It’s been one year since I began feeling so sick. One year since I spiraled into a maze of doctors appointments and the fog of illness and the anxiety of unanswered questions.
One year later, a lot of people are still asking me, “how are you feeling?”
And I get that. Although I began feeling like myself again somewhere around August, it’s been a long road of recovery and I don’t think I’ve been very good at keeping people updated with the slow, steady work of getting better.* To be honest, I got bored of talking about my health after a while.
But there’s one thing that’s stayed with me in the past year: I feel I have changed, and yet it’s hard to explain why. All I can say is, we as humans are really good at avoiding talk about dying. Or, we spiritualize it, saying things like “it’s just a change of address.” But we can only avoid it until we think we actually might be dying. Then, all the things we’ve been pushing aside can’t be pushed aside anymore, and we have to face it all.
One thing I kept coming back to during that season was this weird mix of hope and despair. Hope, because I did have the unshakable belief that no matter what happened, I was held in the arms of Christ. And yet despair, because everything felt so scary and unknown and I came face to face with my own smallness and mortality.
Often, I think as believers there can be a shame about our fears of death. Like it means we don’t have enough faith. I think for me, my fear of death ultimately came from a fear of my own insignificance. Would anything I had worked so hard for even matter if I were to die? What would have been the point of it all? Before going through this, I would have had an easy-breezy assurance to either of these questions. Now, I realize that although my mind have an answer, my heart is still wrestling with what it means to be a finite human.
Recently I was listening to a podcast on this subject that gave me the courage to finally write this post. In the podcast, one of the hosts made this comment about death as a Christian: “It shouldn’t have power over us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not scary.” Tears came to my eyes as I realized these were the words I had been searching for.
Death does not have power over us.
Sickness will not have the last word.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not sometimes the scariest thing ever.
Since my season of illness last year, I’ve had the opportunity to watch God put some of the pieces of my life back together. He replaced the job I lost with one I love even more. He gave me the gift of long walks and bike rides and swimming and playing tennis. He’s opened my eyes to new parts of my heart and my soul I hadn’t even known.
And yet, everything’s not wrapped up in a tidy little bow, and I don’t think that’s the point. If you’re going through a season of despair or fear, I hope you know that while you will hopefully one day look back and see how God worked through it, it’s OK to be scared to death in the process. It’s OK to have no idea what God is doing and why. It’s OK to see-saw between hope and despair, worry and trust.
“So the great task, the great sorrow, the great calling, the great journey, is to live graciously and compassionately in this vast and often terrible in-between.”
I’m reminded each day that “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” And each day the greatest blessing is knowing I am held in the arms of Christ. In the good, in the bad, and the in-between, the answer is always Himself.
*In case anyone is still wondering, I never got a clear diagnosis, just enough things ruled out to point towards some possible solutions: get rest, eat a high protein diet, gain some healthy weight, take medicine and avoid lots of foods to clear up digestion issues. And after about six months it really did begin to work.