I was scrolling through Instagram this past weekend when I saw a post/video from novelist Nadine Brandes. She was talking about acne she had dealt with after a virus during college. It was all across her face and she said many people would offer unsolicited advice or make awful assumptions about it. She eventually developed a deep depression over it because nothing worked to remove it — not medications or creams or expensive medication. All those things did was make her sick.
She said that one day she started to cover the mirrors in her house and began to focus on Jesus and her relationship with him. She stopped trying to take care of the problem herself. She wrote under the short video she posted that she never actually figured out what the source of the acne was, but one day, she began to notice it was fading, and then it was gone. She wrote, “All I can say is Jesus. Jesus removed the stress, the anxiety, and the shame. I think peace affects our bodies just as much (if not more) as creams.”
I could relate to her story, not because I have ever had her acne, or even because of the frustrating health issues I do deal with, but because I have found myself focusing too much on situations, people, and my perceived failures and not enough on Jesus many times.
Most recently this focus has come in the form of trying to figure out how to build a following for my books so I can earn a little extra cash to help my family financially, but also because I enjoy sharing my stories. I started checking off all these steps that “experts” insist you must do to be noticed on social media. I created an author page and group on Facebook. I searched for ways to increase interactions and followings on Instagram. I tried to do everything that was being suggested without totally driving myself crazy since I had walked that road before and ended up with a near mental breakdown.
I’ve learned there is nothing wrong with building a following, either to help promote your work so you can support your family or to get the word out about something you’re passionate about (like your faith in Christ), but if it is replacing your relationship with Christ then it will bring you more misery than you were prepared to handle.
Nadine’s post was a reminder to me to step back again, lay it all in Jesus’ hands and not worry so much about followers or sales or anything other than my relationship with him.
He’s the ultimate provider and all my hard work means nothing if I don’t lean into him and let him lead.
This is something I will have to remind myself of over and over again because so many of us know how it should be and we do fine for a while but then life — argh! Life gets crazy or scary or crazy scary again and we lose our way.
We forget to trust.
We lose focus.
We get distracted. It is in those moments of distraction that we have to be reminded of what we had committed to in the past, which was focusing on Christ and letting him take care of all that weighs us down.
Doing anything other than that will not only frustrate us but make us sick, mentally, spiritually and even physically.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Before I start this post, I want to explain that it is not a woe-is-me-post. It is not a “my life is worse than others” post. This is a “you’re not alone” post if you also face chronic health issues, big or small. This is also a post pondering why some receive God’s healing and others do not.
My issues are nothing compared to those who have struggled with chronic pain for much of their life. I’m also not claiming an illness. This is simply what’s happening in my life now. And what is happening now is I am dealing with a bladder issue off and on that often keeps me up at night, as well as pain in my sciatica nerve and lower back. Both of these issues have recently been improving and seem to go through spurts of being there and not being there.
This issue, along with several others involving muscle aches and extreme fatigue, has been happening off and on for over a decade now. In the midst of all of this, I have seen some other health issues I’ve dealt with for years improve some. So, it’s not all doom and gloom in my world, thankfully.
I was diagnosed with reoccurring Urinary Tract Infections as a child. I was placed on antibiotics even if the test showed I didn’t have an infection. I had two exploratory procedures to see what was happening and why I had so many infections and discomfort. No official diagnosis was ever made, other than one doctor saying my bladder was small and had never fully developed.
In my mid-20s I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which means my thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone, which leads to all kinds of “fun” medical symptoms. The thyroid issue was not addressed until I was in my early 30s because I was told by an endocrinologist I wasn’t really hypothyroid. Instead, I was a woman, newly married, and had anxiety. The thyroid condition was then masked for a few years by antidepressants. Once I took myself off the antidepressants, after gaining more than 50 pounds, and all my energy, I began to have massive panic attacks and was finally told (again, by a new GP) that my thyroid was off and I should be on medication. My original GP was correct all along. Some of this may explain why I have a healthy distrust of doctors and the medical profession as a whole.
All of this rambling is to explain that I have prayed for healing from various symptoms stemming from these medical issues for years. My mom has prayed for healing for me as well. My mom also suffers from some near debilitating health issues, and I may have inherited some of that, though my issues are nowhere as severe as hers. We have also prayed for complete healing for her as we did for my grandmother, whose issues were even worse than ours.
It can be hard when we pray for healing from issues and that healing doesn’t come.
It can be hard to watch other people receive healing when we don’t. We may be happy for the other person, but we wonder where our healing is. Or maybe it isn’t our healing we are praying for but the healing of a loved one.
I can’t say I’ve ever felt jealous of someone who has received healing when I haven’t. I suppose I have figured that this chronic health stuff of mine is simply normal for me. It’s what I was born with and it’s what I just have to deal with.
Still, there are days I ask God, “Why me?”
Why do I have to be the one who looks like I’m afraid of life when really a health symptom is holding me back from some things?
