Finding God In... CHRONIC ILLNESS
I’ll be honest, when I was asked to be a guest writer for this series to discuss how I found God in chronic illness, I wasn't sure I was the best person for the job. I haven't had the strongest belief in God in recent years and, in all honesty, over the last six years I’ve really struggled with my faith. I have struggled to understand why I've faced so many struggles and what I did to deserve the things that have happened. I have felt at many times in the last decade that if God was truly a Good God that I wouldn't have faced the trials that I have. But through the eyes of others and through the work that He has done in my life, I've come to realize that this isn't true. I know that My God is a Good God. I still struggle to truly understand why things happen, but I suppose I may never completely understand. Let's rewind and take a look at the journey that has gotten me to where I am today. In the Spring of 2012, I was living a good life working as an RN and acting as Charge Nurse most shifts. I loved my job working twelve hour shifts and having a job with direct patient contact. In January of 2012, I was hired as an adjunct Clinical Instructor for a local nursing school and I was so thrilled because it was something I had wanted to do since I graduated nursing school in 2007. I had also just started working on my Masters in Nursing Education. I was so excited to be moving toward my goal of teaching in a nursing program. My life was on track and I was happy.
Then in February of 2012, everything changed. I was hospitalized for a week with a respiratory infection that no one could quite figure out. Looking back, I can see that this was just the beginning of the decline in my health. I was off work for a month at that point because I just couldn’t breathe, despite all the treatments they tried. I was always exhausted and experiencing extreme joint pain, more pain than I had ever experienced before. That July, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus which explained so much of how I had been feeling and the symptoms I had experienced over many previous years. In the months and years following my Lupus diagnosis I was also diagnosed with many other life-altering diagnoses that it made it hard to see any kind of future for myself. After receiving my Lupus diagnosis, it became clear that I wasn't going to be able physically to continue working my current job. Due to my health I not only had to leave my job, I also had to step down from my teaching position with the nursing program simply because I wasn’t well enough to teach. I also had to drop out of the Masters program that I had just started. I was crushed to say the least. I just couldn’t understand why God would allow these things to happen and why I needed to live through so many trials. I couldn't see past the diagnosis. I couldn't understand why my abilities to do the things I dreamed, including my job, furthering my education, and having children, were being taken away. I was also diagnosed with endometriosis, which meant I will never be able to carry my own baby. This is something I have always wanted more than anything! I couldn't fathom what I could have possibly done to deserve what was happening.
In the months following my diagnosis, I really began to struggle with my faith. Even though I grew up in church and knew all the teachings, I still struggled. I stopped going to church and just couldn’t understand why a God who was supposed to be caring and loving would let all this happen! I couldn't see past the present to see what he was working on for my future.
I spent so much time the first few years following my diagnosis praying, yelling, and asking why, before the plan God had for me finally started to become clear. My world as I knew it had essentially came to an end. I was no longer able to work the job I loved, my most recent relationship had come to an end, and people who I felt were life-long friends just walked away. They said they couldn't handle the changes I was forced to make because of my declining health. I knew what I needed but I couldn't find it. I knew I needed to find support in people who were or had gone through the things I was now dealing with. I needed a place where I could be totally open and honest about how I felt and what was going on without fearing judgement. I knew what I needed but I couldn't find it.
I searched and searched for some place I could go for support. A place I could go and talk to others who were living through the same issues I was experiencing. A place where I could go and openly express my feelings without being judged, and also a place where I could find information on the issues I was dealing with. I looked for local and online resources, but I couldn't find a place where I really felt comfortable. After spending so much time searching, it became clear to me that I was supposed to create this place. I was supposed to create a place of solace and education for those struggling with Lupus.