Today we’re featuring guest contributor Emily George, who writes about how struggles with her health impacted her faith. Emily writes:
There are thoughts and beliefs that take root and form how I view the world around me. I suppose I used to think that at some point I would escape my own humanity. It seemed like the logical train of thought when I became a Christian.
I thought that at some point I would escape pain, heartbreak, and the woes of this world. If I was a better Christian, if I had enough faith. I believed that my own failings were the reason that I had any heartbreak. I don’t know exactly when that faulty thinking took root, but it caused more heartache than good.
I find myself even now hesitating to write what I am about to write because once I put it on this page I cannot take it back. Once it is out there you will see my “failings” in my own faith.
I have Crohn’s disease.
It’s a mysterious autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the digestive tract and whose symptoms are wide and vary depending on the person. I remember the first time the doctor told me that I had this mysterious disease. I laughed and asked if that could possibly be a real disease. His frown became even more stern as he told me that it was with a 97 percent certainty that I had this mysterious disease. I walked away with that 3 percent chance, though. Because, really, he wasn’t 100 percent sure. (This disbelief might also be, in part, due to my struggle with the significance of statistics)
I say that I have Crohn’s disease, but I perhaps I should write that I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, or that for the moment I deal with the effects of Crohn’s disease. Because to say that I have something wrong means somehow, to me, that I fail as a Christian.
Shortly after I was diagnosed, an outpouring of well-intentioned people came my way. One particular young man would follow me around and pray for my physical healing every day. After his prayers, he would always ask me how I felt. The first few weeks, I was honest. I felt like I had been hit by a truck. My insides had rebelled against me and all I wanted to do was sleep. I saw the crushed look on his face, though, when I said those things. He would tell me, “I’ll keep praying….have faith.”
Ah, there it was…have faith. As he dejectedly walked away, I wondered if I really did have faith. If I really, truly had faith, if I really, truly believed, then would I not somehow find healing? If I could somehow focus all of my unused brain into believing in faith that I could be healed, then perhaps I would. I figured there was an equation somewhere that I had missed.
If faith = healing and A+B= faith then I would find out what A and B were.
Everyone around me seemed to have an answer for what A and B were. Prayer, fasting, new diets, new medicine, certain exercises. Everyone had an answer for what the equation consisted of, yet all the while I continued to feel horrible. If this had worked for someone else, yet failed for me, then the portion of the equation that must be wrong must be me.
When the young man returned for my unrequested daily prayer session and asked how I was feeling, I found the words slipping from my mouth before I could stop them: “Better, much better, thank you.”
His face lit up. “I knew it,” he said.
The horribly wonderful thing about Crohn’s is that if I never told you, you wouldn’t know that I had it, just from looking at me. So I stopped telling people around me. It became easier to hide than to openly admit that I was hurting. To openly admit that I did not understand the missing pieces of the equation.
I wish I could tell you that I figured out what that equation was, or even that I learned to not care that I did not know the answer to that equation. But the truth is that it has taken longer than I would like to admit for me to slowly step out and honestly and openly admit that I do not know the answer and that I may never know the answer. That being a Christian does not mean that my life suddenly becomes perfect. And, most importantly, that I do not need to act as though it has. There is beauty in living with honest vulnerability with one another, in knowing that you are not alone.
What area of your life is God asking you to step out with honest vulnerability?
Emily George is a Minnesota native currently finishing her degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at Fuller Seminary. Emily is a lover of coffee, others, random adventures, and — most importantly — her personal relationship with God. You can read more at bumpedcup.com. Luke 6:45.