Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (MCTD) is an extremely rare autoimmune disease. In fact, it is so rare that no one knows what causes it, and there is no cure. It is a combination of four separate autoimmune diseases that manifest in many different ways with many different symptoms. In a nutshell, if you have MCTD, your body slowly kills itself.
My mom was diagnosed with MCTD in 2003, even though she had started showing symptoms as far back as 1997. At the time, her doctors only gave her about five-seven years to live. They really had no idea what to expect or how to treat her, so she became a living case study. Experimental treatment after experimental treatment only seemed to delay the disease, not stop it. Medicines masked her symptoms, but only for so long. Her fight was marked with visits to multiple specialists, a few close calls, and a rapidly declining quality of life. She finally succumbed to her illness in 2015—12 years after her diagnosis.
Her story reminds me of Mark 5:24-34, where a diseased woman approaches Jesus in a crowd. The woman had heard about Jesus’ healing powers and went to see him. She had suffered from an incurable disorder for 12 years (sound familiar?). Like my mom, “she had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse” (v. 26). But the woman’s faith was so strong that she knew if she just touched Jesus’ robe, he would heal her. And he did.
But, what happens when you think your faith in God isn’t healing you? What happens when you believe, hope, and pray for a miracle, and it never comes?
Let’s briefly explore the terminology used here: “healed.” What does it mean to be healed? Is it different from being “cured?” In my experiences, they are different. Curing means “eliminating all evidence of disease,” while healing means “becoming whole.” Being cured involves the physical realm. Healing comes more on a spiritual and emotional level, and it’s a process we all go through in times of difficulty.
The woman in Mark’s story was physically cured of her disease, but was she healed? I believe she was. She spent 12 years being isolated and shunned from her community because of an unknown disease. But she still had faith that her circumstances could get better with Jesus. Her faith helped make her whole.
Ultimately, my mom was freed from her physical pain and suffering when her soul went to heaven, but she was never actually cured of her disease. However, I know she was healed when her time came because, through everything, she never lost her faith in God. Her faith sustained her and healed the emotional pain she experienced after being told she was terminal. When the end came, she was ready, and she was at peace.
My healing, however, took quite a bit longer to experience and continues to be an on-going process. In the months following my mom’s death, I walked through life numb to anyone and anything. Sure, I put on my big girl pants and acted strong for my family, but I wouldn’t dare let them see me blaming God for her illness and death. They couldn’t see me weeping or screaming at God, or cursing that He didn’t save her. They couldn’t watch as I sat at her tombstone begging, pleading, and bargaining with God to bring her back. They couldn’t know how depressed I really was or how cheated I felt that all my friends still had their moms.
One of my solaces during those darkest months was books—a lot of books. I read the Bible, as well as several books on grief, loss, faith, and the afterlife. I vigorously searched for some meaning to my plight. Some reasoning why certain people are cured and certain people aren’t; why, like the plot of Job, bad things happen to good people. In all of my research, God was trying to heal me—I just didn’t realize it yet.
My favorite book, which I still go back and read today, is called, When You Lose Someone You Love, God Will Comfort You by Randy Petersen. I purchased a well-worn copy off of Amazon almost as a joke, because I had lost someone I loved, but I sure didn’t feel comforted by God.
As I got into the book, it started to transform me. The Scriptures referenced and the poems included spoke to me on a personal level. The firsthand grief accounts made me feel less alone. Slowly, I was getting answers to my questions. I knew that if I kept immersing myself in the Bible, praying, and connecting with God, I would be OK.
Eventually, I stopped blaming God for my mom’s pain and suffering. I stopped blaming God for my own pain and suffering. I came to the realization (perhaps the conclusion God wanted me to reach all along) that suffering is a part of life. Not one person walks this Earth without suffering in one way or another. I learned that suffering itself does not come from God. Through suffering, we are healed by our faith. You see, suffering forces us to depend on God; to give our struggles to God and seek His refuge, strength, and healing power. Through faith, we are healed…but not necessarily cured of our physical sickness (though there are times God does grant both).
Lastly, I learned that it is important to always keep your faith, even in the darkest of times. The glory of God can be found in everything—even the pain and suffering. God is always there, ready and willing to heal our spirits. We just need to have a little faith.
For me, God’s healing power comes mainly in the form of writing. Writing has always brought me comfort. After my mom died, I started making it a point to write something every day. It has been extremely therapeutic and continues to heal my grief in ways I could never have imagined. Writing has been my saving grace.
In fact, I recently wrote an article on grief, and I’m in awe that it’s been shared thousands of times. God is providing more healing than I ever could have fathomed; healing that may not have ever occurred had I not walked this journey. My healing is becoming other people’s healing, and I owe it all to my faith that sustains.
You’ll enjoy this episode of our podcast where we discuss hope and faith: Hope: What Easter is Really All About – 033
You’ll also like When You’re Desperate to Know the Reason for Your Pain, What Your Grieving Friend Really Wants You to Know, Why We Can Look at the Dark Parts of Life With Hope, Battered Faith: Holding On to Hope Even When You Struggle, and When Bearing Their Burden Breaks You. #gritandgracelife