On January 5, 2011 my life changed forever when I began having episodes where I collapse and then have temporary paralysis in my arms and legs.
Sometimes, episodes last a few minutes. At my worst, I had this ongoing muscle weakness for seven days. I would get up and walk a few steps before collapsing. In these last 2,197 days, I have seen multiple doctors, a multitude of specialists and have collected a thick binder of test results. There are no answers to this mystery, only a couple shots in the dark.
In high school, I gave up a lot of extra curricular activities, and missed half my junior and senior years of school. Doctors told my parents to pull me out of school completely and not let me up more than 45 minutes at a time. As bleak as this all sounds (I promise it gets better), there are 6 things that I have learned during this period of my life. I hope this can be an encouragement to you today!
6 Things I have learned in 6 years of Illness
1. In light of all that He is, my weakness is ALWAYS going to be irrelevant. In light of all that He is, my weakness is always going to be irrelevant.Click To Tweet
When I was in the sixth grade, I began to feel God call me to serve in missions. As a sixth grader, the idea of anything other than America, let alone Florida, was pretty foreign to me. In the eighth grade, I went on my first international mission trip to Honduras. In Honduras, I fell in love with the people, the culture, and the work. So, when the opportunity came up for me to go on another short term mission trip, I was excited.
At the start of my Freshman year, the opportunity came up for me to go on a mission trip to Jamaica.
I prayed and discerned that the Lord would have me go. Then, one month before I was to leave, I had my first episode. I was positive that my parents would not let me go. I was having these new episodes and had absolutely no idea what caused them. But in faith, they did and I have never been the same.
When I went to Jamaica the first time, I had no idea that this beautiful little island and the beautiful people who live there would become such a big part of my life. I fell in love with the Jamaicans. Their energy and their friendliness never cease to amaze me. I have learned so much more from them than I could ever begin to give. God has opened up the doors for me to minister to these beautiful people 10 times.
That is 10 times after I became sick.
God took a little girl who becomes randomly paralyzed, placed her in a foreign country and used her to tell those people that no matter the circumstances, our God is the God of the Impossible. I am always so humbled when I think that God has saw fit to use me in this way. Over the last 6 years, I have learned that I could not have done any of this outside of the strength God provides.
Not only is God my strength, but He is my Redeemer, my Savior, He is the maker of the universe, commander of the seas, and my Abba Father. He is Righteous and Holy. In light off all that He is, my weakness is ALWAYS going to be irrelevant. Why? Because He is stronger.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me,’My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (ESV)
2. I am not sick because I have a lack of faith.
When it became apparent that I was not getting better, some very well-meaning people began to tell me that if I had more faith, I would be healed. I have had multiple people pray over me that “whatever demons are inside me causing me to be sick” would leave me. Some people would question me about my faith in God, and others told me that I am sick because I must have some sin I can’t let go of.
I cannot tell you how many nights I stayed up crying my eyes out begging God to give me enough faith so I could be healed. Some days when I fell over, I felt like such a bad Christian because my episodes must be indicators that I still had not gained enough faith. This pattern of defeat is exactly the opposite of what God calls us to live in.
I believe with all of my heart that God is Jehovah Rafa, The LORD who Heals.
There is no doubt in my mind that God is able to heal. There is no doubt that He is still in the business of healing people today. I have faith that if it was His will and it would bring Him the most glory to restore my health, that He could do it in an instant. However, I believe it also takes just as much faith (or even more) to say, “God, if it is not in your will right now to heal my body, thy will be done. Your ways are higher than mine and your thoughts are higher than mine. Lord, I trust you”.
It it a very common passage, but John 16:33 says,
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (ESV)
As Christians, we are not promised a life without trials.
In fact, God’s word tells us not to be surprised when tribulations come up. Suffering and trials are an inevitable product of this world we live in. This can look like sickness, relational breakdown, financial issues, and so much more. However, we can have hope because our Jesus has already overcome these issues for us. We can walk in victory because we know how the story ends!
I no longer feel ashamed for being sick. Instead, I cherish this illness that has pushed me into a deeper and more desperate dependence upon Him for (quite literally) each step. I know that one day, He will heal me…whether on this side of eternity or the other.
