This is a guest post from Mark Shawky - a graduate in Health Administration and life coach with a passion for helping others discover their best selves. You can follow him on twitter, @Shawky_Mark. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
Sickness is one of the very few things in life that can push you face down into the mud—even when you are already on your knees. I distinctly remember my doctor scribbling something in my patient folder, then gravely lifting her head and giving me a clear diagnosis. I was 23 and optimistic about treatment; 10 months later, I went into remission.
During the recovery process, I learned that enduring any kind of illness is truly a journey. Some ailments may be cured through a regiment of fluids, chicken soup, and aspirin. Others require a more intensive, long-term treatment plan. Unfortunately, I experienced the latter.
The illness spared me no mercy: my body and mind were both diseased. Yet in the midst of my struggle and on the path to recovery, I also discovered my soul and spirit were just as ill. I knew better than to question God about my circumstances, so I didn’t. I simply expected to get better and trusted that God would bring me through the fire. What I did not expect was that the heat of the fire would melt away my spiritual bondage and renew my mind, soul and spirit in a powerful and dramatic way.
Through my illness, God showed me that my own mind was held hostage by resentment, anger, insecurity, and grudges— all which did nothing but poison my life. It took a debilitating disease for me to awaken to the negative way in which I was living and thinking. I did not know what it meant to be thankful until I was no longer able to leave my bedroom to see what I could be thankful for. I did not truly know what it means to forgive others until I was incapable of feeding myself and had to rely on others for even my most basic needs.
Until I realized that I could not purchase better health or peace of mind, I did not truly understand the meaning of the phrase, “money cannot buy you happiness.” Until my life depended on it, I did not know what God meant when he said, “trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5).
But I did know one thing: God made me a promise that he would crown me in beauty for my ashes (Isaiah 61:3), granting me a double recompense for my former troubles (Isaiah 61:7). This meant I would have to make the trade.
To give my troubles to God and receive my reward, I had to learn forgiveness; surrender my emotional grievances; forgo the grudges that burdened me; and willingly combat the spite that lingered in my soul. If I was going to beat the spiritual sickness, I had to make a choice between pity and power. Nothing else but power would do.
While my doctor’s treatment plan was healing me of my physical ailments, God was healing me of my sick soul and broken spirit. Though I was once addicted to unnecessary reasoning and an unhealthy attachment to the past, I was now learning how to renew my mind through the spirit of God by leaving my wrong and negative thinking behind. I began to understand that He came that we may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
The weight of the pessimistic chains around my neck was heavy, but I realized I didn’t have to carry those chains anymore. By His grace, they had already been unshackled.
In life, good things and bad things will always be thrown your way. It is when we choose to accept both and still move forward that we are truly living. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I made the choice to use my illness as a stepping-stone to draw closer to God — but we should not wait until we are at our lowest and darkest point to seek Him. We have the freedom right now to either allow our painful or sinful pasts to hinder the future, or to renew our minds in recognition that, “Behold, I make ALL things new” (Revelations 21:5).
There’s no way I could have picked the trials and tribulations I would face in my life, and I certainly did not choose my illness. But I am glad I made the choice to overcome them. The Lord told us, “For I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”(Jeremiah 29:11). God truly used my illness as my cure.
For discussion: has God ever used your illness as your cure as well?