Why am I the one Christians scold for not having enough faith, for not simply “picking up my mat and walking in healing (John 5:1-18 ), for not rebuking Satan enough, for claiming sickness when I should be rejecting it?
Why am I the person who was told by a well-liked Christian in our community that I like being sick, that being sick means I get out of responsibilities so I hold on to the symptoms and talk about them to bring attention to myself. Apparently, she didn’t understand that I don’t want attention, especially when that attention comes from people shaking their heads at me in pity or looking at me like I am a sad, lonely, pathetic person whose whole life revolves around my “made-up” chronic illness.
I should mention this same Christian also said my mother and grandmother wanted to be sick and enjoyed the attention. Trust me, my mother and grandmother do not and did not enjoy being in excruciating pain from fibromyalgia and if they could have simply said, “I don’t want this, thank you very much” and it would have been gone, they would have.
I have heard about and known many people who have been healed of their afflictions — mental, spiritual, and physical afflictions. Then I have seen others who were prayed over by people all around the world who were never healed and passed away, crushing the faith of many in the process.
What was the difference between those who were healed and those who were not? I have no idea.
All I know is that it happens for some, and it doesn’t for others.
In my own journey, full healing has not come, but there have been small moments of triumph and victory. There have been days, after nights where bladder spasms or back pain has caused me to wake up every hour or 90 minutes, that I have still felt good and been able to accomplish what I needed to accomplish, and then some.
While I once spent most of my days shaking and feeling weak all over, I’ve had more and more days where I don’t have that weak feeling and go all day without feeling light-headed or without fighting brain fog. If you don’t know what brain fog is, it’s when your whole head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton (literally) and your thoughts are battling to push their way through that cotton.
When I do have some of those symptoms, I know how to manage them better than I once did. I have a litany of natural supplements or solutions that get me through the days when the symptoms flare.
There are days, even with the victories, I still cry out to God and ask Him, “Where is my healing? Where is it? Where is my miracle like the man by the pool in Bethesda? Why can’t I have it? What am I doing wrong? Which sin is blocking me?” More than wondering about my own healing, though, I often want to know why the healing hasn’t come for my mom. She’s suffered for more than 25 years, maybe even longer. And why didn’t it come for her mother who I clearly remember leaning over a couch in her 70s sobbing and crying out in pain and asking God what he had abandoned her?
If I am asking this question, I can just imagine the anger and frustration someone like Joni Tada Erickson has felt over the years. For those who don’t know who Joni is, she is a Christian speaker who was paralyzed at the age of 17 when she jumped into a shallow lake. She has spent almost 50 years without the use of her arms or legs and also battled cancer twice, but she has also spent 50 years preaching, painting, writing, and encouraging people to focus on the small things of life when the big things seem too much to bear.
I read a blog post from her recently where she pondered the conundrum of why some are not healed by God and others are. She was writing to Christian doctors and dentists, encouraging them so they could encourage patients who don’t find healing.
After asking for healing for years, and even attending a service specifically for healing, Joni cried out to God for answers.
“Finally, one night in desperation, I cried out to the Lord, “Oh, God, I can’t live this way! Please, if I’m not going to die, show me how to live!” It was a simple plea, but at least my heart was turning God-ward, rather than inward. I felt a glimmer of hope.”
She says she began reading her Bible more, seeking a closeness with God she might have before the accident.
“With time, my perspective on healing began to change. I came to understand that God had a higher priority for my life than an instantaneous physical cure. When we look at healing in the Bible, we find that while it is true that Jesus took time to physically heal many people, He was most interested in their spiritual healing. In sending the 10 men with leprosy to the priests to be declared “clean,” He was also restoring them to fellowship with their community (Luke 17:11-14). Only after offering forgiveness of sins to the paralytic lowered through the roof did Jesus then offer physical healing (Mark 2:1-11). And most importantly, Jesus didn’t physically heal everyone. When it was time to move on, He did so, leaving behind multitudes unhealed (Mark 1:38).
His larger mission took priority—“to seek and to save the lost” and to bring spiritual healing to a broken humanity (Luke 19:10, ESV). It wasn’t that Jesus did not care about the problems among those He didn’t heal physically; it’s just He was more concerned about their spiritual welfare than their physical hardships. As Jesus famously pointed out, it would be better for a person to be maimed than to live in a state of sin and rebellion (Matthew 5:29-30).”
I believe God wants us to have healing, but maybe, as Joni suggests, that healing won’t always come as physical healing.
This post doesn’t mean I feel I have this issue wrapped up in my mind. It doesn’t mean that I think, “Welp, there’s that issue solved. There’s the answer to why I still suffer, and so-and-so doesn’t.” I don’t know if I will ever figure this question out until I am on the other side of heaven. What I hope this post does offer is the comfort that we all have questions like this and that there are times we will see the good even in the midst of the bad.