The year 2017 was easily one of the hardest years of my life. Halfway through the year, I was diagnosed with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). It’s a rare connective tissue disorder, in which I was born with defective collagen. I live with anxiety, chronic pain, and several other symptoms that affect me day in and day out. Sounds fun, right? I’ve learned to laugh about it, though. Plus, it’s a great icebreaker when meeting new people. I often say I’m so accident prone that I’ve been diagnosed as accident prone. After all, one of the things about EDS is that I have a tendency to dislocate, and I lack spatial awareness. Putting the two together is a recipe for accident proneness.
I was into walls constantly. An “owe” can be heard coming from me approximately every ten minutes. I have even dislocated my shoulder sleeping, and that might just be my proudest accomplishment (at this point in my life, I might as well take pride in this ‘talent’ of mine). While some parts have slowly developed over the course of my life, a lot of it came crashing down in 2017. In all honestly, I’m still working to manage most of my symptoms to the best of my ability. Of course, when a struggle strikes, I have always turned to horses. There is something peaceful and therapeutic about being on the back of a 1200 lbs animal that could kill me at any moment. Horses have always made me feel closer to God. But with sudden severity of chronic shoulder pain after an injury running (yeah, I injured my shoulder running; I said I was accident prone), I couldn’t manage my pain enough to ride. I needed a new outlet.
That’s where writing came into the picture. I had always wanted to write a book, and I’ve had a good idea since seventh grade, but I’ve never given myself enough time to actually write anything worth publishing. Thankfully, I had too much time on my hands due to the chronic condition affecting high school students across the nation, known as Senioritis. With the help of an encouraging friend, I began the task of writing. I wrote, I deleted, my friend yelled at me for deleting, I rewrote what I had deleted, and then I revised. Nothing was more satisfying than typing out those last few pages, knowing that the end was near. It was as if traveling into the story I had written was a temporary break from all my pain. I could experience the joys of adventure without leaving the comfort of my couch. It wasn’t riding, but I had found something that I loved.
As I came to college, I had to explain my EDS to a lot of professors during syllabus week. All were understanding and willing to help me out. But in one of those meetings, someone made the comment, “unless God miraculously heals you” after I had said something about learning to cope. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought the same thing several times. But as I was sitting in the meeting, I was taken aback by the comment. Yes, I’d read about it in the Bible before. I knew God could heal me. But the keyword there is “could”. By the time I had gotten to college, I had made peace with the fact that I believed God wouldn’t heal me. Why? Had it not been for my EDS, I wouldn’t have written that book. 2017 was a hard year, granted. But, that doesn’t make 2017 a bad year. Dealing with my EDS was difficult. I learned a lot about myself because of it. It was through writing that I found my purpose. I know it is through my EDS that He will do amazing things. Sometimes, I think in America we are so caught up with what we want that we forget about what God wants. The question I needed to as myself was, if God healed me, how could I glorify Him? I wouldn’t be writing, I’d be riding.
While I love riding, I’m never going to be great at it. It’s a hobby, not a career, for me. If He healed me, I would soon forget. I wouldn’t have gotten the diagnosis, so how could I have even been sure He had done anything at all? It was an injury, and healing had been well overdue. When it came down to it, I didn’t want to be healed for His glory; I wanted to be healed for my own. I wanted to ride horses with my friends. I wanted to be normal like everyone at college. Because of my EDS, I am finding my way back to Him. He is recreating me, and repurposing me, so that His glory can shine. I can’t begin to understand the beauty of His plan, but I wouldn’t have it any other way than His way. A life here on earth with pain, and the promise of everlasting life with my perfect creator, is worth far more to me than living a self-glorifying life with no pain here on earth, without the promise of everlasting life. God didn’t create us to serve ourselves, He created us to fulfill His perfect plan.
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD. ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
This verse is very popular today. A lot of people love hearing it, and why wouldn’t they? It’s encouraging, uplifting, and full of hope for what the future brings. It wasn’t until I came to college that someone made a big deal of pointing out that people use it out of context. At first, I was slightly annoyed, considering I have always loved this verse and what I thought it stood for. Having looked at the context of the verse since, and what it means, I have realized just how meaningful this verse really is. To give you some background, it comes from the book of Jeremiah, and takes place during the Babylonian Exile. All throughout the book of Jeremiah, God is speaking to His people through Jeremiah, His prophet, and begging them to turn from idols.
You see, the Canaanite religion was different from any religion we can think of today. While a lot of Canaanite religion has been left unknown, it is believed that there were temple prostitutes which people would ‘visit’ to worship fertility gods, and child sacrifices took place as well. Obviously, this religion was detrimental to the Canaanite society and is believed to be an important reason for God’s issuing of the Herem command earlier in the Bible. But, the Israelites didn’t follow God’s command, and left several Canaanite cities alive after coming to the promise land. If you read the book of Judges, you see the vicious cycle in which the Israelites continually began taking part in the Canaanite religion and their ceremonies. All that leads up to the Babylonian exile, in which God literally just cannot even with the Israelites. He created them. He saved them from the flood. He delivered them from Egypt. He brought them to the promise land. He helps them time and time again, and they just keep turning away and complaining. Having had enough, He decides to let the Babylonians take over and exile His people for 70 years.
Leading up to this exile, He sends prophets like Jeremiah to try and convince the Israelites to turn back to Him. Finally, He realizes that He has to do something to bring them back to Him. And, when He allows the Babylonians to conquer them, He has Jeremiah write them a letter. That’s where this verse comes in. God is encouraging His people, even as He is condemning them. He begs them to seek Him, and to turn back to Him. Ultimately, He doesn’t intend to harm the Israelites. However, through the Babylonian exile the Israelites feel pain. They’ve lost their nation, and they’ve been scattered. It was devastating. But, in the midst of it, God is reaffirming His plan to bring them into the promise land. Even more, He is promising them a savior. All throughout the Old Testament, He is planning out humanity’s salvation starting with his curse on the serpent in the Garden. And in the very first chapter of the New Testament, that plan is fulfilled. I think that knowing the context makes this verse so much more powerful. God isn’t telling us that life won’t be hard. But He is promising us a future through Jesus Christ.
Much like the Israelites were banished during the Babylonian exile, humanity has been banished from the Garden since the beginning of time. God promised He would bring a Savior who would die for our sins in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, this promised was fulfilled. But the New Testament is more than just a fulfillment of the prophecies. There is one more; Christ is coming back, and this time we will be with Him for eternity. Humanity is still banished, but a day will come when we aren’t. God has promised this in the book of Revelation, and now we are waiting for that prophecy to be fulfilled. Today, we are still no different than the Israelites in Jeremiah. God isn’t promising us a life without pain here. There is still pain and suffering that exists in this world because we allowed original sin to exist and contaminate the world. But, this is a promise that the pain won’t last forever and that there is hope for a future without pain. In a moment of condemnation, God still encourages us to never give up hope for a future when we are with Him once more. I think that’s what makes this verse so powerful, even today.
It Is Well by Horatio Spafford
“If Jordan above me shall roll
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait
The sky, not the grave, is our goal”