With Emily’s story comes the announcement that I’m now taking submissions for this series. This is a somewhat daunting task, but fits so perfectly with the theme of the series that I feel we’d all be missing out on something beautiful if I try to maintain control of this thing. So, if you’d like to share you story here, stay tuned for a little button in the side bar (coming soon) where you’ll find more information. And now let me introduce you to Emily…
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” —Romans 8:18
I don’t remember much about the day before.
During is a blur.
But I can still look down at my hands and remember everything about the day after — when life was changed.
My diagnosis was “insulin-dependent diabetes.” Life-threatening at that moment, and now the early days feel like light years ago.
Truth be told, it’s a blessing to live with something I can manage just fine. So many are enduring much worse than me. Maybe you are. Physical suffering is not something I am qualified to represent. But I do know what it’s like to be diagnosed with a lifelong disease… Maybe you do, too.
I’m thankful I took it to heart when they told me at 14 years old that I could do anything that anyone else can do and live a long, normal life. I take that to heart still today when I travel overseas, far from my comfortable home right down the road from our convenient American hospital. I take it to heart when I’ve found myself a patient in that very hospital, my appreciation amplified for another day and another opportunity to praise God.
Truly, He is where my story changed.
It can be very easy to focus inward with any condition that forces you to be constantly aware of how you are feeling: What’s happening with my body right now? What do I need to be prepared for? When is the next time I should eat? The axis tilts just enough for my world to revolve around me. But God has positioned in my life a constant reminder of my dependence on Him: my prayer for daily provision. And, like grace, it is not something we can do for ourselves. As wrecked and helpless as we sometimes feel in our affliction, that’s the beauty of our physical reality. If we had no weaknesses or inadequacies, we could easily boast of ourselves, but instead — because He is the only way we make it through — we can only boast in Him. Our response becomes an offering. An act of worship.
There are many ways to wear a physical ailment. (And I can assure you I’ve been a glutton for fashion in this way.) I can feel underprepared when I transition out of a normal routine. Defeated when I sit in front of my doctor. Inadequate when I think of the future, or just plain annoyed in daily life. But if there’s one thing God is teaching me in this, it’s to posture myself in humble submission to His sovereignty. In that way, I feel blessed. Because the crazy thing is — it’s love. The beauty in the discomfort and the worry and the burden — all of it is all God’s love for us.
Because He calls us deeper.
He speaks to us in the deeper, darker places of suffering where we find Him, where we call out to Him to be rescued from the pit, and He lifts us into the light with wild compassion, to Himself. He tumbles us against the grain as His disciples so we might come away smooth, refined. Sifting us and uncovering the gems inside we never knew existed: perseverance, patience, trust. There, we can start to comprehend that His ways are higher than ours, and His plan is perfect. That contentment isn’t a matter of getting what we want, but rather trusting what we have to be good. Walking through knowing that when we are crushed, we are never abandoned. Gripping the promise that He works all things for the good of those who love Him… and that He who promises is faithful.
It’s the insufficiencies of our flesh that call forth a much more acute awareness of our dependence on a Holy Father — more specifically, our Creator God. The One who gives us every breath we take, who adjusts our eyes to the plush complexities of His world, who erupts our souls with laughter when we step into joy, and who sends life-giving blood through our veins. The knee bone connects to the shin bone. We have no power in these things, and many times no thought, so it should come as no surprise that we do not have control when a physical limitation is suddenly made more apparent. Yet, it is exactly in this way that we see so much more of what we do have, in Christ. Where we are weak, He is strong. As much as we might want to believe we know this truth, our actions and beliefs often speak a different doctrine. But somewhere in His unending, unfailing love, God so graciously gifts us with an opportunity to see differently.
As a young teen, a medical diagnosis didn’t look like a neatly wrapped gift, tied with a bow. It looked like insulin syringes and finger pricks and the emotions of figuring out how to balance fluctuating blood sugars. Today (on good days!), it looks like gratitude. It looks like a means for being a blessing to others, and like accountability, and like the unwavering faithfulness of my Father. We may be instruments in God’s hands for the world, but our imperfections are instruments in His hands for His own glory. We see Him differently through these lenses, and we bring Him glory through them. Removing the disease back then would have meant the removal of this great story of His faithfulness, a story God has since threaded into my belief and my heart in such a way that, now, everything I see and do is stitched with its presence.
We could all live quite comfortably without our varying set-backs. But I have found that the closer we are transformed to God’s image, the closer we draw to Him and His goodness — even, and sometimes especially, through pain. Without my circumstances, I wouldn’t have quite the depth of appreciation for each day. For those with whom I walk through life. For how tenaciously our Father will pursue us, shape our character, show us His sovereignty and trustworthiness. And suddenly it seems so small in comparison.
So I tangle up in the tube of my insulin pump at night in bed as God tangles me up in His wild, sweet love that knows no restraint. The prick of blood on my finger is a tiny, infinitesimal reminder of the blood He shed for us all. I am reminded that one day our spirits will simply not know of the decay that our earthly bodies face. It will not have the last say in the sprawling expanses of eternity. Outwardly, your scars and weaknesses and earthly pains may look different than mine. Different and worse. You may be facing something far more devastating than I’ll ever experience. But make no mistake: God uses absolutely everything. Inwardly, we are being renewed day by day. As we surrender our whole selves to Him, our weaknesses become the display of His strengths, our inability the fertile ground for His power and grace to take root.
Hear this in your pain today: Christ knows the language of suffering. He spoke it with fluency and consistency. The Word enunciates suffering with the very articulation of His life. He can enter into our pain, He knows where to find us in our wilderness, and He shares in our brokenness. Where we long to fellowship with Him, we can fellowship there.
The truth is, I never had a searing moment or earth-shaking revelation of how diabetes could actually be good in my life. Only in a sweet nearness to the Father am I granted a framework for seeing a tiny fraction of the bigger picture, from His perspective. Rather than seeking answers to the why questions or solutions to the how questions, when we simply seek Him, we find that He alone is the answer all along. While our flesh rebels and longs for independence from constraint, He is all the while drawing us close enough to know Him.
Because where God doesn’t promise easy or comfortable or healthy, He DOES promise to be with us. And it is only in His presence that we find true peace — not with the relief of our circumstances but with our release of them. God so graciously wraps us in His presence in the midst of our suffering, and He — alone — is enough. The Lord our God is with us wherever we go. Even if we travel to the depths of despair. Even if what you face today feels utterly hopeless. He promises. He enters in. He weeps. He DOES NOT abandon. He prevails.
You are never alone.
Emily Glenham loves life on the Carolina coast, where she is wife to Trey and a missions coordinator at her church — both of which provide her with many joys and adventures. Deeply instilled with Southern roots and a lifelong affinity for words, she enjoys hanging out with family, running, and encountering God among the different cultures and creativity of His world. With a passion for missions, a heart to encourage, and an irrepressible desire to pursue the potential and opportunity in life, Emily feels grateful and blessed every day for an unchanging Father’s unending love. You can find her at her blog, Emily Glenham.