I don’t know exactly what I will be writing in my blog, but I suspect there will be a few posts on illness, suffering, and what it means to have a Christian perspective on these things.
Why thorns? Because they are a Biblical metaphor for suffering (Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh, 2 Cor 12:7) and they remind me that God’s power is made perfect in weakness. And because they remind me of the crown of thorns that was on Jesus’ head as he died; when I am suffering, I need to remember I know a suffering God.
Why gold? In 2005, I was in the middle of a very busy term working with students as a Christian minister. I had been feeling a bit tired and run down for the past few weeks, but I had continued on anyway. Then one day I woke up exhausted and I found that I couldn’t read anything anymore – the words were swimming on the page in front of me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had M.E., and this was my first relapse. All I knew was that I felt ill, and I didn’t know why.
A wise friend said something to me then that I have found very helpful. She said, ‘Look for the gold. There’s a lot of muck and rubbish here and much that is hard, but God will still be at work, so look for the gold.’
Job, when he was undergoing great suffering, said, “But he knows the way that I take. When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10) I know that in the global scheme of things, I cannot even vaguely claim to have been through great suffering: I have not experienced any major bereavements, I have not been sexually abused, I have not endured poverty or beatings or persecution. I am aware of that, and I am thankful. But I am also someone who is struggling with the ‘minor’ suffering that is part of my daily existence: a body that does not work properly.
To the limited extent that I suffer, I want that suffering to be productive, to bring about holiness and a purity of character. I am grateful that the Bible is honest about the bad in this world: the bad is bad. Too often Christians seem to want to say that because God allows suffering, that suffering is somehow good in itself. This is not true; God is good, but sin and suffering are not. They are not what God intended for this world and they will not be there in heaven. But God does have the power to bring good out of bad (which is not the same as saying that a bad situation is inherently what God wants), and He is able to work in all things (good, bad and ugly) for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28).
So the ‘gold’ part is my prayer. I must confess, I don’t feel that I am remotely any more holy or nicer as a person since I have been chronically ill. But I pray that I will be able to look back over it some day and say, ‘oh – there’s the gold!’
Thanks for reading! Do say hi, introduce yourself, comment, tell me your story – I’d love to hear it.
I found my way here through your post on Prodigal. It really moved me and I related to it since I also have M.E. I live in Sweden and I was diagnosed three years ago. I must confess I have a really hard time finding the gold, but I hope, with God’s help, I’ll get better and better at it. I very much look forward to following your blog and reading more of what you have to say!
‘I have a really hard time finding the gold’ – oh, me too! me too. Sometimes there is so much *muck* (I really want to use a stronger word…) that you just can’t see anything past that.
I’m so sorry to hear you have M.E. too. Hoping you have a better path to recovery than me.
Sending you much love.
Love this story re: looking for gold in difficult situations.
This is what has kept me going these past 5 and a half years Tanya. It has been the worst time of our lives (hubby, close family and myself)… and yet spiritually, it has been the best ever. I learnt early on to look for the good in our situation, and this is what has encouraged me in some of our darkest days.#
Keep looking for gold… you will not be disappointed in the Lord.
Thanks you so much for sharing your perspective. I have enjoyed having a stroll around your blog too!
My dearest neighbor and sister in Christ has ME … and it took doctors about 20 years to figure it out. We are an encouragement to each other when others forget about our “invisible illnesses.”
Have you read the story of the Spoon Theory? I think you would be encouraged by it….
For you, I am imagining that your spoons are made of gold, sweet sister … 🙂 My spoons are stainless steel which have turned purple by the heat of my trials by fire. ;-). By the way, it only takes 520 degrees Fahrenheit to get purple … it takes 2,000 degrees to get gold. I am hoping your spoons are pure gold, not steel-heated…. 🙂
I know the Spoon theory well, and I love your twist on it! Thank you! 🙂
I am so thankful to have found your blog and got to read a little about you today. I am following you on FB, and look forward to keeping up with your posts.
I can’t imagine the challenges of dealing with chronic illness and a toddler. God bless you. Looking forward to getting to know you better. 🙂
Oh yay! Thanks for following on fb – I’m looking forward to getting to know you better too!
I love, love, love this!!!! What a wonderful perspective and one that I can completely relate to! I am so glad we have connected through the blogging world! Looking forward to more of your little gems of thought in the future. Keep writing. It is beautiful and encouraging!!!
Thank you so much! I’m also extremely glad we’ve connected – I’m aware of a few Christians with ME/CFS in the UK, but you’re the first one I’ve found in the US. Looking forward to hanging out with you again!
Hi Tanya, my friend Frankie just sent me the link you your blog. I am in the midst of a relapse of ME at the moment. I got ME just before I started Relay with UCCF but I didn’t know what I had until about two years later. 7 1/2years on and I still live in denial and struggle not to just and push through. Do you ever feel like that? At the moment the prospect of managing the stairs to get a cup of tea is exhausting but in a few days if I feel a bit better I will go and do something silly like try and hoover the whole house!
It’s madness, post exertional malaise is madness!
Hi – welcome to the blog! thanks for taking the time to introduce yourself – lovely to see you on here. I remember Frankie! Do send her my love!
I think there are a lot of M.E. sufferers who effectively live in denial (which is frequently rudely interrupted by a significant amount of disability!) A large part of that is the ambivalence of the medical community towards the illness – M.E. patients need help to take their illnes and its effects seriously; it’s hard to do that when so many trivialise the illness.
And then there is the element of wishful thinking! I’m smack in the middle of that at the moment, knowing logically that there are symptoms worsening so I should be doing as little as possible – but not wanting to be bored, so here I am on the blog!
Hoping you get some support – and perhaps find some support on here. Much love.
I’m a retired mental health nurse and used to tell suicidal patients to try to find that little nugget of gold that they could hang on to
so true that God works all things for good – this too will pass ‘weeping may last for a night – but joy comes with the morning’
I’d had a ‘bad’ shift (can’t remember just what now) and when I got home there was a package – a free book from UCB, Bob Gass’ Joy comes with the morning – that lifted my heart even before I read it
wow, tanya . . . thorns & gold . . . truth in weakness . . .
oh how i wish you lived right next door right about now to where i could just walk on over, knock on your door, & give you a hug . . .
i cannot begin to describe how absolutely delighted i am to have found you, friend,
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps. 73:26)
Thank you so much – always nice to find an online kindred spirit! Have been enjoying checking out your blog too. (LOVE that verse, btw).