Today is being difficult.
I’m just small me.
And I’m finding today a struggle.
It’s not even lunch time and I just want to give up. I wake up tired and spend hours doing the things I have to do just to keep on living. It seems like a cruel irony that the life I gain by doing my treatments, taking my medications and eating well just gets spent again on those same things. Round and round. And for what?
I’ve read about joy in suffering and living with a bright sadness and it sounds so good. But often the people who write these things forget to tell you about the days when it’s just too hard. The days when you sit and wonder why this is a good idea. The days when the sadness seems darker than anything you’ve known before. The days when you’re living the middle of the Psalm and the praise of that beautiful last verse is so far from your lips. Those days are so real. Pain is part of the package.
One of my favourite film quotes (from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) says, ‘Everything will be alright in the end…and if it is not alright, then it is not yet the end.’ It’s not meant to be Christian but it fits perfectly.
Today is not alright.
But today is absolutely not the end.
There’s more to come. There’s better to come. There’s joy to come.
And that’s enough to keep me going.
My attitude to Cystic Fibrosis has changed a great deal over the past few years. It’s been influenced by the questions that people have asked me, the way I’ve seen others behave, the assumptions that people make about disabled people and through my deeper understanding of the gospel.
I used to think of CF as an evil, external thing. But I don’t think that’s helpful anymore.
I need to be able to see it as a result of the fall.
But I also need to see it as a gift that was chosen for me before time began and was given to me by the Father who knows how to give good gifts to his children.
I need to see it as one of the main shapers of my life.
I need to see who I might have been without it.
I need to see how it has helped to change David for the better.
I need to see the eternal perspective it has helped us live with.
I need to see the people we’ve been able to meet and chat to because of it.
I need to see the lessons in patience and trust and many, many other things.
I need to see how many times CF has forced us to our knees in prayer.
I need to be able to thank God for CF and mean it.
Of course, CF and its implications often make me and my family very sad. That’s ok. CF is not going to be in the New Creation. It’s a result of sin. But it is a very real part of me and who I am today. And having had it in this world, it will affect who I am in the next.
I think it is so important that I don’t see CF as this thing that my doctors and I are fighting. That image takes away all of the good things. It changes me from a suffering person, helpless and needy before my God, to a person who, empowered by modern medicine and my own strength, can make it through illness.
I pray that I would get better but my job is absolutely not to spend my life fighting to keep my earthly body alive as long as possible. It is to spend my life in a way that shapes and beautifies my eternal soul. Of course, my body is important. David and I do make decisions that mean a longer life and more suffering. It’s against the gospel message just to give up. But the longer I live, the more I am convinced that an aggressive attitude to our illnesses and diseases is not a faithful one. When I am aggressive towards the tool in the hand of the Master Craftsman, then I miss His ultimate vision, I forget the necessity of every blow and I also fail to see the kindness in His eyes.
Living with a disease is not easy. I’ll be the first to admit that. But being able to focus on the life-changing work that God is doing rather than on the body-destroying decay that disease brings is vital.
If I see CF as an enemy, that attitude is not only likely to stifle my thankfulness but also to turn me away from the gospel path of rejoicing in weakness. I want to spend my life learning ever more that strength truly is found in weakness and that, thanks to God and His use of CF, I get stronger every day in the ways that really matter.