“How is this LOVE?” I screamed at God, lying in the sun, on our polished floors, trying to get warm. “This isn't Love!” I screeched in my pain. It was May 2011. I was sick. Very sick. For 10 days I had been sick. No-one knew what was wrong. No-one had a clue. I was angry! Angry at God. He said he was a God of love and I got THIS! Diarrhea, insomnia, hair loss, night terrors, rapid weight loss, night sweats, depression, anxiety, heart arrhythmias, nausea... The list of symptoms was getting longer every day and no Specialist had a clue. Myriads of tests had been run. They all just shrugged and said they were at a loss. They weren't denying there was something wrong. They just didn't know what it was.
I remember lying there in my pain. Asking my husband what God was saying to him when he prayed and asked about me and my illness. My husband had just told me he kept getting the word “love”. I was aghast.
Easter had just past. I had been well then – or so it seemed to me. It had been significant for me, in terms of what God had done in my life. The Preacher had spoken on suffering in his last sermon. It was ironic. For six months, God had been speaking to me on suffering. Teaching me, in every daily bible reading, every sermon, every event, every news article. And now here it was at family camp. God had been on a theme and I hadn't been able to get away from it. I had tried. I changed daily devotionals three times to escape this theme on suffering. I wasn't successful. On the last day of the family camp, while listening to the Preacher speak on godly suffering, tears had streamed down my cheeks. I had submitted. I had prayed.
“If you want me to suffer for Your Name, then I will.”
“If it glorifies You, then lead me there.”
It hadn't been an easy prayer.
I didn't expect Him to answer so quickly.
10 days later I was very sick.
For six months I had learned a lot on suffering. I had learned a lot in theory. In doctrine. It seemed now I was getting to put it into practice. In reality, I didn't want to practice. In reality, I didn't like suffering. I was beginning to think I would like to cut out of my bible all the verses on suffering. I was a long way off James in his opening statement “Consider it pure JOY whenever you face trials of many kinds...” I didn't want to consider that there could be a purpose in it... a positive in it. I wanted it to be negative. I wanted to despair. I was forced to look back over my journals at what God had taught me. I had no other hope.
John (Rev 1:9) speaks of Christians sharing together in suffering. It is all part of the Kingdom of God; part of the package deal, so to speak. He speaks of patient endurance in suffering being given by Jesus to all believers. The fact that we need endurance and patience and encouragement supposes trouble and sorrow.
Peter says that at times it is God's will for Christians to suffer (1 Pet 4:19) and if that is the case, then they are to commit themselves to God, trust in his faithfulness and continue to do good. This comes after he has previously said that suffering and grief refine our faith and prove it to be the real deal and not a cheap imitation (1 Pet 1:6,7).
James says suffering is a blessing and we are to approach it with joy and patience, because it produces maturity in a Christian. He says the trick to approaching it with joy is to ask Jesus to enable us to endure with joy and patience (James 1 & 5).
Paul speaks on suffering in several of his letters. He says trouble may perplex us, but we are not to despair because of God's all-surpassing power at work in us, enabling us to have patience in affliction (2 Cor 4:7 - 17). He then goes on to say that trouble achieves for us eternal glory and the advancement of the gospel (Phil 1). In Romans (15) Paul speaks of Jesus as our example in suffering; he willingly suffered to please the Father. For me, when I grasp the Father heart of God, I am more able to choose to trust Him in my suffering. To trust that it is for good.
Jeremiah says that we are to remember when we are suffering, that God's mercies and compassion are new every morning, they never fail. God is faithful and we are to wait on Him (Lam 3:19-24). Even though God brings grief into our lives, he will show compassion in his unfailing love. God takes no delight in bringing us grief and afflictions, though at times it is what is needed to accomplish His purposes. Both calamities and good things come from God (Lam 3:31-38).
The prophets Isaiah and Hosea speak of God's heart longing to continually bless us and provide us with everything we need to live in close union with Him. But they also speaks of God's heart of pain.. that though he blesses us, so often we don't walk closely with him and it takes affliction and trouble for this to happen, for us to acknowledge Him as a lover not a master. To solve this problem, God strips everything away from us so it's just us and Him and allures us to Himself in the desert . It's in the desert that I find Him and know Him as the lover of my soul. (Isaiah 5;Hosea 2).
So I read my journals and God's word over and over, for 6 months, as my health continued to rapidly deteriorate. By November 2011 I was exhausted but trusting in my God and giving thanks despite my circumstances. He had led me to repentance on so many issues – patience, endurance, contentment, thankfulness, faithfulness, love... For weeks I had no more than 4 hours sleep a night and I would ask Him to keep me from being cranky and impatient with my children and He did. For weeks He asked me to give thanks in my situation and I did – but not without His help. For weeks I asked that I not be anxious about my health deteriorating and He gave me peace. I learned SO much in that time. I learned that he equips in all situations. I learned that he LOVED me. I learned that I can have HOPE amidst the trials of life.
In early Dec 2011 a diagnosis was made. God opened a door to the truth. I had a leaky gut, inherited, that meant I could not currently digest all grains, legumes, dairy, fruit, ferments, chicken and lamb. I was horrendously intolerant to gluten but not a coeliac. If I changed my diet, all my symptoms should disappear, but it would take 3-5 years to heal my gut.
So was it love when God allowed this? For me, a resounding yes! For if I had not discovered this I would have died young and not been alive to raise my children and love my husband. My children too have this disorder. By discovering this early, we have improved their health drastically. I have had this all my life. I had always been sick. He has shown me healing in a way I could never have imagined. I have never been so well. I am grateful.