I felt like David in Psalm 23: my cup overflowed, and God was leading me to still waters.
So what if I had had an abusive childhood, jumped right into an abusive marriage, lost my second husband in a helicopter crash, raised a disabled child mostly alone, and was told I couldn’t have more children? God had helped me overcome all those challenges. I had gotten out of the abusive marriage, raised my beautiful child into a wonderful adult and best friend and – with two years of therapy and some Prozac – made it through the death of my husband.
I had also earned my bachelor’s degree and later met my wonderful husband James. I had been baptized; my daughter was successful on her own, and together James and I had fulfilled the dream of owning an RV park. Although we worked 24/7, we loved our roles. During those busy ten years, I also jogged and worked out often and became quite the organic chef and herbal master. I was in great shape and training for an Adventure Race to celebrate my upcoming 50th birthday. Life had indeed taken a wonderful turn.
Although I was happy, I was distracted from my relationship with God. We were too busy to go to church often and didn’t make time to join a church body or become involved in any ministries or small groups.
The Shepherd from Psalm 23 had a different version of life waiting for me.
Shortly before the race and my birthday, I severely damaged my neck and back in a firewood-chopping incident. I couldn’t do anything for a year besides knit 36 hats while sitting in a chair. In my desperation, I started reading the Bible and praying for God to heal me, expecting my healing would come any moment. I slept a lot, and the labor load on my husband at the RV park became overwhelming. Though we hired people to help, we really didn’t have the money. Our credit cards were spiking, and our poor Honda had 300,000 miles on it. After two more years, we had to consider selling the park. I felt stuck in a loop of self-pity, but we hoped the rest and change of pace and stress would help me heal.
We reluctantly sold the park at a decent price. It appeared enough to buy a few rentals to assure some passive future income if I couldn’t work as much as before. Feeling a new zest for realty potential, we bought a home with cash and started looking for little houses to buy, fix up and rent. But two months after we bought our home, the economy shut down with COVID-19 taking the stage. Prices went up. People were locked in their houses, and rents were deferred.
And somehow, my injury turned into a diagnosis of lupus.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that keeps me in frequent pain. It can attack any part of my body, even though I may look perfectly healthy. That pain can move around from my neck to inside my ear, affecting my hearing. It can strike my eyes, causing vision problems. Even my toes can randomly go numb. I can pick up a coffee cup and for no apparent reason, my wrist will give out, spilling the cup and its contents onto the floor. Sometimes I sleep most of the day because of fatigue. I never know what days will be great or when I might have a flare-up of pain or other annoying symptoms. I can’t really schedule anything because I don’t know how I am going to feel at any given moment. I fear others see me as unreliable.
I was angry as I faced this diagnosis. I believe God corrects us and builds our character through hardship, but I expected God to set me free, like he did for Job after his great suffering. But unlike all my previous hardships, this hardship couldn’t be conquered and left behind. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know why to get up in the morning or what direction to take.
We spent the next two years working on two smaller house projects – or rather James did – bless his hardworking and determined soul. We found a great church and started meeting people in our new town. But the projects weren’t enough for future financial security. Inflation in house repair and material prices were chasing us faster than we could make much in profits. We made enough to live on, but not enough for future financial security. And financial security was more crucial now that I had lupus.
Miraculously, a wholesale account contract came through a year ago for an invention I had made several years before. Although our financial security still isn’t ideal, that contract has given me the passive income I need to make ends meet and lead a quieter life without the stress of attempting work I can no longer do. I have slowly adjusted to these new still waters. I feel more connected to God than I did before. Through my cooking and herbal skills, God has helped me find a natural protocol for my lupus which has made a huge difference in my quality of life. And I’ve slowed down enough to dive deeper into my relationship with Jesus.
Before lupus, I had counted on my self-reliance, strength and physical stamina. But God is guiding me through the lupus maze to find new strength to move less, give more and get more involved in my local church. He is guiding me to more strength through my faith in his great mercy and grace.
Just as lupus affects all my cells, I await the day God’s Spirit will heal every cell of my body, whether on earth or in heaven. Until then, this is my prayer: If a healed body would lead me back into the distractions of life and weaken my relationship with him, then he need not ever heal my lupus on earth. He has led me to still waters as I experience peace in my heart and the quiet space in my soul nurtured by my growing relationship with Jesus.