Scrolling through my old Instagram posts, I hesitated over one in particular. In that post, I made how sick I’d been public. It was pre-diagnoses, when the only thing doctors were telling me was that it was anxiety (it wasn’t).
That was a very dark time in my life. I was at peace, yes, but that doesn’t change how dark it sometimes got—and sometimes still is.
A lot of people told me things like “Don’t worry! God has big plans for you so I know he’ll get you through this!”
Honestly, I’ve said similar things to people before, and it’s always turned out fine. Problem is, that line didn’t apply to this situation in the end.
That sentiment implies suffering impedes the “big plans” God has for your life, or that you have to get through suffering so that you can reach said “big plans.”
Do you see the problem?
God can—and often does—have big plans in the suffering. Sometimes, His big plans even are suffering.
All of my diagnoses were chronic, which means I get to walk this path for the rest of my life. There is no “getting better” for me, there is only being faithful in the midst of suffering. So, let me just say, I really hope those people were wrong, because, if they’re right, that means there are no “big plans” for me.
My point with this post isn’t to shame you or make you feel bad if you’ve said that (though I do hope it makes you think before saying something like it next time!), but to make you think about your own life.
How often are you going through something and tell yourself it’ll be alright once you get through it? How often do you tell yourself you know you can get through it because God is going to pull you through? How often do you tell yourself you just have to keep going so that you can do a whole list of things? How often do you assume everything will go back to normal when you get through the trial, untouched but for a lesson or two?
That’s not always what happens, but we act like it is. When life is difficult, we just tell ourselves to keep pushing to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
What if there is no end of the tunnel? What if the light is in the middle? What if nothing goes back to normal? What if this trial is forever?
These aren’t questions we like to ask, but we have to. If you get sick and it turns out to be a forever thing, what will you do? If you face another trial that doesn’t end, what will you do?
If my experience with chronic illness has taught me anything, it’s these things:
Suffering can be the “big plans.”
I’ve touched on this already, but I want to really get into it.
There are a lot of opportunities I’ve been given because of my chronic illness. There are a lot of opportunities that would be taken away if I woke up magically cured tomorrow. There are a number of opportunities I wouldn’t have realized I wanted to pursue if I’d never gotten sick.
I would love for God to perform a miracle and heal me. But, you know what? I don’t think he will, because I can be better used for his glory sick than healthy. And I’m okay with that. I’ve made my peace with it, and I’m happy and content wherever God wants me.There may be a time when God’s “big plans” for you are to stay in the suffering for a prolonged period of time—or forever. You can’t choose to put your life on hold until God decides to open a different door. Click To Tweet You have to be faithful to him in the suffering, and realize that he can do a lot from the middle of that place.
We have to ask these questions before we’re in a forever situation.
You have to be prepared for this to happen. You can pray it doesn’t, but you still have to be prepared for the possibility.
When I got sick and couldn’t get answers, I had several conversations with my two best friends about how I hoped it wasn’t something serious or something that would last forever, but I was ready if it was. Why? Because I knew God would use it.
You don’t want to go into a forever-trial with the mentality that life can stop until it goes back to normal, because it might not go back to normal. As my pastor likes to say, God uses the ordinary days to prepare you for the extraordinary ones.
Not everyone will understand.
It’s one thing to walk through a trial with a friend for a few months, or even a year. It’s a whole different one to walk with them through it forever.
It is hard. I may be the one sick, but my friends and family suffer for it, too. Being friends with a chronic illness warrior is no easy feat.
I’ve lost friendships because of my health. I’ve had friendships become far more distant. But I’ve also had friendships deepen, blossom, and begin.
When you walk through a long-term or permanent trial, you will lose friendships. Not everyone is up to the task of supporting you forever. But don’t let that scare you. I’m telling you this to prepare you in case you’re ever in this situation. I don’t want you to be blindsided. But I want you to hear me when I say that I’ve also experienced deeper friendships than I ever thought possible.
I sincerely hope you never have first-hand experience with a life-long trial, but I want you to be prepared for it, too. Because sometimes God’s “big plans” are suffering and that’s okay. Some of God’s most beautiful stories are in the midst of a trial, not after it. Click To Tweet