Giving Thanks for Chronic Illness

Five years ago today, I woke up from a drug-induced nap to see my parents as they sat by my hospital bed, ready to give me the news that would change my life. I had just had a colonoscopy, one test in a string of different tests that doctors did to figure out why I had been so sick for weeks. But with this test, I finally had an answer: ulcerative colitis, a condition I would become well-acquainted with over the weeks and years to follow.

Today I looked at pictures taken around that time and remembered anew how sick I felt. I had lost weight and was incredibly fatigued and soul-weary and beyond tired of visiting the bathroom. But in the midst of my confusion and sadness, the Lord met me with His peace. I felt Him with me and knew that because of Him, I would be fine, more than fine even. I had spent that year reading through the Bible, and that foundation of truth upheld me when I needed it most. The Lord prepared me for that season of sickness by grounding me in His Word, and so even though I didn’t know what the future held, I knew I could trust Him with it.

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Smiling after my first shower without being attached to an IV pole.

The years since my diagnosis have been equal parts difficult and beautiful. At one point I was taking 16 pills a day. I dealt with a variety of side effects from medications and the disease itself. I have spent many hours in doctors’ offices and given up dozens of vials of blood. I didn’t achieve remission until 3 years after being diagnosed. Even though my disease has been inactive for 2 years, I still wake up each day not knowing if I will find myself in a flare.

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At one point I was taking 9-12 of these pills a day. Now I’m down to 4 a day.

But I do not dwell on the uncertainty of my disease; I dwell instead on the certainty of the Lord’s kindness. He was faithful to me in that hospital room, He is faithful to me now, and He will be faithful to me always, for He must be true to His character. I may not be able to control or fully trust my body, but I wholeheartedly trust the God who made it. He knows me inside and out, and in His Son, I have all that I need. Ulcerative colitis taught me to let go of control and embrace God’s sovereignty in a way I hadn’t before, and that is a gift so valuable that I am able to give thanks to God for my chronic illness. Chronic illness has taught me not to depend solely on medicine or doctors but on the Lord, for He holds my past, present, and future in His hands.

I give thanks that in regards to my disease, I feel better now than I have in a long time. Back in May, I stopped taking Humira, a drug that I self-injected every 2 weeks for 4 1/2 years, to prepare for Ava’s arrival. I have yet to take it again, almost 6 full months later. I am on less medication than I have been since I was diagnosed. Of course, all of that could change tomorrow because autoimmune diseases are largely unpredictable. I’m not foolish enough to think I will enjoy this level of health forever, but I give thanks while it lasts and will give thanks when the next flare comes because I know the Lord will meet me there. I may not be cured in this lifetime, but I know that one day I will stand before Jesus healed and holy. Glory to God.

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