I not moved back home I don't think I would have ever asked for help, or told anyone just how sick I was. Moving back home wasn't just essential for my physical health, it was essential for my spiritual growth as well. If my health hadn't declined to the point I had to move back home and quit working, I don't think I would have ever gotten back to having a personal relationship with God.
I give my 18 year old sister a lot of credit for helping me to get back to the relationship I now have with God. She is an amazing young lady and she has been such a blessing to my life in so many ways. I often feel like I am her second mother due to the fact that we are 15 years apart. She truly has the most unwavering faith in God of anyone I've ever known. Without moving home I would have never gotten to witness her testimony or see her constant faith firsthand. Even when I felt my life was falling apart around me she would tell me she was praying for me, and that God would make things better. Many times I blew her off and didn't think much of it. But in the last 6 months I've seen God work in her life and in mine. He has helped both of us get through trying times, and brought the two of us closer together. None of that would have ever happened had I not been sick and had to move home.
My relationship with God has changed so much in the last few months. I have seen his work first hand and I have seen his work in others. I have not officially gone back to church, mainly due to fear of catching something from the large crowd. But I have gotten back to watching the weekly sermon online, and worshipping at home. I can honestly say that since I have gotten back to church and back to talking to God and praying that my outlook has changed. As sad as I am that I may never get back to working as a full time RN, or getting to fulfill my career and educational goals, I have come to terms with it. I know there is always a reason for the things that happen in my life. Even though I may not be doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing or impacting others lives the way I thought I would. God has showed me that through my work as a chronic illness blogger and through my Facebook support group I can still have an impact on people's lives. My life may not be headed in the direction I would have chosen 5 years ago, through Gods work in my life I have found to raise awareness and provide education on health issues. And quite frankly I am lucky to just be alive. My testimony has certainly been a rocky one but I can truly say I have found God through my chronic illness!