By Thomas Keese
The earliest signs of trouble seemed nothing very much out of the ordinary. Whenever I bent my neck down I felt a tingling sensation in my right arm and both legs. Originally, I felt little concern about it. However, it persisted and other problems started to appear. After several weeks I finally went to the doctor. The first series of tests did not show anything. The doctor diagnosed it as a bruised spinal cord that should clear up within a few months. I accepted his conclusion and decided to get on with my life. However, instead of getting better, my condi- tion only got worse. Eventually I went to another doctor who did a more thorough series of test. His diagnosis hit me very hard — multiple sclerosis.
At first, I felt completely devastated. I could not get out of my mind the many horror stories about the disease and its end result — death. I remembered a teacher whose disease had progressed to the final stages. She sat in a wheelchair as she taught class. Her speech and mental abilities made it very difficult for her to communicate. She believed she did not have long to live. At only 25 years old, I believed that my life was soon to be over; I would not live a normal, productive, long life. The doctor reassured me when he said in most cases the disease is not terminal. However, he could not do that much for me — there is no cure. He could only allow the disease to run its course.
The first few months were very hard. When I woke up mornings, I tried believing it was all a bad dream, only to be brought back to reality with the first step that I took. I tried walking every day to keep in shape. After I had walked only a short distance, the pain started in my legs and my coordination grew worse. It became more and more difficult with each step. The more I walked the more frustrated and depressed I became. Often I stumbled and fell, each time it took more courage to get back on my feet. Working in the garden for only 20 minutes left me completely exhausted. Gradually, more and more problems with my vision appeared. Simple everyday things I had taken for granted, getting dressed or taking a shower became difficult and strenuous tasks. My emotions became harder to control. The feelings of helplessness, frustration, and self pity grew stronger ev- ery day. I asked God over and over, “Why me?” It did not seem fair that I suffered such an ungodly disease when I wanted so much to serve him. Why was I having this problem when there were so many who had no desire to serve God who seemed to be doing so well?
Like many people I believed that Christians should not encounter problems like this. Surely the God I served would not make things so hard for me. After the initial shock wore off I then faced the biggest challenge, how do I deal with it? How do I face life when my body grows ever closer to death? I knew deep down the answer must lie in Christianity.
True Christianity is not just a system of beliefs and ceremonies but a way of life. A way to face and overcome the difficult challenges that life presents by a true faith in God. I began at that time to look for answers, to un- derstand. I know that I still do not have all the answers, but dealing with it becomes easier with each new day. Looking back, dealing with my fear of death has become the greatest challenge of life.
These passages of Scripture helped me to understand a little better how I, as a Christian, should face an incur- able disease. First of all, my ability to deal with difficult situations should not be based on my understanding of all the answers. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he will direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5, 6). Many times, I have tried to understand everything about my world and my life when that is not always possible. Placing my faith in God when I do not understand, at times seems almost impossible. However, it is an absolute necessity, not only to be pleasing to God, are spiritually. That’s something that no disease can take away from me. Paul gloried in weaknesses that the power of Christ might shine forth. He realized that persecutions, shortcomings, and illnesses would make him depend upon God that much more. In the same manner, when- ever I am faced with a difficult problem, I should realize that I can use that situation to draw myself much closer to God. I remain determined not to simply survive, but to glorify God through this adversity.
Finally, we must keep in mind at all times Paul’s thought in Romans 8:18: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” All the problems and difficulties in this life will seem insignificant when com- pared with the glory of heaven. I now believe I can use this disease to glorify God. I intend to use whatever amount of time and strength I have left to be God’s servant. To the true Christian, there is no such thing as an incurable disease because our hope does not lie in a mortal body, but an immortal soul. And for my brothers and sisters in Christ who face similar problems, this passage seems to be tailor made for us, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with.