People make mistakes. People sin too. Our sins and our mistakes can have negative and long-reaching impacts on other peoples’ lives beyond our own. That’s just the way of life in this fallen world. Romans 6:23a “For the wages of sin is death…” I suppose God could have made it so that though the human race fell, our sins didn’t affect others but only our relationship with God as individuals, yet in His divine purpose He allowed sin to affect others and Himself so deeply that He actually died for it and by it.
Therefore, in this world, sin affects others:
- A mother can drink alcohol while pregnant and her child is born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
- A man speeding on his way to work, taking only his needs into consideration while driving, can hit and maim the bicyclist who was sharing the road.
- The workplace gossip can spread slander causing another employee to suddenly be among the unemployed.
- A wife can cheat on her husband and with her own hands tear down the family she had once built with him.
Sinless mistakes affect others too:
- A worker operating a crane can have a low blood sugar and crash the crane and its load into surrounding buildings, endangering people.
- A teacher may be tired while grading papers and give the wrong paper that “F”.
- The friend passes along information that she didn’t know was meant to be private and there are consequences.
This week I’ve struggled with my own questions over how a combination of sins and mistakes others have made have powerfully changed the course of my life repeatedly, especially with regards to my health.
The nutshell version:
- Celiac Disease – Despite complaints all my life of gut problems, nobody took me seriously and it wasn’t till 2010 that I was diagnosed at the age of approximately 26. 26 years of diarrhea, anxiety, and gut pain.
- Motility Disorder – When I complained that going gluten free wasn’t enough and I still needed help, I was ignored and told to “live with it”. A few more years of suffering continued as the SIBO infection got worse. Still working daily to manage it.
- Leg Deformities – In the 4th grade I began complaining of leg pains, and my abnormal gait is noted by a psychologist in the notes I received as an adult in a stack of papers from my school. I was brought to the doctor who dismissed it as growing pains. By high school I could barely walk and was taking narcotics. I was told by the surgeon who eventually straightened and reconstructed both of my legs that if I’d been put in braces years ago, I may not have needed these surgeries.
- CRPS – The surgeries lead to developing CRPS. If I’d had no surgeries (because I’d had proper treatment), I’d likely have no CRPS. After my surgeries, I now know that people close to me noticed both the pain I was experiencing as well as the color changes in my legs, the swelling, and all the symptoms of CRPS, plus eventually the many bone fractures. I was back in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, nobody helped me advocate for myself to find a doctor who would actually listen to me, and I didn’t have the knowledge and know-how at the time to advocate for myself. When I learned to take charge of my own healthcare years later (2008, 2009), a few neurologists tested me but diagnosed me as a looney instead of actually listening rather than trusting only their medical equipment and tests (EMG and MRI do not show CRPS Type 1). After 10 years, it’s now moderately-severe CRPS and there’s no going back.
For years I was told that it “was all in [my] head” or that I “wanted attention”. The mental/emotional pain of this dismissal of my true and legitimate physical pain caused me to question my sanity repeatedly. I wondered if I really was “making it up” or losing my mind. Eventually I did “lose my mind,” mostly because I wanted to escape the pain or find help and nobody would help me decrease the pain so I just wanted to die as an escape.
I realize this is hard stuff to read if you know me. Here’s where I can speak frankly about it, however. There are many people today who are surviving chronic pain and being told it’s “all in [their heads]”. Even today, with all of our medical advances…or perhaps because of all of our “medical advances” which place more weight on test results than patient description of symptoms. “Listen to the patient: He is telling you the diagnosis” – Sir William Osler, 1904. Sadly, many people have no family or friend support; some only have online support groups to turn to, if that. These support groups, filled with similarly struggling individuals and often little to no oversight/administration, are not always be the healthiest places to receive one’s sole source of support.
Yes, my life would be almost entirely different had my health problems been properly attended and treated years ago. Frustratingly, it’s not just one disease that was missed again and again, but a menagerie of diseases covering a broad scope of medical specialties (gastroenterology, neurology, psychology, orthopaedic medicine, you name it) that seemed to scoot under the radar no matter how much self-advocacy I employed, no matter how many doctors I saw, no matter how much I complained (which I learned early on not to do too much since it only brought more “suck it up” comments).
The questions that have bounced around in my head include:
- Why did this happen? or perhaps HOW was this allowed to happen (again and again)?
- Why didn’t the people who were supposed to protect me, advocate for/with me and treat my medical problems do so?
