“My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
According to one of the most iconic scenes in the history of film life may be like a box of chocolates, but I’m pretty sure that anyone living with a chronic health condition like myself will tell you that it’s definitely more like a rollercoaster with all its unexpected ups, downs, twists, and turns. This past month has certainly provided me with all that and more! Learning to live life on the roller coaster certainly hasn’t been easy, but it has continued to strengthen and mature my faith in ways I never expected. Perhaps you are also finding life to be a bit of roller coaster right now and you are struggling to stay aboard. First off, know that you are not alone! Hopefully my journey and how I’ve learned to cope will give you the encouragement that you need to keep hanging on.
If you’ve ever been to a theme park and ridden a roller coaster, you know that one of the first things they tell you is to make sure to fasten and grab on to your safety bar. For me, my safety bar is God. I truly wouldn’t be able to navigate through life without Him. You may say, “Ok Jessica, that’s fine for you to say. But what about all the times that God has let me down?” I’ve written a little about this is my other blog post When God Seems Silent: The Theology of Suffering and Other Tough Questions… and I hope you’ll give it a read.
I won’t deny that I’ve also struggled with the idea of a good and loving God allowing all the suffering that goes on in the world and this year has especially been one of learning to re-fasten my safety belt through studying His word and letting the truths in it sink in once again. A good place that I would encourage you to start is in the Psalms. It is filled with raw and honest cries to God for help in the storms of life and incredible renewal of hope and praise as He answers them.
I’ve seen God do this for me over the past couple of months and am so overwhelmed and amazed by how He was preparing me for my most recent hospitalization (more to come on that later.) One of these blessings started when my family was booking the Air BNB for our trip to Portland back in April. Since being diagnosed with Crohn’s, travelling has become a lot more difficult because I can’t really eat out and need to be able to prepare all my own food. As my parents were sending an enquiry to this particular Air BNB in regards to the kitchen facilities, we found out that the kitchen was indeed fully stocked and there was even a Vitamix so that I could make myself smoothies, a staple I rely on to get my nutrients since my body finds many vegetables and fruit difficult to digest. Let me tell you, after trying out that Vitamix, I was hooked! It was so much faster, quieter, and powerful than my current blender which was wearing down from overuse. However, if you know anything about Vitamix blenders, you know they are incredible pricey so I decided to put this dream on the back burner.
Well what would you know, a couple weeks later one of the celebrities that I follow on Instagram was doing a giveaway contest for (get this) a Vitamix! Knowing it was a shot in the dark, I decided to enter and hope and pray for the best. A few days later on May 19, 2019, World IBD Day, I got the incredible news that I had won the contest. The amazing thing about this is that the contest was originally only open to American residents. I wasn’t even going to enter because of this but let them know in my comment that my dad had an American mailbox and how much it would help me with my Crohn’s. Only God could have orchestrated me winning!
Five days after finding out I won the contest, I ended up being hospitalized for a small bowel obstruction secondary to a Crohn’s flare due to complications with my stricture (a narrowing in my intestines due to scar tissue buildup from past flare-ups). This led to my first painful and unpleasant experience with an NG tube to help the blockage pass, but again God was with me through it all and gave me the strength I needed through the prayers, encouraging messages, and visits from friends and family as well as the kind nurses who allowed me to go home on night passes so I could sleep! There was also another young person on my ward this time who happened to have IBD and was a Christian. It was great to be able to encourage each other as we each made progress towards being discharged.
On the day of my discharge, my Vitamix finally arrived and it has been such a blessing in my continued recovery from this flare up.
Another one of God’s provisions came in the form of a job change. Back in March I found out that I was bumped from my position at the Primary Care Clinic. As you can imagine I was devastated. There were many tears shed going through the process of trying to choose a new position to bump into so I wouldn’t lose my benefits or sick time. Thankfully there was a position available at Royal Columbian Hospital which will not only be even closer than the Primary Care Clinic, but also right next door to all my specialists! Although I haven’t been able to start at the job yet due to my flare up, I was able to complete my orientation and I’m excited because this position is definitely one that uses my strengths of data entry and will be less stressful as I’m not dealing with nearly as many people.
My point in sharing all this is that there were so many times during the past few months that I could have let my discouragement over being bumped from my position or ending up back in the hospital take over. I could have given up and let my depression consume me. In fact, I’ll be honest that many times this past year I’ve wanted to give in and wallow in it (partly the reason I’ve been so silent on here), especially with my continued health challenges. But every time I’ve had these thoughts, God has shown me a reason to keep going. Sometimes, though, He asks us to wait because the timing isn’t quite right. A great passage that speaks to this comes from (no surprise) the book of Psalms:
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to Our God.”
This time of trouble is not yet over for me. I’m still waiting to see my GI to discuss next steps which will probably include another medication change and a referral to a surgeon, a scary prospect, and yet the above verse gives me hope that if I keep trusting and holding on to my safety bar, He will help me to make it safely back to start gate and plant my feet on solid ground once again. You see, the amazing thing about God and the Christian life is not that He gives you a life that is pain free, but that He promises to be with you through it all. And He can do this for you too! That is what makes it good news. The invitation is open to all. All you have to do is accept it and grab hold of Him. I promise you won’t regret it.