“When we find a redemptive perspective in our suffering, it ceases to be suffering.” Victor Frankyl
Yesterday, my wife posted a picture of me on Facebook as I was beginning a new course of treatment. It is that post which has even led me to write anything at all about my R.A. Many people expressed concerns, asked questions, and offered “get well” and prayers as a way of comfort and encouragement. (All of those were overwhelming to say the least and for each one my wife and I were very grateful.) So, here is a little insight into my R.A. and hopefully a word of encouragement to you or someone who may have moments of “suffering” which can appear at any time and in many forms.
It was 4 years ago I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Being 25, an expectant father for the first time, I was not exactly thrilled to hear that sort of diagnosis. I had witnessed my mom fight the disease for years. She never seemed defeated. She always participated in life with a smile. But there were days when R.A. just won. I thought of a neighbor I had who was also diagnosed and after years of battling she reached a point where walking to her mailbox became a near impossible take. Instantly thoughts of being feeble, weak, and unable to move ran through my mind. Sure, modern medicine is better than ever before. Yes, science has learned more about the disease than has ever been known. Yet, it remains uncured. I was 25 and was being told I had an incurable disease.
No, it is not cancer. Nor is it immediately life threatening. Those truths are comforting for sure. R.A. is an autoimmune disease that essentially tells your white blood cells to attack all cartilage in the body as though the cartilage is a foreign substance. Doctors are not sure what causes R.A. If untreated, a persons’ hands and feet would be drastically distorted and essentially all movements would cease or exist at a minimal level. This was my diagnosis, my disease, my future.
I came across the Victor Frankyl quote I shared above a few years back. I remember being forced to stop what I was doing and just think about how BIG that quote is, what it means, how it can be applied, etc. I instantly thought of my disease, the personal pain from it when it is flared up, the depression that always seems to be knocking, and the myriad of thoughts one might experience when suffering through a physical ailment. How could this suffering be redeemed? How could there be a purpose for it?
I might not have realized it then but what I was really wrestling with was my personal belief in the sovereignty of God. Did my diagnosis surprise God? Did he plan for this to be a part of my life? Big questions with even larger implications. It was not until recently though that I was able to answer those questions with confidence. It was no accident that I was diagnosed with R.A. It has a purpose and beautiful purpose, no matter how painful it must be to fulfill that purpose.
Humility. That’s my understanding of my R.A. and its’ overall redemptive purpose in my life. The disease has forced my hand in numerous ways to stop relying on myself, whether it is in getting dressed some mornings for work (Thanks Charity for the help) or learning how to share grief and hardship. In multiple arenas I have learned that “Ryan Frontz” is not invincible, unbreakable, nor self sufficient. That is a big lesson for a man like me to learn. I am not quick to differ to others, depend on others, or make myself open to others. R.A. has forced my hand in this area. When I allow myself to not see R.A. as a disease that is transforming my joints and muscles but as a disease that is also transforming my heart and my mind, I become thankful. My God did not give me this as some curse, nor as some accident, but he gave it to me for me to rely on him even more. For me to rely on others more and ultimately less on myself.
I am not sure what type of suffering you may have gone through or be going through. Suffering appears in many ways and can appear at any time. I would just encourage you to rest in knowing that God is sovereign and whatever suffering you are encountering, it is no mistake. Your suffering can be redeemed to serve a greater purpose! So redeem it! Through what appears to be that toughest moment, the darkest hour, allow God to reveal to you your sufferings purpose and let that purpose be fulfilled.
Thanks for letting me share some scattered thoughts on my R.A. and the perspective I am learning to adopt when dealing with it.