- What would my life be like now if I didn’t have to carry the consequences of neglect, misdiagnoses, and diseases which have become much more severe than they may have been if I’d been treated properly?
But you know what? I can’t live there.
I can’t live each day trying to find the answers to those questions. In part because there are no answers that would likely make me truly feel better except for one, which I’ll get to in a second. Also because digging for answers by asking past doctors and family members questions like those above would open old wounds and cause the hard work I’ve done to heal family relationships to entirely blow up in my face. I’ve chosen to value the relationships I currently have with my family over getting (likely unsatisfactory and defensive) answers to my questions. How much of it was others’ sin and how much of it was human error or mistake? God is judge; I am not. I may never know till I get to heaven, and I suppose at that point it really won’t matter.
The cold hard fact is that this stuff, though it impacts me every day, is a part of my past. Today is a new day and I can move forward. I don’t need to add bitterness and anger to the load.
My future is impacted but not dictated by my past.
How can I be confident about moving forward and not allowing the past to hurt me further by stealing my future? Well, it’s because Romans 6:23 doesn’t end at “For the wages of sin is death”. No, it goes on to say “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” So while the fruit of my own sin in my life and the lives of others’ (since my sin also hurts others) produces death, there is a solution and it’s free. The lovely and amazing thing about a gift, a FREE gift, is that you have to TAKE IT in order to MAKE IT YOURS. You can’t say it’s yours until you claim it and lay hold of it. Since it’s free, though I’m poor, I can lay hold of it and make it my own.
God Himself is the Free Gift, God Himself is the Answer, God Himself is the Solution. God Himself will wipe away my tears and comfort me with His love. God Himself suffered death and sin at the hands of others. God Himself IS ENOUGH.
Only Jesus! Only Jesus!
Give us Jesus, we cry
Only Jesus! Only Jesus!
The Pearl of greatest price
– “Only Jesus” by Sovereign Grace Music
Whenever I hear the chorus to the song above, my soul reaches out. I can feel it in my chest. To ascribe it a picture, you could say that there’s a woman playing on the floor with children’s blocks in a dark room. She’s trying to fit the blocks together like leggos but they just don’t seem to want to stick; the sizes aren’t right and she’s frustrated because she wants to make something organized out of the mess of blocks. That is a picture of my soul brooding over the questions I listed above, ignoring all else to her own detriment as she tries to make sense of the how’s and the why’s and the what if’s; pouring out her energy into fruitless endeavors.
When she hears that chorus, “Only Jesus! Only Jesus! Give us Jesus, we cry,” she immediately recognizes the tune because it resonates with her very purpose for being – Yes, That’s Right – “Only Jesus! Only Jesus! I just need Jesus! I NEED Him, I WANT Him, I want Him NOW, Give Him to me so I can worship Him! Where is He? Oh, where is my Lover?” She looks up from the blocks to see the Answer, the source of peace that removes frustration, her one true Joy. She stands up and reaches up to touch Him, shining her truest smile, expecting good things as the light of His presence washes over her and over all that is around her. The blocks? They don’t matter anymore. They are there, in the background, but her focus is fully on Him, on her Free Gift and Salvation. She’s now standing and she can move about. She can take hold of something other than the blocks once she recognizes that “Pearl of greatest price” and drops the blocks from her once tense-with-anger hands now made soft, open, accepting, praising, desiring, raised to receive an infinitely better gift.
That’s how my soul responds as I hear that chorus, which just now reminds me of an old hymn I used to sing often in middle school. Wow, it couldn’t be more fitting…check it out.
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
– Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen H. Lemmel, 1922 (Public Domain)
By turning to Jesus and speaking from our innermost heart, “Give me Jesus! I desire no satisfaction besides Him and His fullness; I want to leave the rest behind! Where is He?!”, sin hath no more dominion because we leave the puzzle pieces and blocks to God, trusting Him to arrange them as He sees fit. We put Him in control rather than either ourselves or our sense of the injustices done to us.
By this we become true conquerors rather than victims; a blessing to others rather than a burden; faith-filled rather than doubting; free instead of bound; sighted instead of blind; whole instead of sick; alive instead of dead.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” – Numbers 6:24-26
What blocks are in your hands today? What are you trying to figure out or reorganize in your life? Whose sins/mistakes do you need to forgive so that you can open your hands to accept that Free Gift? Will you accept it? He desires to bless your soul.
Lord, help us to bless You, to love You, to seek You, to find You. Cause our souls to recognize that cry – “Only Jesus! Only Jesus!” – and to desire You above all else. Bring us the victory in Christ Jesus. Amen.