October is a strange month for me. It is usually one of the busiest, so it is hard to find times to sit and reflect, but in the few moments I do it is a time of amazement, confusion, frustration, and ultimately gratitude.
Let me back up a little and explain. In Spring of 2015 my wife began having health issues. I still remember the restaurant we were at sharing some sushi and a plate of Pad Thai when her first “episode” hit. In that first ER trip we had no idea what we were in for, just that my wife who had given birth to our two daughters (which both weighed over 9lbs) said she was in more pain than she was during labor. That year was filled with more ER trips than I have made in my life, multiple ambulance rides, more blood work and medical testing than I knew was even possible and existed, and enough specialist doctors to cover every possible body system from dermatology to neurology. Every test, every appointment, every trip to the ER the same: “Sorry we don’t know it doesn’t make sense.” October of that year was, I believe the pinnacle of the chaos. One particular day stands out. My wife experienced 5 seizures in the span of about 14 hours. One of which was in a doctor’s office who essentially told us, “good luck, hope it works out, but I can’t help." In hindsight I’m sure he didn’t know what to do but as I stood by my wife comforting her the adrenaline and rage in my mind made it hard to be rational and all I wanted to do was punch him in the face. There was also the night (I believe just before that day or close to it) where I was holding our 8-month-old trying to keep her from waking up while paramedics were struggling to find my unconscious wife’s pulse on our bedroom floor at 3 in the morning. All of this while I was working 60+ hours a week in a warehouse on top of trying to serve in my church. I was spent in every sense of the word, I was wrung out and had nothing left in me.
When I find times to reflect in October this is often where reflection starts. This where the confusion and frustration come from. Why us? What did I do to cause my wife this amount of suffering? I shouldn’t have to deal with this.
As I reflect through the frustration I also look back and see God’s provision and grace through all of this. From our dear friend who would answer their phone at 3AM to come watch our girls so I could be with my wife, to the plethora of friends that brought meals, cleaned our house, babysat, gave rides, and prayed. As I write this in October 2018, 3 years removed from the worst month of my life, my wife is healthy enough to be leading a Bible study for moms at our church. We still have days of pain and problems, but my wife is still alive, something I didn’t think I was going to get to say on multiple occasions. People have often told me, “I just don’t know how you guys do it.” Honestly, I don’t either. Outside of the grace of God we would not be where we are today. During all of this we would often find ourselves in Psalm 91. Particularly verses 2 and 3 where it says, “2 I will say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ 3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.” We are where we are because God has been our refuge and fortress, not modern medicine, not our own endurance, not the people around us, but God. All of those things help, but ultimately God is the one who sustains and holds us when we cannot stand. God is the one who in the midst of the hurricane of life wraps us in His protective arms and keeps the wind at bay. So as I reflect, I reflect on my frustrations but also on the amazing provision of a loving God who is intimately acquainted with my struggles and I am grateful. I am also thankful that God has provided some answers. It turns out my wife has three rare conditions. Dysautonomia, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), and Mastocytosis.
It so happens that October is awareness month for Dysautonomia and October 20th is national Mast Cell Diseases awareness day. This may seem minorly significant to you, but I believe it is yet another shining example of how God takes something ugly and broken and makes it beautiful. God does this through out scripture taking people, situations, and things that seem to be hopelessly broken and putting them back together in a beautiful way. Whether that be the life of the Apostle Paul, a first century terrorist focused on destroying Christianity to the greatest missionary to ever live and author of the majority of the New Testament. Perhaps no example is clearer than the cross. A symbol of hate, condemnation, and torture is now being a symbol of love, forgiveness, and comfort. A sign of the brokenness of humanity is now the sign of the only solution to that brokenness. God takes broken and makes it beautiful. Romans 8:28 famously says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” When citing that verse what is often overlooked is verse 32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” See, I know that God can take the brokenness of any situation and make it beautiful because He was willing to die for us. If God was willing to die to save you, how is He not going to deal graciously with you in everything? I’m not saying the broken doesn’t hurt and isn’t scary. I’m not even saying you will experience the good right now. I’m saying God died for you, He loves you, He deeply cares for you. I’m saying if God is willing to die for you, He has good things planned for you.
The good that God worked from all of this with my wife is an ability for us (her especially) to relate to people we never could before. To be able to reach out in love and encouragement and say, “I understand I’ve felt it too”. God worked a job change and a move that led us to different doctors that were able to reach a diagnosis. I had no idea what would come of the brokenness that October, but I now know that this is the beauty God intended.
October was a month I always looked as a low point in life, a thing to try and forget rather than remember. Now through God’s grace and good doctors it is a month to remember that He is good and loving. These awareness days may get lost in the shuffle but for our family they are not just an awareness of what we deal with day in and day out, but an awareness of the sovereign God who loves and cares for us.
If you are suffering, I’m sorry. I may not know your exact situation, but I feel as though I can relate in some way. I’ve been in the bottom of the pit. I know what it feels like to be hoping for a rope to climb out but at the same to be unsure if you even had the strength necessary to climb out once the rope was there. Let me tell you, there is hope, there is a way and an end to the suffering. God is a God of love and compassion and while our circumstances are often more than we can handle (yes God gives you more than you can handle to say otherwise is a misinterpretation of Scripture), but it is never more than He can handle. He can take your broken and make it beautiful. I may not know you, but I love you and I’m praying for you and for God to strengthen and encourage you.
-Richie Gibson, Youth Pastor