Adversity Comes Knocking
…and Sometimes it Stays
Today as I sit at my computer, I’m writing this article with a fresh sense of awe and wonder at the power of God. Little did I know years ago that God would carry my family and me through so much, because I had no idea how difficult life could get. Yet God takes us through the hard and harrowing things of life and allows us to minister to others.
I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
In my childhood years, there were signs that something was awry in my body. I missed most of the 5th grade, due to going back and forth to doctors and hospitals. At that time, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. This disease causes intense joint pain and fatigue which left me feeling like I had the flu. A few years later, my body seemed to adjust. But my ‘new normal’ included low energy and a body that did not feel good most of the time.
Over the course of the next several years, I fell into the rhythm of life. Until I entered my early thirties, I was giving birth to our second and third sons. My body went really haywire. Suddenly, my pain escalated! New symptoms were layered on top of the current ones. Truthfully, I was scared. Eventually, I was diagnosed with primary Sjogren’s disease. A condition that produces overwhelming exhaustion, pain, dry eyes and mouth, and constant inflammation which spreads to the entire system. Sjogren’s disease is a cousin to Lupus and shares the same level of debilitating symptoms.
God is near the brokenhearted.
Remarkably at this same time, the Lord was drawing me closer to Himself. False beliefs were being weeded apart, and the reality of His sovereignty was coming together in my mind. The frailty of my human body “falling apart” was matched by a spiritual hunger I had never experienced before.
As my knowledge of the Word of God was increasing, the sweetness of His presence became very real to me. I wanted to know Him more!
The word of God became my sustaining grace during
times of great difficulties.
Our youngest son, Taylor, began acting strange around his first birthday. Development that had been accomplished suddenly disappeared. Although I was the mother of three sons, I’d never seen anything like this before. And I definitely had never had a child who giggled for hours on end, walked all day on his tip-toes, and screamed as his main form of communication. Naps were unheard of for Taylor, and at night he slept about half as much as typical children do.
Things were getting Bad.
Really, really Bad.
Suddenly this mother who was suffering from an “invisible illness” was chasing after three sons, and one busy son who had a very ‘visible’ problem. Just prior to Taylor’s second birthday came the diagnosis that my husband, Bret, and I, were starting to suspect – classic Autism. Taylor’s diagnosis was classified as severe, due to the fact he was non-verbal and the level of impairment was deep. Taylor’s sensory system was affected, and he would need many therapies and special approaches over the years. Taylor’s care required tremendous time, countless doctor visits, and a heightened sense of attention. Keeping him safe took a family effort. Even our other sons, Terry and Tyler, took part in helping keep Taylor safe. There were times I wondered how we would survive it.
But God Is Faithful
I’d like to share with you some of what the Lord has shown me:
His Word is True, Our Emotions Are Not
Jeremiah 17:9 says that our hearts are deceitful. When exhaustion and raw emotions are added together, it can result in false beliefs about God. And when God allows us to suffer, it’s tempting to believe the lie that He doesn’t love us. But when we go back to the Word of God, it replaces the roller coaster feelings of the day with the truth we can hang onto. The reality is that we cannot know God without the Word to train our minds day after day. Remember, we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
God is the Director of Our Lives
Everyone faces adulthood with visions of what lies ahead, but nobody foresees suffering and welcomes it. Often, we see it as a hindrance to normal life. At the onset of our painful journey, I was rather obsessed with healing. I thought surely if I prayed hard enough, mustered up more faith, that our afflictions would cease and God would get the credit.
Slowly but surely, God walked with us through years of hard suffering that sometimes got worse instead of better. But what happened? My faith increased. I saw God for who He truly is, and not a cosmic killjoy who was allowing pain for no reason. The refining of our faith sometimes takes years or even decades. God gives us life while He breathes new life into us through redemption in Christ Jesus. Because He is God, He has the right to use our suffering for His glory.
If we could see into the future at what God is up to, our minds would be amazed. For now, we see hints of His working and we trust Him. (Malachi 3:3)
People are only human
True intimacy with God will grant peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7) Yes, there will be times where people are used by God to do and say the most precious, comforting things. Yet, people can also say inconsiderate, or ignorant things, too. In our humanness, we often fail each other.
Suffering teaches us to run to God for ‘perfect comfort’ which grants us the grace to forgive others when they blunder and forget our situation. Whenever I found myself being easily offended, it was often because I hadn’t been spending time alone with my Perfect Comforter. People are only human, but God is the One who sustains us.
Sheila Gosney is a freelance writer who enjoys writing for the glory of God. Sheila writes women’s devotions for Lifeway, and missions articles for the WMU of the Southern Baptist Convention. Sheila has been writing Christian poetry for over 20 years and feels blessed to share her work with others.
Sheila is happily married to Bret Gosney, and has three sons: Terry Pettitt (Stephanie), Tyler Gosney, and Taylor Gosney. She loves being a grandmother to her grandsons, Aiden and Alex.