I was going to title this post, “What I’ve Learned From Having Graves’ Disease,” but I think there’s a difference between being taught something and fully learning something. For example, how do you know if someone has really “learned their lesson?” I think the proof is how they live their life following the lesson. Two days before I found out if I was able to have my thyroidectomy or not, I retreated to a coffee shop and was taught 3 things (the fourth I just now realized). I might be hesitant to say that I’ve really learned these three things until my actions consistently reflect them, but here they are.
1. God is good. I can believe this in my brain parts and not trust it in my heart. I can “know” that God is good and still do everything in my power to make sure that I have a successful, pain-free life (living as a functional atheist). I will continue to feel like I am in complete control of my life (wouldn’t you much rather have a perfect God be in control of your life?) and feel the pressure to be the perfect mom/wife/human (my track record so far isn’t looking great). However, if I trust in my heart that God is good, I will be free. I will be free to stop trying to achieve, I will be free to simply be me, and when I go through affliction of any type I will be free to rest in the truth that God has a good plan for me and will use my suffering to further His plan. God was not surprised by my diagnosis of Graves’ Disease in January and most certainly did not allow to me to suffer with Graves’ Disease for months because He’s out to get me or somehow lost control.
2. Suffering must be seen through the lens of who God is, and God must not be seen through the lens of my suffering. If I understand God through the circumstances in my life, my view of God will constantly be changing. If my son perfectly obeys me one day I might think that God is a good, loving Father who is watching out for me. However, if I go through a season of intense suffering I might think God is a mean judge, punishing me for something I have done or failed to do. Do you see how this thinking is flawed? God does not change. He does not change when my mood changes and He certainly does not change when my circumstances change. If that were the case, there would be millions of Gods, each based on peoples personal experiences…and ultimately, we would be god.
3. It’s okay to express my emotions to God. Read through the book of Psalms in the Bible. Case in point (I felt like Psalm 38). I’m not good at expressing my emotions. I’m not good at understanding them myself, let alone concisely expressing them to my husband or God. But God cares about me and doesn’t want me to come to Him only after I have it all together (because then I’d never come to Him). I can go to God as a mess, because although God doesn’t love my sinful messy self, He does love who I am through Christ. On the cross Christ took the penalty for all my sins, and when God looks at me, He sees His son (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21).
4. At the time I felt like an awful mother because of all the things I couldn’t do. Looking back, however, I realize just how much I was able to push through because of my love for my son. Some days I struggled to carry him up the stairs, let along go for a walk or to the park. I wasn’t able to bring him on play dates with friends and our house was usually a mess. I felt guilty for the countless doctor appointments he had to sit through. It. Was. Hard. But we did survive. He never went hungry, we spent a lot of time together…and here we are, a couple months later, going to new parks every week and having tickle wars on the floor. Moms, even when we aren’t in a season of thriving, we always figure out a way to survive, don’t we? *high five!
It took me until I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted to realize that I needed to retreat, to refocus my affections and to meet with God in a very intentional way. When I did that, He met with me. He met with me in a little coffee shop in Black Forest. It was there that the Lord guided me. He satisfied my needs in a sun-scorched land and strengthened my frame. For a little while I was like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (paraphrased slightly out of context from Isaiah 58:11 😉 I don’t think God gave me Graves’ Disease, but I do think He has been and will continue to use it to teach me about who I am, and about who He is. Perhaps as I continue to walk with Him I will be quicker to learn what He wants to teach me (one can only hope!).