Redemptive Suffering

“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.

Rituxan

First treatment using Rituxan.

This is the Day…

It almost seems impossible that some teenager could go through today with no actual recollection of what took place on 9/11/01. For anyone who can remember it will surely be a day and moment forever etched into our minds for as long as we are capable of remembering. The emotions that swelled up within everyone were unparalleled to any we had experienced before. Fear gripped us all in some fashion. A loss for words was obvious in a silent but crowded room. The need to clinch ever so tightly to the ones we held dear reigned supreme. The planes hit. The evil of that day laughed. God was still in control.

That is the interesting truth of 9/11 for myself to remember. God was in control that day. Did the lyrics of the children’s song “This is the Day, this is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it” lose their truth? Did God take a break from accomplishing His will? Absolutely not. God was and is in control. My prayers on 9/11 were filled with questions, fear, and even the occasional “Dear Jesus come into my heart” just in case (on that day I fully expected Nicolae Carpathia to walk on a TV screen and the end times would be upon us). Never did my prayer thank God for being in control. Never. Yet, He was. He is.

So on this day where we mourn what took place, reflecting the lives loss due to extreme evil personified, allow us to rejoice. Not only for the sacrifice of men and women who risked their lives for the good of others or the soldiers who fought in wars immediately following this act of terrorism. No, rejoice also in knowing that God was in control that day seated on the throne. God is in control today seated on His throne which means that for today we can sing with confidence “This the Day, this is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it”

self help

i am the worlds largest critic. obviously i could never truly know if i am but i feel this way. i criticize almost everything that occurs in my life. sometimes i do it on purpose and then other times i just do it cause it feels natural. i am sure i am not alone in this. i am writing because lately i have become fed up with this. i have felt God dealing with me on this issue and putting me in my place. 

there are many things in life that occur where i could over analyze and critique every aspect of the situation. i often times do this. and lately its been entering my spiritual walk. my walk with Christ has become subject to this criticism. not Christ but the things like church or other believers. this is a problem. for sometime now i have fine tuned the ability to sit in church and find everything that needs to be done differently. (if you could get payed for this i would make millions.) i sit in my pew and find all the faults of the music. the drummer is off rhythm. (if you know me well that last statement is rather ironic seeing as i can not even clap and sing at the same time) there is someone in the choir thats off key. someone is falling asleep in the choir. then comes the preaching. instead of being a true disciple and wanting to learn from the word of God no matter how its presented i often times criticize the message. “the delivery is all wrong. there is a better point to be made here.  if i was speaking i would say this and not say this.” thoughts like this and many others occur on almost a weekly basis. this is dangerous. 

this is dangerous, as i have begun to notice, because of the impact it begins to have on ones personal walk. i recognize that there will be things done that i might not agree with or i would have gone a different route to accomplish something. however, it does not make me right and the other person wrong. the other reason i have found fallen off in my walk is that i have begun to prepare my heart for the failures of men instead of the truth of God. i no longer walk into the service and long to hear and connect with God. i look to see what else the church will do wrong today. (i am being very transparent right now because i feel like i am not the only one who goes through this)

instead, God has challenged me to start preparing my heart before the service. before i arrive at church. to spend time and talk with Him and connect with Him early in the day.(i feel this connection should take place everyday but for the specific blog i will stay with sunday) how can i honestly crticize the works of others when i will not even spend time to talk and connect with God myself? why do i fail to find the truth that is being spoken in music and through the word? because i am not connecting with God on my own. i have become the type of believer i swore i would never be: Believer enters sanctuary… sits in the same pew for a record 400th consecutive week… crosses arms… and states “ok God bless me”

i feel so ashamed to even admit this. however, there is power and accountability in admitting when i am wrong. i have no problem saying when i am right. so pray for me. i honestly hate that i struggle with this. i know i am not alone though. and if you can see yourself doing the same i challenge you to stop finding the flaws of life and begin to find the truth of God.