I knew when I started this blog last year that sharing my testimony would be a big part of it. I didn’t realize how hard that would be to do. For starters, how much information is too much? What and when do I share? What about the parts that aren’t finished yet?
I don’t like to go back to those dark days and I went back and forth between being heavy on the details of my story or just sharing the conclusions I came to in the end. I decided to include a little bit of backstory so you can see what led me to where I am now – maybe you’ll be able to relate to some of it. This hasn’t been a quick journey. I have not been a fast learner. I did not realize at the beginning how much religion I had to untangle from my deepest, closely-held beliefs to be able to receive the truth that would start to set me free.
This story is not really about me. It’s about healing and freedom and whether or not God is a good God who can be trusted. It’s about finding the answer to a question every follower of Christ needs to have firmly settled in their heart because the enemy takes full advantage of where we lack knowledge:
I started getting unexplainable symptoms in my teen years but no doctor we went to could help find the root cause or even the right medication to help with symptoms. The symptoms were sometimes severe but since they came and went and no one could find out why, I decided I could live with them and eventually stopped seeing doctors.
Then, in 2012, everything hit the fan. As one doctor put it, “all the wheels are falling off” – it happened so fast. We had our third child the previous year, were in a new home, I had just finished my first half marathon. One day after a prolonged head cold and a few months of electric-shock type pain shooting through my arms and legs, I couldn’t feel my feet, I felt like my head was covered in gaping open wounds, and my body thrashed around with whatever was going on inside of it. I’d never experienced feelings before like the ones I was having and I had trouble even describing them. The one thing I clung to was that it would be over soon and I could get back to life. I didn’t know then that it was just the beginning…
Fast forward a couple of years and we were not much closer to answers than we were at the start. What we did have was a severely drained bank account, a lot less hope, three small children whose mom could barely take care of them and a dad who was trying to hold everything together on his own. There was so much fear in our home – it seemed to color everything and brought with it such a heavy darkness and despair. The illness, whatever it was, attacked my immune and nervous systems and though we spent all we had and saw dozens of doctors and specialists, no one could help me find healing or relief from the bizarre, debilitating symptoms. There were drugs to try with the western medical doctors, lots of supplements and detoxing and treatments with the alternative practitioners and specialists, and later, when I took things into my own hands, special healing foods and diets and emotional cleansing. But another year went by and not much changed.
It was during this time that I had my first real faith crisis.
I grew up as a Pastor’s Kid. I knew all about God, I knew His Word and read it regularly, and all growing up I heard about His goodness. Even so, I’d always been afraid to trust Him completely because I believed God’s definition and my definition of “good” didn’t quite line up. I saw babies die and people struggling with sickness or not able to pay their bills and to me, that was not good. I saw my parents struggle with lack due to constant medical challenges and they were well-respected for their faith and how they dealt with these challenges. I always believed that since they glorified God through each hardship, God was using the hardships to bring Himself glory, but I saw the toll it took on them. None of us knew back then the magnitude of what Christ had already accomplished for us, how to use our authority, or that the Spirit of the living God inside of us was big enough to overcome any circumstance.
If you’d asked me at any point before “the illness” why bad things happen, I knew the churchy answer and could back it up with what I’d been taught certain verses meant. It would have been along the lines of, “His ways are not our ways and we can’t know His will but He is good.”
Those answers had always sounded nice and appeased those who asked before but when one of those “bad things” became very personal to me, I realized with startling clarity that they were the vaguest, lamest answers ever. And they weren’t enough to sustain me during what I was going through. When the stuff hits the fan, religious platitudes just don’t cut it.
I can’t count how many times I cried out to God to save me in the midst of this. I cried out day after day, week after week, month after month, desperate for answers – for Him to rescue me if He loved me at all.
Before too long, my times with Him were tainted by bitterness and me throwing His Word back at Him. In my mind, I felt I had done my part and He was not holding up His end of the bargain. I had been good but He was not being good back to me. I had served Him and He was letting me down. It’s so ridiculous it makes me almost laugh now (almost) – the idea that I had been faithful but God had not – but I did not know then what I know now and with what I’d been taught about Him and how to be a “good Christian”… I can see why I thought that.
After I vented to Him, I’d feel so guilty and repent for getting upset and try to get back into a place of praising Him again (at least with my mouth). He knew what He was doing. Who was I to question Him?
I would see something wonderful about God in His Word and get excited, then, when I didn’t see anything change, get back into trying to figure out how to inspire Him to move His hand to heal me – as if I wanted it more than He did. As if I was more good that He is.
If I was honest with myself during this time (and I can be now that I’m looking back), this following Christ stuff wasn’t really helping me when the rubber hit the road. But the alternative to not believing in God was even worse than believing in a God who allowed me to suffer so. At least with the latter, there was the hope of heaven and some verses that brought me comfort when I read them. I felt betrayed by God and very… stuck. I said I loved Him. I said I knew His plans for me were good. I said I knew He would heal me. I hoped my words would make it true. It’s easy to say words but how can you truly love someone you aren’t even sure you can trust? How can you trust someone or see them as a good when they seem inconsistent and volatile – one minute healing someone and another minute withholding healing or just not stepping in to help?
I had a lot of symptoms from my nervous system going haywire and my immune system not doing what it was designed to do. “Torment” is the word that comes to mind to best describe it without too much detail. There was a very real physical battle, but the one raging inside of me was maybe even more tormenting. It included a battle over everything I thought I knew about God and was depicted in my mind as a recurring vision.