3. Healing is not always physical.
“He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:3 (ESV)
This is one of my absolute favorite verses. He restores my soul. If He only healed my body, there would still be brokenness inside my soul. As I struggled through my illness, I went through a period of time where I felt inadequate and inconvenient. Even if He had healed my body, I am positive that I would still struggle with these emotions. However, He restored my soul. I no longer feel inadequate or inconvenient. I no longer feel like a vicim of my circumstance. Yes, I still have episodes and yes, my body still fails me from time to time. But, in my heart…in my soul, I am whole.
4. I have learned how to love myself.
Ohhhhhhh man. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard this became. Over the years, I began to resent my body. I had all these dreams and things I wanted to do. It became a struggle because I felt as if my body was the only thing standing in the way of all things I wanted to do. I even felt like my body was standing in the way of some of the things I believed God had called me to. At one point, I had to sit down and surrender all those emotions back up to God. My God does not make mistakes. My God is sovereign. I have to trust that whatever God is allowing in my life it is ultimately for His glory and my good.
Ultimately, I learned to love myself when I began to see myself as God sees me.
God loved you and I so much that He sent Jesus, His only son, to bridge the gap created by sin. If you look through scripture, over and over again you will find examples of God’s love for us. Psalm 136, Psalm 139, Psalm 18, Lamentations 3:33-26, John 3:16-17 and 2 Thessalonians 3:5 are just a few scriptures that talk about His love for us.
When we accept Christ as Savior, we become adopted sons and daughters of Christ (Romans 8:15). Because Christ now lives in us, everything that is true of Christ becomes true of us. We become holy. Righteous. Redeemed. Worthy. Forgiven. Children. Co-heirs. Do you wonder how God sees you? As His child, He sees you as He sees Christ.As His child, He sees you as He sees Christ.Click To Tweet
Even while we were still sinners, BEFORE we were His children, God thought you were worth sending His son so that you might have a relationship with Him (Romans 5: 8)!
The Maker of the universe, the King above all kings thought YOU were WORTH the sacrifice. When He sees me, He doesn’t see Cassidy, the girl who becomes semi-paralyzed, who is weak and is an enigma to the medical society. He doesn’t see my sin or my faults. He sees Christ within me. When we realize this, we can begin to walk in the victory that Christ purchased for us the day He died upon that cruel cross and rose again to show that even death cannot hold Him!
5. There is no Victim, only Victory.
It is very easy to look at my situation and say that I am a victim of my circumstances. I had to give up a lot of things I enjoy, I spend a lot of time at home by myself, I have to do things differently than most people, some days I can’t walk very far (or at all), I haven’t been able to work normal hours or complete school like a traditional student. But compared to all God continues to do in my life, these things will always cease to be a big deal.
My illness has given me a platform to encourage others and to proclaim that my God is still faithful and He is still good. Christ did not die on the cross and rise from the grave for me to sit at home and have a pity party for one. He did that so we might know Him and the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10). In light of all that He is, my weakness is always going to be irrelevant. There is power and strength in the name of Jesus! God doesn’t stand there and say, “Oops, I guess I can’t use her anymore”…no! He stands there and says, “Watch what I can do”.
There is no victim in this story. Only victory.
I can stand in this victory because of who my God is! I am going to keep running this race, even if I fall 1,000 more times, until I reach my prize at the end. That prize is my Jesus.
6. He is Worthy of Worship
If there is one thing I am convinced of more and more each day, it is this very point. He is worthy of our worship. When we turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in His wonderful face, the things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
For a long time, I would come home after every doctors appointment feeling disappointed and defeated. But one day, I realized He was still God. And He was still worthy of my worship. I came in the door after my next doctors appointment, sat down at the piano. There, I began to pour my heart out. My tears of pain turned into tears of praise. My anxiety became peace.
I let Him heal my heart as I sat in His presence and did the thing I was created to do; to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
No matter what is going on in my life, HE IS STILL GOD. He is still my first love; the lover of my soul. He is my source of life and my beautiful Savior. To neglect Him and push Him away is to detach our heart’s from the very One who makes them beat.
Right now, you may be struggling with school, your career, financial issues, relationship problems, declining health or maybe even some of these combined.
He is not blind to your struggles. I encourage you to take those things, all your broken pieces, and lay them before the feet of Jesus. It may be one of the hardest things you ever do. You may have to do it over and over. However, I promise that there is beauty in surrender. He is faithful. He will heal that brokenness of yours. You need only come and lay it all down and let Him pick it up. He is able, my friends. He is not finished with your story yet.