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Reflections in a Mirror

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“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12

Why do we hide our scars, our fears, and our questions? Maybe because we live in a world that values air-brushed beauty, reckless boldness, and self-truth.

I know that I never want people to perceive me to be an attention-seeker. I don’t desire the spotlight, and try as I might to fade into the background and keep my journey to myself, God had other plans. After all, He didn’t light the lamp inside of me just for me to place it under a bowl.

So today God forced me out of my hiding place and challenged me. Maybe what I am going through right now isn’t just for me. Really, it’s God’s story anyway.

Anyone who has struggled with significant health issues knows that the experience is nearly impossible to describe, and should we try to put it into words, a small voice inside of us tells us that no one would really want to hear anyway. But maybe that voice is wrong.

I’ve had severe chronic pain for 15 years. For the past year and a half, I have had episodes where I lose partial or total control of my body. Most of the time it affects my ability to walk, but it has also affected other things. It used to only happen every couple months, but recently it has been much of the time. I no longer trust myself to drive alone outside of town and I often call friends and family to go with me to run errands. I have had to scale back significantly on the social activities that I am involved in so that I can focus on figuring out what it is that I am fighting. My life now is Jesus, work, doctor’s appointments, and rest.

That last paragraph is terribly difficult for me to share. Why? Because I’m embarrassed. Because I feel vulnerable. Because my health issues often make me feel like a lousy human being. We’re being honest here, right? It’s not that I truly believe these things about myself; but these are the raw and honest struggles that I would venture to say many with big health issues could identify with.

And sweet, well-meaning friends and family offer advice and suggestions, and I thank them. However, there are many realities that come from being sick – minimal financial resources, minimal time, and minimal energy to see even the basic things through. So often it feels like a fight for survival, and little things are such a victory.

I don’t have all the answers for why these things happen. I do know that our society does not like to struggle. If anything is difficult, or takes a while, or there is suffering in any way, we immediately say that thing is bad. Do I believe that God wants me sick? Absolutely not. However, I am convinced that He is less concerned with my comfort and more focused on the Christlikeness that He is developing in my life.

Romans 5:3-5 says, “…we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Does suffering automatically build character in me? Absolutely not. Suffering could easily make me bitter if I wallow in it. It would be easy to live as a victim to my circumstances. Living in victory takes work. A life testimony requires consistent obedience under fire. Suffering simply provides the fertile ground for the seed to grow.

I know that God never wastes tears. A friend joyfully said to me today, “I just know that God is going to use this!” So I’m going to stop hiding under my rock, hoping that no one will find out, because I agree: I just know that God is going to use this.

I felt like I couldn’t share the struggle as long as the reason for the pain remained a mystery. What kind of testimony would this be without a diagnosis? Yet, how many people do I know who are also living in the in-between: the time in between the journey’s beginning and the clarity. I realized the greatest testimony that I could give is this: I trust my God. No matter what this path ends up looking like. No matter what I have to go through. I will hold fast to Him. He has always been faithful, He is proving Himself faithful even now, and that will never change.

It is hard to trust when the future is unclear. However, Scripture and history are filled with people who trusted God in the midst of circumstances that seemed impossible. I think of Moses as he stood before Pharaoh and David as he stood before the giant. We see how the story ended and it seems to us like simple faith. However, they didn’t see how the story would end. They only saw the challenge in front of them, and yet they moved forward as God gave them strength.

Life is understood looking backward, but can only be lived moving forward. The words of Paul ring so clearly to me as I choose to live in victory another day:

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12

And He has been so, so good to me!

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