An intimate friend of mine hurt me very deeply the other day. He hurt me because he is trapped and has no where to turn. When that happens he turns on me. I always get the brunt of his frustration. This time, he said to me, “The doctors even act like there’s nothing wrong with you!”
Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. Psalm 4:9
Now that doesn’t seem like a statement that should bring pain, unless you know that I have a rare incurable disease called Sarcoidosis. I don’t even know how to explain this disease to you. It is a very real, very dangerous disease, but the people who have this disease…you probably wouldn’t know it from outward appearances. Most Sarkies are able to carry on day to day with the appearance of ‘normal’, but being one myself, I know how deceiving appearances can be.
The disease can manifest itself in any organ in the body as the immune system goes into overprotective status. This may sound good, but it’s not. At its worst sarcoidosis can lead to death. I think I know how Paul felt when he penned:
I won’t brag about myself unless it’s about my weaknesses. If I ever wanted to brag, I wouldn’t be a fool. Instead, I would be telling the truth. But I’m going to spare you so that no one may think more of me than what he sees or hears about me, especially because of the excessive number of revelations that I’ve had. Therefore, to keep me from becoming conceited, I am forced to deal with a recurring problem. That problem, Satan’s messenger, torments me to keep me from being conceited. I begged the Lord three times to take it away from me. But he told me: “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So I will brag even more about my weaknesses in order that Christ’s power will live in me. Therefore, I accept weakness, mistreatment, hardship, persecution, and difficulties suffered for Christ. It’s clear that when I’m weak, I’m strong. 2 Cor 12:5-10
The most horrible part of this disease (it’s different for every sarky) besides the fatigue, painful inflamed nodules, puzzled expressions of family and friends, leprous patches of skin, relentless cough, joint pain, muscle pain, eye symptoms, self doubt, affected internal organs, relentless cough, shakes, tics, spasms, labored breathing – did I say relentless cough? – and brain disturbances, is the fear of the unknown. No Sarky knows what is coming next. We live in constant anticipation of how this disease will manifest itself in the next outbreak.
I have heard many Sarkies say they would much rather have cancer because at least with cancer there are available drug regimens that may bring a cure.
I will say that as a former atheist I am so glad that God opened up my eyes to the Truth that can be found in His Son Jesus Christ. I look back at my former life and wonder how I would have coped with this dreadful disease apart from the knowledge of my Lord and Savior.
I am reading through Martin Luther’s House Postils, and he says it well:
But when a person suffers as a Christian he should say, I will bear this to the honor and glory of our Lord God, for before God I am guilty – all of me – head to toe – not only of the suffering, but of death. Therefore, in obedience under the will of God, I accept and endure it, be it grief, anxiety, persecution, hunger, nakedness, peril, or sword, and I will suffer it in staunch faith, so that GOD may be praised and glorified thereby.
In the next day’s sermon he preaches:
We have a champion over against anguish when our appearance becomes strained, our hearts dark and gloomy, our tongue speechless, and our head cannot think; then we must hold to this man who has overcome this terror by absorbing it within himself. As a result our anguish can no longer be as great as it was in his heart, for Christ overcame the greatest agony with his innocent heart, and with his perfectly pure blood, he extinguished and quenched the devil’s bitter fury and poisonous fiery darts so that we may be comforted by his conquest. The devil has already shot his fiery darts into him and pressed and pressed them into his heart, charging “You have fallen into God’s disfavor”… Such are the very darts he has extinguished in his innocent heart in his sinless body and pure blood, driving them so deep within that they have been blunted and no longer have power against us.
And the next:
Christ, through his agony in the Garden, took upon himself the poison and bitter hatred of the devil, at the same time he also took upon himself the full wrath and condemnation of our Lord God and drained that cup to the dregs so that we nay not have to suffer those things or even if we might be asked to bear suffering being in Christ, we would be able to bear that suffering and overcome it. God wants us to seek our consolation in that fact, and then, if spiritual terrors and despair do attack us, cling to our baptism in that man who for our sake has overcome all suffering. This we must firmly believe and not harbor any doubts about.
…we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Cor. 4:16-18
Father God, Thank you for this disease. Thank you for the promise of ever present help. Thank you that through your Son, Jesus, I no longer have to fear death or suffering. He has taken it all away and nailed it to the cross. Thank you for giving me the gift of faith to believe! Thank you that unintentionally or intentionally, when others wound me or I wound them, our hope is not in anyone but you, Jesus. Amen.