Life never goes the way we plan it. There’s always a curve ball, or a mountain, or a complete redirection from God that we didn’t see coming. Sometimes it’s just a little glitch, something that we can easily work through and then move forward again. Other times, though, we may find ourselves facing a mountain or new path that seems so incredibly insurmountable that we question every belief we have ever held and we know without a doubt that life will never be the same again. As I have continually learned over the last eight years, it is these times that can make or break our faith.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was very sick and needed more than just an ER visit to get better. After talking with my parents, I made the decision to withdrawal from my classes so that I could go home, see my doctor, and concentrate on getting well. All the while, I had no doubt that whatever was wrong would be taken care of and I would be back at school in January. Enter life changing diagnosis.
After seeing my doctor and explaining my symptoms, he felt certain that I had endometriosis and he scheduled me for a diagnostic laparoscopy, which proved his diagnosis correct. Endometriosis is a disease in which the endometrial tissue, which normally lines the inner uterus, grows in and around other areas of the abdominal and pelvic cavity, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and bowels. This tissue behaves much the same way the endometrium does, growing during a woman’s monthly cycle and then breaking down and bleeding during menstruation. Endometriosis lesions, however, have no escape from the body, and the buildup of tissue and blood can cause pain, inflammation, and scar tissue. My doctor explained that he had removed all the endometriosis he had found during surgery and then told me about several possible treatment options to help prevent continued growth of the disease. There is no cure for endometriosis, though, so none of these options were certain to keep me from further problems.
After my diagnosis, I realized that things weren’t going to be as simple as I had originally thought. I had all intentions of returning to school, but within weeks of surgery, I was experiencing more pain and I knew my battle was far from over. Throughout the whole process, I was constantly praying for healing and asking God to work things out so I could return to school and get on with my life. Then, in the midst of pain and treatment, I received notification from my school that I owed nearly $1,500 for the semester and wouldn’t be able to enroll again until the bill was settled. Had I stayed in school, my parents and I wouldn’t have paid a cent thanks to scholarships and a federal Pell grant. My early withdrawal changed all that, though, and voided my grant and one of my scholarships.
It was about this time that I started feeling completely overwhelmed by everything that had happened and the way it was all playing out. This wasn’t how my life was supposed to be at this point. I wanted to be enjoying classes and social events, not sitting at home in pain, feeling more and more depressed each day. I continued praying and reading my Bible, searching for answers, but I was struggling. I had so many questions and doubts and I just couldn’t see why any of this had happened to me. Getting sick was one thing, but a chronic, life-altering illness that had me in severe daily pain and was changing everything I ever knew? What was I supposed to do with that?
Over the next several months, I had two more surgeries and explored several different treatment options, as well as doctors. Nothing helped, and I was now taking strong painkillers on a daily basis just to be able to function somewhat normally. I never stopped believing in God, but my faith in His plan for me was definitely wavering. I couldn’t see purpose in the pain I was dealing with, couldn’t see what I was supposed to be doing now that I wasn’t in school and had no immediate plans or financial means to return. I tried working, but the daily pain and intense flare-ups, as well as the frequent doctor’s appointments, caused me to miss too much work. A year after my diagnosis, I was already on my fourth job. Not exactly the resume I wanted to be building.
Despite my doubts and struggle, though, God started to show me little blessings along the way. My youngest sister was born to my dad and stepmom a year after my diagnosis, and I was able to be there for her birth and watch her grow up through her early years, something that wouldn’t have been possible if I had been away at school. The following year I was finally able to pay off my tuition balance and re-enroll in school, this time at a community college close to home. While not what I had originally envisioned for myself, I found the community college atmosphere to be a welcome surprise. I had more flexibility in my schedule, which allowed me to take classes only two or three days a week and kept me from getting overwhelmed or behind when the pain would flare.
Once I was involved in school again, my faith fared somewhat better. I could see the good in things again, and I wasn’t as depressed as I had been during that first year. I still wondered, though, why this disease and the accompanying struggles were part of God’s plan for me. I still wondered at the ultimate purpose of it all. I found part of that answer the summer after I went back to school. That was when I met Jeremy, my now husband. We quickly became friends, and that fall we started dating. If nothing else, I know the journey I’ve had has led me to him. Had life followed my path, I would have still been away at school, possibly working, and Jeremy and I most likely wouldn’t have met and been able to forge the strong friendship that founded our relationship.
To say that life is easier because of the blessings I’ve found wouldn’t really be true. Life is hard. I still have pain on a daily basis, with frequent flare ups that leave me bed ridden. I was able to complete my associate’s degree without any major issues, but my final years working toward my bachelor’s degree were tough. I eventually finished online because the unpredictable pain, bleeding, and fatigue made it too hard to attend classes. The same proved true during my first full time job after finishing my degree, and I have been unemployed for a year now. That of course, creates all sorts of other ramifications, mostly financial, so, no, life isn’t easy. But the blessings God shows me bring peace and a sense of purpose to an otherwise difficult journey. During the last year, especially, I’ve seen how God works all things for His good. My dad has been extremely ill, facing a life threatening disease, and I am thankful that I haven’t been bound by a job that would keep me from being there for him. Despite the struggles we are all facing, Jeremy and I were able to be married earlier this year, and my dad was there to walk me down the aisle. For me, it really was a picture of God’s faithfulness.
And truly, what more can any of us ask for? We live in a world plagued by sin and disease and disaster, and Jesus himself told us that in this world we will have trouble. The promise and the purpose lie in that He has already overcome it all. Perhaps that is the purpose that we need to remember every time life presents a curveball or a mountain – that He has already overcome whatever it is we are facing, that without struggle, without pain, we would have no need for Him in our lives, no way of seeing His faithfulness displayed amidst all else. That is what I have come to rely on, specifically the words of Lamentations 3:22-23:
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
No matter what I am facing, His faithfulness prevails and blooms like the most beautiful rose. There may be thorns, and they will most definitely hurt, but the beauty of His faithfulness makes it all worthwhile.
Rachel is 27 and recently married her best friend, Jeremy. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and has previously worked in mental health counseling. While she searches for a career that can coexist with her daily endometriosis pain, Rachel is also looking for ways to encourage other women who face similar situations. She enjoys writing and hopes to use that medium to help others. Rachel cherishes her roles as daughter, big sister, and aunt, and one day hopes to add mother to that list. She also enjoys reading, cooking, and singing. You can connect with her on Facebook at facebook.com/racheleighogston or follow her on Twitter @mrshogston.
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