Living with a Chronic Illness means coping with the insecurity of not knowing what the next week will hold. These past months have been a struggle, as I have juggled accepting that I am not in control of my illness, with carrying the weight of expectation upon me that I must somehow find a way to control it. The stakes are high and failure has the potential to move the course of my life in a different direction. You carry fear with you in the back of your mind, fear that you will have to have more time off, fear that one day work will decide it’s time to let me go, fear that ultimately the weight of my successes will be less than my failures.
But the reality is, illness or not, none of us are really in control of our lives. Any control we believe we have is an illusion, that can so quickly be taken from us.
So where do we turn, when the carpet of our lives is torn out from under us? Who do we really believe is in control when we stop pretending that we are?
I believe that God is in complete control of my circumstances. This is not always a comfortable thing to accept. It is easy to hold it up as truth on the days where things fall into place beautifully, when we find ourselves blessed with abundance and love. But it is much harder to hold on the days filled with pain and shattered dreams, days of grief or sickness, loneliness and isolation. The days where the only word on our lips is “why”.
As Christians we have no problem with crediting God with the good things that happen in their lives. But many of us find it is easier to believe the suffering in our lives is the result of random chance or evil forces. We can struggle so much with the suffering surrounding us, that we allow ourselves to believe that sometimes our almighty God just couldn’t stop it from happening. Rather than accepting that God allowed it to enter our lives. We paint God as a frustrated father, watching on, with his hands tied by a fallen world.
But we cannot truly believe God is sovereign if we think that even a hair on our heads could be harmed without his permission. We are not victims of chance or at the mercy of the enemy. Our lives are entirely in the control of our Heavenly Father.
“He supplied the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.”
“Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?”
“he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else…For in him we live and move and have our being”
Acts 17:25, 28
This does not guarantee us any less pain or suffering in life. God’s ways are not our ways, and his paths are rarely those we would have chosen for ourselves. Yet we can trust in God’s goodness, love and faithfulness. He is not toying with us, or punishing us. But he is growing us, using the circumstances that come our way to transform us more and more into who we were created to be. Sometimes it’s the lessons that we learn in those valleys filled with tears, that are the most precious. We can trust that he has good plans for us, even though we may not see the fruit of those plans on this earth.
We can so easily set conditions on our trust. We say: I’ll trust you God if you help me to understand why that happened. If you let this cup pass from me or someone I love. I’ll believe in your sovereignty if you just give me a sign. But God’s character is not dependent on our circumstances. We are not owed an explanation, although God sometimes graciously gives us one. We have to learn to trust in the sunshine and the storms of life.
The truth of God’s sovereignty is something I especially need to hold onto this week at a time of year that carries painful memories. This week will bring the anniversary of a friend’s death, a life cut tragically short three years ago. Even though all this time has now passed, I still wish with all my heart that God had left James with us on earth. I still do not understand why it had to happen that way. But I know that God was as in control three years ago as he is today. And I trust that he knows what he is doing.
There are no easy words in times of suffering. There are no platitudes which will take the pain away. We are not called to deny that the suffering and heartache is real. But we can draw comfort from the knowledge that God is with us and is still in control. We are loved and held within his eternal plans.
I may not be in control of my own life right now. But I trust the one who is. I know he is at my side, walking with me through whatever may come.