I have been debating writing this post for some time. The reasons for that are several, the top one being that the people who I believe need to see it are not on Facebook and are seldom even online. I decided to go ahead with it anyway in hopes that anyone who does read it will get a glimpse into this world I live in and perhaps come out of it with a bit more awareness and education on the matters that exist there.
If you are on Facebook then most certainly your newsfeed has been clogged with videos of people taking the ice bucket challenge for ALS. If you haven’t seen them, (you may want to lift that rock you are under first) they are videos of people pouring a bucket of ice cold water over their head in order to raise awareness for that debilitating disease. I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other on this latest notion to sweep social media. I know some who refuse to participate because the research for ALS uses stem cells that have been potentially harvested from aborted babies. I know others who have participated believing that awareness can only be a good thing. Personally, I don’t get involved in internet fads such as that and posting a video of myself while being drenched in ice water seems pointless to me.
I do find it interesting that social media has become a tool for just about every cause known to man. Type a disease or cause in your Facebook search bar and most certainly you’ll get a return of several pages you can “Like” to stay informed of advances in that area. I also find it interesting, and this is where my writing may offend some, that people use social media to advise others of some course of action or obscure “cure” they are certain will work for someone else…even though, in most cases, the majority of those doing the advising have no firsthand experience with the matter.
Before I say anymore, please, PLEASE, do NOT misunderstand what I am saying. Most of the advice given, at least in my case, has come from those who, I believe, genuinely care and want to see the discomfort end. I do not believe that anyone intentionally tries to upset or hurt someone who is already hurting. That said, there are some things that, no matter how strongly you may believe them to be truth, should be kept to yourself when talking to a friend with such an illness.
A chronic illness is not chosen by anyone. While it is true that sometimes one’s choices can result in such an illness, (for example, a person who smokes two packs of cigarettes a day for forty years has a good chance of developing lung cancer) in the majority of cases, the illness just happens. Speaking for myself, I did not ask to be given MS. I did not choose it, nor did I cause it. Logic would then make the reverse of that statement true then–if I did not choose it nor cause it then I cannot UN-choose it or UN-cause it. (Yes, I realize those are not real words, but they fit here in order to make a point.) More times than I can count on two hands I have had a well meaning person say something like, “My second cousin once removed had MS and she started eating gluten free and it just disappeared!” or “I know someone who had MS and they went on a regimen of vitamin supplements and it went away completely!” or “Did you know that ____________ can cause MS and if you stop ___________ then you will be fine.” (I use MS because it is what I deal with. I do know of people with other illnesses such as cancer or depression that have been told similar things)
Refer back to the beginning of the previous paragraph. I did not choose MS. I realize that the food we eat is not as pure as the food my grandparents ate that they grew themselves. I do believe that diet can definitely affect a person’s health. What I have a problem with is when people insinuate that I have brought this on myself because of my dietary choices. That is true for some diseases, but not for all. Celiac disease can usually be controlled by avoiding gluten. Obesity can usually be controlled by exercise and diet combined. Sometimes people change their diet and whatever disease they have seems to lighten or, sometimes, even disappears. How does one explain this?
I don’t have a definite answer, but I have one I’m pretty confident is on the right track.
In a country like the United States, we seldom hear of women dying from childbirth anymore. When the settlers first came to this country, that was not the case. Childbirth came with great risk of death. Modern medicine has made great advances. As great as modern medicine may be, though, it is still limited in some aspects. I have not heard of a doctor who has been able to raise a person from the dead. A friend of mine, several years ago, was in a terrible car accident with her kids. Her son was airlifted to a trauma hospital. When they loaded him in the helicopter he was alive. Several days later, despite the best attempts by the doctors, he passed away. The human body, especially the brain, is a complex system designed by a complex and wonderfully creative God. As good as doctors are, they are limited in their power. They did not create life. Only God creates life. Only God can sustain life.
I believe everything that comes into my life is controlled by Someone higher than me. I can do all the right things–eat only pure, whole foods, exercise an hour a day, take all the right vitamin supplements, avoid drugs and toxic medicines–and still die of a heart attack or cancer or some other disease. Psalm 139 tells us that all our days are numbered before one of them comes to be. I’m not saying I always am happy about the suffering that comes with living with MS. I get angry. I get frustrated. I doubt God’s love more often than I want to admit. In the end, though, I know that He is ultimately in control. He created and therefore does as he wills with His creation.
I know people mean well when they point me to a place that says I can do x, y, or z and my MS will be reversed. The truth is, though, at least for me, they cause more frustration. I think to myself, ” If food was the only cause of all illness, then no one would get cancer or MS or heart disease. Everyone would be healthy.” I do not put blind trust in anything on this earth–foods, vitamins, exercise, or doctors. I DO, though, strive to trust that God knows what He is doing. I did not choose MS, but God chose it for me. I do not understand why, just as I don’t understand why my friend’s sixteen year old son had to die from a car accident. I do not understand why some are healed of diseases such as cancer while others are not and have to endure much pain and suffering. I do not understand how God decides who gets healed and who does not on this earth. God’s ways are not my ways…as frustrating as that sometimes is. I do know that if I could choose my own path, I, like most everyone else, would choose to be healthy, active, and able to walk without assistance. I don’t get to make that choice here on earth, but I do know that someday, I will be able to walk without a cane to lean on. Someday I will not battle depression that threatens almost daily to take my life. Someday, I will understand why MS was chosen for me. In the meantime, if you know someone who lives with a chronic disease, there are some things that are helpful. Chronic illness is often accompanied by depression. Depression results in isolation and loneliness. A phone call to just talk is something that would be welcomed. A visit or invite to meet for coffee (or in my case, hot chocolate 🙂 ) would also be helpful. If you suspect a bad day, a meal is usually a blessing for someone dealing with chronic illness. For me, at least, by afternoon if dinner isn’t started it probably isn’t going to happen. Fatigue is a side effect of many illnesses and, often, fatigue is at its worst in the afternoon. One time a friend sent me a card–just out of the blue and for no special reason. It was just a card to let me know she cared and that I was being prayed for. It lifted my spirits that day. I still have it. Try to imagine your worst day possible–what would you want or need someone to do for you to just take the edge off some? That’s usually a good start to being helpful to someone who is dealing with something beyond their control.
“One day I’ll stand before you and look back on the life I lived, I can’t wait to enjoy the view and see how all the pieces fit.” (Already There: Casting Crowns)