Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

“I have told you these things so you may have peace in Me. In the world you will have much trouble. But take hope! I have power over the world!” – John 16:33 NLV

I stared at the doctor, mouth somewhat agape, I’m sure, as she gave me the news. “Well, there it is. You have inflammatory (rheumatoid) arthritis. Now what we need to do is start treating it.”

This was NOT what I wanted to hear. Nor was it even what I had expected. She had given me a preliminary diagnosis two weeks beforehand, but between reassurances from friends and family that “you don’t know for sure” and my extensive review of my lab work and radiology reports (which, as a non-medically trained writer, I’m SO qualified to interpret), I was just sure the doctor would tell me it was just a case of stress-exacerbated osteoarthritis (OA). That was far more palatable, as it was a far less life-impacting condition. Worst case scenario, I had thought, would be that the doctor would be “on the fence” about whether it was OA or RA.

Sure, there were some tell-tale signs of RA in my symptoms and x-rays, and of course, that elevated rheumatoid factor antibody was a pretty clear sign, but surely – just surely – there was another possible explanation! But no, the doctor was quite sure. My denial – my coping mechanism to that point – was shattered. Like it or not, I had to accept that I was in the early stages of a chronic, incurable, debilitating autoimmune disease. And at some point, I was going to have to deal with the even more unthinkable possibility of treating it with chemo-type drugs not too different than what my father had painfully endured for two years prior to his very recent death from lung cancer. Unlike in the scenes I had rehearsed in my head before my appointment, I did not argue. Instead, when the doctor left the room, I cried.

As my husband of just a few months held me, there in the doctor’s office, I knew that this diagnosis was bad news, not just for me, but for both of us. We loved to kayak and hike, and RA held the potential for significantly impacting our life together, as its primary attack is on the joints of the hands and feet. We had in fact already cancelled several outings due to my pain and fatigue. If treated, perhaps I could still do those activities, but certain drugs that would enable them could potentially take away my ability to care for my young daughter if she were sick. The treatment of RA is to lower the immune system in order to reduce its attack on the healthy cells in the body, putting that person at risk for more serious infections if exposed to colds, flu, etc. If I felt bad for me, I felt worse for how this disease could impact my family.

The good news in all of this is that my disease is in its earliest stages, such that I don’t have to begin taking the heavy duty anti-rheumatic drugs right away. I can get by with anti-inflammatory treatment to manage my symptoms for as long as the disease stays at a low activity level. The even better news is that I have a partner to walk through this disease with. No, not my husband (although he is an awesome partner and no doubt, he will be by my side also), but rather an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God.

In John 16:33, Jesus assures His followers that “In the world, you will have trouble.” In another Bible translation, the word for “trouble” is translated as “trials and sorrows.” In other words, we are NOT assured a trouble-free life. A country song says it well: “I beg your pardon; I never promised you a rose garden!” We ARE offered, however, through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a care-free life. Jesus says, in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” We have a God who loves us so much and invites us to put our burdens – our trials and sorrows – on Him. He knows that we do not have the strength to carry them ourselves. We are weak, but He is strong. Jesus reassures us in saying, “(despite your troubles) … take hope! I have power over the world!”

I may have only had one day as an officially diagnosed RA sufferer, but I have had many years of trials and sorrow in my life. I know from experience that the troubles of this world can take me to a dark place, if I allow them to. Fortunately, I also know first-hand of God’s power to overcome those troubles. I know that when I turn my cares over to Him, He CAN be trusted to bring good from evil, to give peace in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances, and even to bring purpose to suffering. The song “I never promised you a rose garden” continues as it says “Along with the sunshine, there’s got to be a little rain sometimes.” For when do we draw closer to Him and to others? When life is good? No, it is most often during those times of trouble when we reach the end of ourselves and reach up and out for help. And when we do, we find Him there. Faithful. Powerful. Ready to lift us up from wherever we are, to hold us when we cannot stand, to carry us when we cannot walk, and to light the path before us when we cannot see the infinite beauty of the plans He has for our lives.

I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins.  Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter.

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