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Blaming God for My Chronic Illness

In 2009, I was at a friend’s birthday party when my vision suddenly became distorted. I could hear and see everyone, but it felt like I was in a dream. About 15 seconds later, I came out of it. I walked over to my friend, who’s a doctor, and tried to describe what happened.

“Maybe you’ve got superpowers,” he said, and we both chuckled. Soon thereafter, I stopped chuckling.

The episodes became more frequent, and when they happened I found myself typing the wrong letters or being unable to find words in conversation. I was getting worried.

A neurologist ordered an EEG, which tests the electrical activity in the brain. It didn’t solve the mystery, and all the doctors could say was that it might be migraines or epilepsy.

Medications would work and then stop working, or they would have unbearable side effects. I didn’t want to talk about how I was feeling — not even with my wife. I didn’t want to be seen as pitiable or disabled, and I didn’t want people worrying about me.

Even talking to friends about my health concerns had proven to be risky. After learning about it, people would sometimes come up to me, even in public places, and ask me direct questions like, “Hey, are you still having those episodes?” It was embarrassing. I was doing my best to pretend everything was normal, and those questions were painful reminders I wasn’t okay and I probably wouldn’t ever be.

In those moments I would often tense up, but I’d still put on a casual air and say I was doing fine. I couldn’t bear to tell them the truth: I was humiliated by my brokenness. I just wanted to be normal again. I didn’t understand why this had to happen.

In my frustration, I turned my sights on God and hydroplaned through all kinds of prayers: name-it-and-claim-it declarations, lamentations, pleas for mercy, bargaining and even trying to put Him on guilt trips. None of it worked. Things only got worse — especially the side effects of the medication — and what hurt the most was that God could heal it instantly, but for some reason He was choosing not to.

I felt like a little kid at Christmas who was desperately hoping for something he needed. But then on Christmas morning, I opened up a box to find a note that said, “Maybe next year! Keep on hoping! Love, Dad.”

After multiple rounds through the five stages of grief, I finally gave in and accepted the fact that my prayer wasn’t getting answered — not in the way I wanted. Instead of a real miracle, I got on a medication that was effective, with only minor side effects. I was incredibly grateful, but secretly I felt it was a lame substitute, and I had trouble convincingly saying that “God chose to answer my prayer through the gift of medicine.”

I blew up at God and used my disappointed-kid-at-Christmas metaphor on Him. I asked why in the world He couldn’t just give me the gift I asked for, that there was no good reason to withhold healing from me, that I would never do something like this to my five-year-old daughter. I basically told Him this was the worst Christmas ever, and He was being Scrooge.

And then God interrupted my thoughts with a distinct idea: Who said it was Christmas already? You know I’m going to come through on Christmas morning, and it will touch My heart to see the look of anticipation on your face. Be patient, and yes, be excited. Christmas is coming.

There was a flicker of hope inside, one I hadn’t felt in a long time. I looked up, took a deep breath, and cautiously prayed, “God, I don’t know where You’re hiding my present, but it’s in the house somewhere. And although it seems like it’s taking forever for Christmas to get here, it’s going to be awesome when it finally does.”

And He responded by addressing me as a father: “[I]f your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not. So if you … know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:9-11).

Christmas might come any day now — I don’t have access to God’s calendar. Christmas might even come when I die, but it’s not like that’s any less miraculous. Heaven is part of the timeline of my life. And so I celebrate in advance, waiting in anticipation to open my gift — whenever it comes — finally getting the answer to the question, “Why me?”

“This happened so the power of God could be seen in [my life]” (John 9:3). May God be glorified in this illness as I wait to receive the gift of His healing.

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