I felt old as a teenager and ancient in my early twenties. My memories of pain-free days as a young mom are few and far between. Now in my forties, I feel younger than I did two decades ago. While it strikes me as strange sometimes, it shouldn’t surprise me. Until my early thirties I struggled with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Every day began with the same mantra, “I can do this. I can make it through another day.”
All that changed with a simple, faith-filled prayer late one night. There had been many simple, faith-filled prayers before that one, but that night God answered in a miraculous way. Things changed. I woke the next morning with energy and a new hope for the day. I’ve been sick, I’ve been discouraged, I’ve been weary since then, but neither the chronic fatigue nor the fibromyalgia has returned. It’s an undeserved blessing, one for which I am grateful every day.
I would hate to return to the fatigue of those years, and yet I would hate to live these years without those experiences. There are so many things I learned in that time that I need every day. God used sickness in a powerful way to dispel my independence and to teach me about prayer. I began to learn about empathy as I lay exhausted on the couch, trying to pay attention to my two-year-old. I had to say “no” more times than I can count, and yet it’s a skill that still comes hard to me. Sickness taught me to value the temple that our bodies are and to take care of myself and others in ways that have proved valuable.
Chronic illness was a school that taught me things I would have otherwise have had no interest in learning. It pushed me into places that I would not have chosen to go. It changed my perception of myself and of others. In some ways, I experienced age before my time and am now given the opportunity to live my real age.
What has caught my attention lately is how common this is. Maybe not the exact circumstances, but the reality that we experience things for a purpose. Today’s trials have every opportunity to be tomorrow’s joys. Today’s hardship is training for tomorrow’s joy, and for tomorrow’s challenges. What we do with today matters, not only for how well we’ll sleep tonight but also for how well equipped we will be for tomorrow and the days, weeks and months that follow.