This is a blog I’ve tried hard not to write. Vulnerability has, in my estimation, seldom served me well except in the presence of Father. But I think it’s time. Why? Because there is one thing that I do know for certain: secrets eat you up. Hiding is not what Christians do. So I’m turning a little light on in my corner so you can catch a glimpse of the not so pretty me. If you know me, this will certainly be no surprise. Just a little factoid, as my niece might say.
On Sunday, the elders anointed me for healing of a disease that was only recently diagnosed, but I’ve been dealing with since 2004. It’s taken time and lots of negative tests to finally name the culprit. Many of you already know that I was diagnosed with MCAS (or MCAD depending on the type of doctor one sees. “Syndrome” sounds so much better than “disease” so I generally default to the “S”.) We say “im’-cass”. It stands for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. I’ll not go into the details [Go here if you want to know more… https://drbeckycampbell.com/mast-cell-disorder ] but it does a number on my digestive system and has put me in some precarious and embarrasing situations. I’ve woken up on public restroom floors to faces that know me and faces that don’t. My symptoms can be a tad debilitating.
On Sunday, with oil on my forehead and sweet prayers offered up, I went back to the pew and wondered, “How do I know if God healed me?” I knelt for our prayer of confession. I stood for the declaration of our absolution. I sat for the reading of God’s word from the Old Testament. I sat for the reading of God’s word from the New Testament. It was Romans 10. The very same verses that God used to convert me. “…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” A little divine irony. I let the words wash me. And rather than “Denise, you are healed”, I thought “it’s enough to be clean.”
I got off my medicine for about 4 days only to discover what a bad idea that was. I would love to be able to tell you God took the MCAS from me. But I don’t think the MCAS was/is the greater problem. The greater problem is what I’ve secretly believed about it. I’ve only thought of it as something to fight against, a debilitating nuisance that is mine to deal with. I’ve seen it as a potential burden to other people if I don’t keep my mouth shut about it. I’ve seen myself as the squeaky wheel that no one else should have to hear – it’s my job to oil the thing, to keep it under control, to make it go away.
And I was exhausted. I was doing everything I could to feel better and very little was changing. I was doing all I knew to do to “manage myself” and everytime the symptoms seemed to manage me. Most of the time I fell in a heap and sobbed and apologized to my husband that I wasn’t able to do anything. I put off asking the elders to pray for me because I was afraid God’s answer would be no, and then what would I do? I can’t say that I ever really looked at it in the light of Christ’s suffering or my suffering in Him. But I may have convinced myself that that’s what I was doing.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7 that he was given a thorn in his flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment him to keep him from exalting himself. That’s intriguing. I’ve let this particular thorn put me into self-exultation overdrive. It’s up to me… I’ve got to get it under control… I’ve got to get better… what am I not doing?… I’m so tired… I think I thought if I worked hard enough and begged long enough, God might see fit to give me the silver bullet to fix it myself. Paul said he “implored the Lord three times that it might leave him.” I had asked so many times to be free of it – especially when we didn’t have a name for the thing – that every flare came with new resolve to grit my teeth and fight through it on my own. I surmised it was given to me to endure, but I wasn’t enduring well.
I wonder if all of our various struggles with God have to do with whether we truly believe we are justified by faith in Him or whether we think we must justify ourselves. I was trying to merit my way to a healing, stupid as that sounds. If I show God I can endure this without much chatter… without it affecting other people… without it affecting my duty in my various roles… if I can manage it without grumbling… if I can endure it and pretend myself toward joy… God might take it away. It’s even more stupid out in the open and in print.
When I realized I was thinking that way, I ran back to God and said, “Okay. I’m really dumb. Now what?” I thought, “try to think of MCAS as a gift.” Not the kind of gift that gives you warm fuzzies. Just simply as something given by God. If He gave it, then what? There must be a good reason. If there’s purpose in it, then what? It must be for His glory. If it’s for His glory, then what? It must be for my sanctification for I’m being changed from glory to glory. If it’s for my sanctification, then what? My responsibility is to entrust myself to His care (believe Him) and to obey Him with the strength He supplies. So I asked the elders to pray for me, believing that God could heal me if He desired, but that if He didn’t, He would strengthen me and enable me to endure with joy a unique “gift” for His glory. God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Weakness appears to be a gift here. Paul responded “MOST GLADLY, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Here’s what was going on in my heart: “I despise this, but I will keep silent about it and fight against it and prove my own strength. I am discontent with weakness, with insult, with distress, with persecution, with difficulty for my own sake; for when I am weak, I am ashamed.” Yeah. Bet you didn’t see that coming. Me either.
Now that I’ve owned my weakness (i.e. sickness, self-reliance, pride, shame) before God, before His church, before you, I have liberty to face the thorn with fresh grace that is more than sufficient for me. This blog is my boast about those weaknesses so that His power may dwell in me. So it wasn’t quite the healing I hoped for or even expected. But it’s enough to feel clean. And clean feels good. It’s enough to renounce my own piddly strength and ask God to content me in my great weakness.
FYI – we should read again how Paul ended his boast because I think we quote it wrong an awful lot. “I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
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 will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
If you pray for me, pray that I would be content with His grace and comfort, strengthened for endurance with joy, and that I would forsake fleshly wisdom, and in the grace of God display holiness and godly sincerity in my daily walk before God and others. [CLICK! Light off.]