I went to get my hair done at the salon the other day. Done as in–getting my ridiculously crazy amount of gray hair colored. It is the one toxic thing that I refuse to give up. And believe me, I’ve given up a lot. If I had a few gray hairs—hmmm, maybe. But I have an enormous amount for my age. I would age fifteen years if I went all natural. Not happening, folks. I have enough going on with my body to make me feel prematurely old.
But this isn’t about feeling old or the toxic effects of hair dye. It’s about something the girl who does my hair said to me in light of the fact that I’m a Christian that didn’t sit well with me. My hairdresser knows that I have been dealing with joint pain and asked how I was doing. Initially, I gave her the same answer I give most people, which is–great. Because deep in my heart, I am, and I just didn’t feel like getting into it. But she persisted with sweetness and light and asked how I was really doing. Sigh… so, I felt compelled to be honest.
I kept it short and simple and told her that I was trying out some med.s and was seeing some improvements and experiencing some setbacks, and was taking it one day at a time. She smiled sweetly and said, “Isn’t it great that we have a God that can part a sea and crumble a mountain and it’s nothing to Him.”
(Oh dear God, I thought–where is she going with this?) I agreed and smiled.
And then she finished by saying, “And isn’t it great that we have a God that can heal your disease and it’s nothing for Him to do that if he wants. And it’s not terminal what you have, right?”
Ah, there it is…He can heal me if He wants to.
And what? It’s not terminal? Why not just say–what are you complaining about–at least you haven’t been told you only have a few months to live.
What she said stung a little. It felt as if she brushed aside my reality. And what I heard was–you should be grateful, at least you don’t have XYZ.
But for me, she really dropped the bomb with the healing comment.
I believe the God of the Bible is a God of miracles, signs and wonders. Do I believe He can heal me if He wants to? Why yes, I do. Have I prayed for healing? Yes, of course. Am I banking on healing? At this point, honestly, no. Does this mean that I am lacking in faith? Does it mean that I am not praying and believing hard enough? For me, the resounding answer is no. Of course not.
But I’m certainly keeping hope alive.
I have been trying to figure out why her comment bothered me so much. I mean, after all, I am glad that He is a God capable of healing and I know her intentions were well-meaning. But I can’t imagine saying the same thing to someone else. What if He doesn’t choose to heal you? What if that isn’t His will for you? Where does it leave someone in the eyes of those that believe in God’s healing power when you aren’t healed? This seems to be where the problem lies for me. Unfortunately, it all too often leaves one under someone else’s judgement. And who are we to judge? Who are we to assume the role of our Savior, God Almighty sitting on the throne?
Isn’t it enough that many of us have to deal with the judgement that a lack of knowledge and understanding of autoimmune diseases brings into our lives? You know the saying, “But you don’t look sick.” Or the idea that we are not willing ourselves to wellness hard enough. (I’ve tried to kick my own butt to get my body to behave! But currently it is still misbehaving.) But some people act as if you are dealing with an illness or a tragedy that they have the right to inspect your life and your faith.
My faith in His perfect plan for my life is what gets me through each day. It’s what keeps me going when the pain is at it’s worst. He is the One I can come crying and complaining to without fear of judgement and receive peace and comfort in return. And this disease has brought me closer to Him. But as a result of what’s going on with my body, I’ve had close friends evaluate not only my faith, but my life.
What also troubles me is that when someone judges one’s situation in life in relation to their faith, they are ultimately judging the will of God as well. I might be in the situation I’m in physically for a million different reasons according to His plan. But He hasn’t forgotten about me. He knows exactly what is going on with my body every second of the day. He is the only One who knows exactly how I feel and why I am feeling the way I do. And He has a plan for my life that is outside the realm of anything I could dream or imagine. And if someone questions why I haven’t been healed, they are in essence questioning God’s will and purpose for me.
I think we all struggle with judging each other in one form or another. I know I do. It’s our sinful, human nature. We just have to be careful how it can impact our relationships, even when we might be well-meaning.
Here are a few other comments I think only the person suffering should be allowed to say:
1. It is part of God’s plan/purpose for your life.
2. He is using it to make you stronger.
3. God is going to use this for good someday.
4. I know how you feel. My so and so is a Christian and has (fill in the blank).
5. At least it’s not as bad as (fill in the blank). (Err, um, a terminal illness?!)
6. At least you’ll get a new body in heaven one day.
7. You can use your experience to minister to someone else.
Although many of these statements are true, and are often said with good intentions, they belittle what a person is going through. I’ve often struggled with what to say to those who have been diagnosed with a disease, lost a loved one, lost a job, experienced a tragic accident, etc. I’ve often been at a loss and have probably said the wrong things at times. No, scratch that. I’m sure I’ve said the wrong things at the wrong times.
I’ve since concluded though that usually the best thing to say is simply, “I’m so sorry.” And then just listen. People usually like to talk about what they are experiencing if your heart is in the right place and you simply listen.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. -Romans 12:15 (NIV)