When you have been struggling with chronic illness for years, it can sometimes be a challenge to believe that life will ever bring you anything but days filled with pain, scrambled thoughts, depression and fatigue–or whatever assortment of symptoms that Lyme happens to have thrown at you. During such times, finding meaning and purpose in life can be an even greater challenge, especially if you are going the healing journey alone.
So many books tell us not to fret and fear the future, because the things we fear rarely happen. But what happens when your future turns out to be bleaker than your fears ever were? What happens when your dreams slowly die because year after year, your treatment regimens and symptoms leave you with little space or energy for those dreams you have held onto?
My relationship with God has been an integral part of my healing journey. God is my friend, my strength, and my encouragement. Even so, at times, there is a voice in my head that challenges God’s love for me. In an ugly tone, it reminds me of how my young adult life has turned out to be more circumstantially difficult than I ever imagined it would be.
I didn’t get the storybook life. None of you who are reading this probably did, either. Maybe you imagined yourself in a life of flourishing relationships, with a stable career and body and mind that would function well until at least age seventy.
I deluded myself with such expectations, but in my weaker moments, I have been taken captive by an even greater delusion–the belief that I got screwed in life because I got Lyme disease. I sometimes look with envy upon my friends who can hike, bike and ski and sleep six hours a night. Who can work in any job because they have the functioning mind and the stamina to run around in a thousand directions every day.
But I have also learned that there is redemptive power in illness, and as I struggle to lay hold of that power and as I wrestle with God, I realize that I am being moved towards a grander, more majestic life than the one I would have had, had Lyme not taken me down five years ago.
Okay, so I don’t always believe that a life with Lyme is synonymous with a life of royalty and higher rewards, because pain and my constant treadmill of treatments feel paradoxical to a life of abundance. But even if I had been given my version of the fairy tale, without the character training that life with Lyme signed me up for, my fairy tale might have had a bad ending, anyway. Because optimism and happiness can only be maintained so long by circumstance.
Yes, a life of pain, fatigue and isolation predisposes people with Lyme disease to depression and despondency. Legitimately.
Yet, in my wiser moments, I believe that the mind and the spirit are sovereign over circumstances and a biochemistry that’s been fouled up by Lyme. So even if my thoughts spiral downwards from too many spirochetes playing tag in my gray matter–I have found that my spirit can sometimes conquer temptations to give in to despondency, and even find great value and blessing in this cursed disease.
I have found it to be a battle and a process that takes years. And while I am slowly reaping the results of that journey, I admit that along the way, I have resented those who have admonished me to “just take my thoughts captive” when everything in my biochemistry has conspired against thoughts of optimism. It’s much harder to be optimistic when your hormones and neurotransmitters are a mess, but the flip side to that is, disciplining the thoughts can also alter the biochemistry.
I also think that God’s spirit living within us can overcome the weaknesses of the earthly body. It may overcome by providing direction about how to heal the brain or by giving us the will to change our thoughts.
Such has been the process with me. And as part of that, I am learning to do another thing–believe (for abundance) in order to see (that abundance). Perhaps this is one way to endure, or even be freed from, a life of chronic illness, isolation and financial poverty.
Believing against the odds. Believing when every day looks darker.
To see life through spiritual, instead of earthly, eyes. Because often, what is most real is what is unseen. In the spiritual realm, seeing isn’t believing. We must believe in order to see…because a true life of abundance comes from believing in a god who loves us, who wants the best for us and who is working circumstances for our highest good. And if that abundance isn’t immediately manifest in the physical realm, it can be witnessed in an even more important place-the spirit.
Indeed, perhaps reality and truth are the potential and hope of what is unseen, in our hearts and minds. That potential and hope are released by faith, to finally bring into existence the abundant life, according to the One who made us, and the One who loves us more than we can we can imagine, even though that love is often misunderstood.
But it requires seeing circumstances with spiritual eyes, which means believing in order to bring into existence that which is not yet manifest.