“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silent, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
As we enter the halfway mark of the year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the changes that 2017 has brought so far. As the passage above talks about, my year has been filled with a lot of losses and things to mourn, such as my diagnosis with Crohn’s which has brought with it a challenging life change in how I eat. Going out to eat was something I really enjoyed and looked forward to. However, it is no longer the simple pleasure it once was as restaurant menus now have to be perused very carefully in order to make sure that what I order fits into my diet. On the same topic, a lot of my favourite foods such as cheesecake, pasta with alfredo sauce, and cheese are now taboo. Though the medications that I have been put on for my Crohn’s are working, they also come with some not so fun side affects such as more acne, thinning hair (and I’ve always had thick, beautiful hair), low iron levels, and an increased sensitivity to the sun. In other words, laying on the beach for a day is not something I’ll likely be able to do this summer. I have also had an ongoing struggle with C-diff infection and anxiety as I taper off the antibiotics about whether it will come back or not and whether what I put in my mouth will affect this (an anxiety that I have anyway due to Crohn’s).
All this being said, I decided to look up the five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, to try and assess which stage I am at because although I haven’t lost someone in the traditional sense, I have, figuratively, lost the person that I used to be before my illness. So in my searching what was my answer? All of above! I think that this is what the writer of Ecclesiastes was getting at in the above passage. In life we go through many different experiences and emotions and then back again. This is a natural part of being human and part of what helps us grow. As David Kessler writes on the website grief.com,
“The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one/thing we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order. Our hope is that with these stages comes the knowledge of grief ‘s terrain, making us better equipped to cope with life and loss. At times, people in grief will often report more stages. Just remember your grief is as unique as you are.”
For a long time I would feel guilty about being angry about my suffering and not coping with it better, however I am learning that it is ok to be angry about suffering. Suffering isn’t fair and not part of God’s original plan or desire for human beings. It is a result of sin. The key is learning to grieve in the right way and be patient with ourselves in the ups and downs. This is not something that is possible on our own strength, but that is the beautiful thing. God is constantly working to redeem suffering and help us through it. How do I know this? All I have to do is look at those who have come before me to see that some of the most powerful testimonies have come out of suffering and much worse suffering than mine (Joseph in Genesis, for example). If God can do that for other people, than I am confident that he can do it for me and you as well.
This year may be a time of mourning for me, but the passage in Ecclesiastes gives me hope that I won’t stay there. There will be times of laughter and dancing again as well as the ability to accept my circumstances and find joy despite them. In fact, there already have been. For the first time in about six or seven years, I have been able to eat without pain again. Sure I might not get to eat all the foods that I want to or enjoy my previous favourite restaurants, but this is HUGE! I am back up to my normal weight and never tire of people telling me how healthy I look now. No longer am I spending every hour in the bathroom in pain. Not only that, but with less pain has come more energy and an increased ability to concentrate on tasks. Another thing to celebrate is the fact that I found a medication that works for me so quickly and that the side effects I get from them are, in the grand scheme of things, very minor. It is very rare for people with Crohn’s to respond to the first medication their specialist tries the way I have. I am finally seeing my life get back to normal as I’ve been back to work more consistently and having less frequent medical appointments. All this just goes to show the healing power of our God. I’ll end with a verse that has had new meaning for me over the past year:
“The Lord gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”