I’ve often been convinced the spiritual, emotional side of living with chronic illness is just as difficult as living with the pain and the multitude of physical problems. When we’re in good spirits, emotionally high, we can deal with almost anything but when these damaged bodies continue to throb and beat us up, it’s a difficult battle to win. Hundreds of times over the last 30 years I have sunk into the deep hole of depression, crying, wracked with self-pity and piling up the used Kleenex. I find I don’t like it in that hole. It’s dark and the whole world becomes dark, heavy and depraved to the point that one doesn’t want to go on living.
I can’t stand being that depressed and self-pity and I just don’t get along well together. I keep thinking of the proverbial clock I have mentioned to you so many times and can actually hear it’s tick, tock, as a reminder my life is passing by, with each swing of the pendulum. It pains me when I have to throw out outdated food that we haven’t used or see waste of any kind, least of all my own life. (No remarks please, about me being outdated…I know, I know.)
Surely, excuses abound for all of us who suffer chronic disease, injuries which have permanently changed our lives as well as chronic pain. We have dozens of reasons for giving up, being grouchy or just being miserable not only to ourselves but to everyone else. That behavior is such a waste of precious life, resources and relationships. President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “There are many ways of going forward, but there is only one way of standing still.”
As students of history know, he went on to become President in spite of having polio and living in constant pain and physical compromise. Many of us also have to learn there is a road forward although it might not be the road we have planned for or chosen.
Deep in our hearts we know when we are being disgusting because we feel it in our true hearts. Certainly, we all have the right to be grumpy, grouchy and any one of the other Seven Dwarfs but is that good enough? Shouldn’t our existence be more than that? Is it the highest calling to allow our pain and suffering to suck the very life out of the years we have?
There are many reasons humans suffer. We often get hung up on the physical suffering as we certainly may but there are many forms of pain in this world and today I’d like to tell you about three individuals who have overcome various forms of suffering to rise above.
Laura Hillenbrand, the author of those famous bestsellers SEABISCUIT in 2001 and more recently, UNBROKEN in 2010 is a beautiful young woman who was once offered a contract with Pond’s due to her beautiful skin. As a child she loved to ride horses and even contemplated becoming a jockey. Her education was in mid swing when she was struck by a difficult to diagnose disease now known to be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She went through years seeking diagnoses; years when she had difficulty turning over in bed and found showering impossible. She had fevers each day, pain and suffering to such an extent life was hell for her. In a quote from her in 2010, regarding her difficult life, she said, “I’m looking for a way out of here. I can’t have it physically, so I’m going to have it intellectually. It was a beautiful thing to ride Seabiscuit in my imagination. And it’s just fantastic to be there, alongside Louie as he’s breaking the NCAA mile record. People at these vigorous moments in their lives—it’s my way of living vicariously.”
Her books have gone on to bless millions of lives and sell millions of copies as well as being made into motion pictures. She found a way out that gave her fulfillment and joy as well as appealing to her true heart.
Another individual who overcame different types of handicaps is Dr. Ben Carson, the world famous neurosurgeon. He had to overcome abject poverty and racism to gain his positions of prominence. Brought up by a divorced, single mother who worked three jobs cleaning houses to provide for her two sons he was taught discipline. He and his brother were not allowed to watch more than a few hours of TV per week and were required to read two books each week and to write a book report for their Mom. They didn’t realize at the time that she, herself, could not read. She has since gone on obtain a college degree.
In his book THINK BIG, Dr. Carson says, “Some people complain about injustice in our society. They cannot be successful because everything is stacked up against them. Frequently I have heard individuals say that they have to be twice as good as anyone else to get equal breaks. Because of their ethnicity, language, or socio-economic background, they feel if they do not do things twice as well as the majority of the population, they will not receive equal opportunities.”
He continues, “Whether this is true or not is not the real issue. I believe that God expects us to do our best at everything we undertake. If we always do our best and trust in the Lord’s guidance, we automatically conduct our affairs better than most other individuals who do not have the same mindset. We do not have to compare our achievements with others. We need only to ask ourselves one question: Have I given my best?”
Dr. Carson is another individual with a true heart who went on to succeed, save lives and was awarded the Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2008. He is now running for President of the United States.
The third individual I would like to talk about today is J.K. Rowling, the well-known author of the HARRY POTTER series of seven books. She is famous throughout the world, has created characters and images known throughout the world and is incidentally rumored to be wealthier than the Queen of England.
She overcame abject poverty as a young single mother and states she was so poor she was just a step away from homelessness. She felt like a complete failure in her life. She also states, “So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that really mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”
Her history speaks for itself. Her life has radically changed after she was able to unleash her true heart.
Each roadblock in life comes with its own set of excuses. They are there for us if we wish to use them but remember, tick, tock…