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“Have faith,” they’d say, but they don’t bother anymore. “Just believe God will heal her and he will.” Well, he didn’t, at least he hasn’t yet. He promised a day when there will be no more pain, or sorrow, or sickness, or tears, and we believe that, but for the time being, it’s just not happening.
The Apostle Paul found strength in weakness. If God isn’t going to grant an easy out for Elizabeth and me, I need that strength, because right now I don’t know how I can get much weaker. As a man, it embarrasses me to say that. I don’t have to look much beyond a few seats away in church to see others who have to endure more than we. Is this test more than we can bear? Our Bible says it’s not.
So what about this thing called faith? It’s been 20 years since Elizabeth was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. We both can say that her right side paralysis, wheelchair confinement, and dependence on me and others for even her most basic and intimate needs, far from replacing our faith with disillusionment, has increased our faith. Every day is a struggle, but each new day has the grace we need to face the adversity of this disease.
But is that all there is? Is there no sense to it all? No meaning? I’ve asked that question, and frankly it’s replaced the other one: “Why won’t you heal her?” As Jesus withholds his healing, he shows me that he too has a kind of multiple sclerosis that prevents him from doing what he wants to do. Jesus, the glorified Son of the living God, who sits at the right hand of the Father, has MS? Yes! Of course he does.
He taught us that we, those of us who are gathered in his name, are his body and he is the head. We are his arms and feet, his eyes and tongue, we hear for him and show his compassion for him. We are his touch and voice. And oh, how it must frustrate him when his body fails to work like he wants it to. I know Elizabeth’s frustration when she can’t lift herself from the toilet seat, and I know my own discomfort when I have to walk into a public restroom for women to help her.
I wonder. Am I the Lord’s right arm and leg, so beset with a paralysis that I fail him when he wants to lift someone who can’t stand? And just like I have to come alongside Elizabeth and compensate for the way her body fails her, who has to do his work when I fail?
I’ve said that the bond that holds our marriage together has made her disease my disease. I’ve come to realize that the bond I have in Jesus Christ heals me and can cure the paralysis in his body. So I’m back to praying for healing, not for Elizabeth’s MS, but for my own.
Dick Peterson is one of Crossroads' elders. This piece was originally written for a ministry called "Music For The Soul", and a songs and stories CD they produced for caregivers titled, Dignity.