The vision replayed over in my head every time I felt my prayers were met with silence, every time I got a new diagnosis, with each final pronouncement of, “we just don’t know”, and each time I read something in the Bible that was so vastly different than what I was living.
In the vision I was stranded in a sea of waves by myself. I gasped for breath as my head bobbed above and beneath the waves, trying desperately to stay afloat. I’ve never been a great swimmer and each time I went under, I stayed a little longer. The waves were so big and my strength was running out. And all the while there was Jesus, standing off to the side, silent and still.
You know that saying, “your lifeguard walks on water” in reference to Jesus? Well, in my vision, He could walk on the water, but He didn’t. He chose not to, for some reason that I couldn’t figure out. It was devastating. It was worse to know that He could save me and didn’t than to have Him incapable of doing so. He was the only One who could reach out and save me… and He didn’t. He stood there, not far off, just out of reach, watching silently as I begged and pleaded and cried out for help.
Why? Why, if God loved me, did He not help me? Why, if He was good, if He was big enough, if He cared at all, would He stand by while I and my family suffered so? My own father would do anything – ANYTHING – to see me well. Was my earthly father really kinder than God? Was this all there was to being a Christian: the promise of eternal life someday and just trying to win people for Christ and “struggle well” until then?
There were not many people who knew much of what was going on at the time, but there were a few who offered some comments that I know were meant as encouragement but at the time were anything but. I’m sharing them here because I believe this is where so much of the church is today. We have created religious sayings meant to offer comfort that have no Biblical basis at all – probably why they are not helpful in a crisis situation.
Some said that healing was promised in Heaven but never was it promised here on earth. I didn’t know enough to argue with that so I tucked it away as a possibility.
Others told me that maybe God was using sickness to try to teach me something and told me the teacher is always silent during the test.
Or that this was to draw me closer to Him. Or, “we don’t know why this is happening but we know it’s for His glory.”
Or that God would never give me more than I could handle, as though it was God who gave me sickness.
Or that He would heal me but He was waiting for the time that would bring Him the most glory.
None of it was encouraging to me and I would later find out that none of it was Biblical for a New Testament Believer, but that last one really threw me off kilter. What kind of good Father sits back while their child suffers until it fulfills their Father’s plan to receive glory? Was He so small that He had to resort inflicting pain on people to get their attention? It didn’t seem right and yet it might help explain my circumstances if it was true.
I could not reconcile any of these with a good God and yet at the same time they confirmed my deep heart beliefs about His character. I wanted to love Him but misconceptions about His character kept me from getting too close and I had never felt the distance so acutely as I did when I needed Him most.
Another thing I heard a few times was that it was a faith issue and that if I would just have enough faith, I would be healed. My very first thought when I heard this was, “If that’s the case, I’m screwed.” There was no way that I, as tired and struggling as I was, could muster up enough faith to move God’s hand to heal me. I’d already tried that and I was never enough. If it was just a matter of faith, mine didn’t feel strong enough to take this giant on.
I remember the first time someone told that it was ALWAYS God’s will to heal. I thought it was pretty dang prideful to presume to always know God’s will about anything. I had been taught that we puny humans can’t profess to ever know God’s will because “His ways are higher than our ways” (a verse which, by the way, is talking about God’s goodness and grace and never mentions sickness).
I knew God could heal and I could even believe that maybe He wanted to (usually) but He didn’t heal everyone – simple experience told me that! I believed He was big enough and powerful enough and I wanted to believe He would but it’s just not what I saw.
If God always wanted to heal, why wouldn’t He heal me? Why were so many other people sick and dying? People who were way tighter with God and loved Him more than I did. People who knew the Bible better than I did. People who had way better attitudes and expectations and more experience than I did. People who mentored me and loved the Lord with all their heart and seemed to have way stronger faith than me (there is that religion rearing its head – looking at the good acts of people rather than the finished work of Christ). These people were still struggling with sickness and even death. Christian or not, it didn’t seem to make any difference. In fact, it almost looked like Christians were sicker than anyone else. I didn’t necessarily believe God caused people to be sick, but He obviously allowed it for some reason. Right?
There is probably not a single one of us who has not lost a loved one or watched someone we love struggle with illness. I looked at my experiences and compared them with that simple statement, “God always wants to heal,” and I was offended and confused.
There is something about being in a desperate place that can make you willing to take a closer look at things you’ve always regarded as truth and this is right where I found myself. If there was any chance that what this person said was true, I had to know for myself and learn why I didn’t see it.
I started on a journey to find out what I – not my parents, not my church, not my favorite author – what did I, Kristin, believe about healing? It wasn’t enough to hope for it and it wasn’t enough, as a Christian, to say I believed or didn’t believe in it without sufficient Biblical evidence.
I had just started learning that there is a big difference between how God deals with us under the old and new covenant (thank you, Joseph Prince) so I figured since Jesus was the exact representation of God, I would start by looking for an instance where He didn’t heal someone who came to Him. I had a lot of other questions now that I was committed to digging in, but if I found an example of God using sickness or Jesus withholding healing, the other questions didn’t really matter. I had settled in my heart to be totally open to whatever God wanted to show me, even if it meant what I’d always believed was wrong.
I got my Bible and my highlighter and began to read.
To be continued…