Today is World Lyme Day and marks the beginning of Lyme Disease Awareness Month. Friends at Revive Our Hearts asked me, along with Sarah Walton, Leanna Shepard, and Katie Laitkep, to share our stories related to Lyme, some practical tips for ministering to those with the disease, and some of our favorite resources on suffering and hope:
Q: Would you be willing to share a brief testimony about how God is working His grace in you through fighting Lyme?
Fourteen years ago, I said “I do” with stars in my eyes and great expectations for what was to come. Little did I know that those rose-colored glasses would soon shatter and the painful road of chronic illness, special needs, and long-suffering would become my reality. From a young age, our eldest son began displaying behavior that was defiant and destructive and has caused a decade of confusion and chaos in our home. Countless doctors, tests, and evaluations seemed to leave doctors shaking their heads.
Along with that, my own health grew worse, and after I finally received a diagnosis of Lyme Disease, it became increasingly clear that all four of my children’s symptoms were the result of Lyme Disease being passed down from me. This was no longer just my battle—it was a family battle. As my son’s disorder continued to overwhelm our family, confusion and hurt began to grow in our other children, and our marriage began to suffer under the weight of it all.
I was on a scary journey that it seemed no one else could relate to. As the struggles intensified, I found myself pulling away from those I cared about, staying home, and pushing down the stress and emotional turmoil building within me. In the confusion, fear, and uncertain future, I felt utterly alone.
But over these lonely and painful years I have discovered within me a thankfulness for the hard road I have been given to travel. Walking it has brought me a greater understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and to know Him not only as my Savior, but my comfort, sustainer, hope, and strength. There’s something about having our worldly comforts stripped away that allows us to begin to experience the true depth, length, and height of His love for us. Christ has walked the road to Calvary so that I would never have to walk any road apart from Him.
By my junior year of college, the healthy, pain-free life I had known began to disintegrate. Over a period of six years, I went from running and doing theater and energetic days to perpetual weakness, inhibited movement, and chronic fatigue that put me in bed at 8:30 p.m. I moved to New York City to pursue my dream of being a professional actor, and soon I moved back home again, exhausted and in pain.
I knew something wasn’t right, but no doctor could give me an answer. Every new visit left me with the question mark of defeat, as the easy answer would be repeated: “You’re fine. You’re young. Go home.”
Yet the problems worsened as the years passed.
After a long day of typing at work, my arms and hands would ring with aching pain to the point that I couldn’t perform simple tasks like opening jars, doing laundry, even holding a pencil. My knees and feet raged with a similar pain, and my ability to exercise—even take short walks—vanished completely. The fatigue felt like waves of heaviness, like crawling through a dense fog, that would keep me from focus and any sense of normality.
There were days when I wondered if my health was completely slipping away.
After six long years, my husband, Brad, and I saw a Lyme Disease specialist (LLMD) because my symptoms matched those of Lyme Disease. The day the nurse called with confirmation was bittersweet—so good to have an answer; so scary to realize the road ahead of us.
By God’s grace, and after a few years of treatment, we have every reason to believe the Lyme is gone (I joke that I now stay up later than Brad some nights!). Even still, as we sometimes say to people, “The war is won, but the city is ravaged.” My body has been left weak and has years of rebuilding to do. Some days are long and hard and strewn with discomfort. My struggle with pain looks different now, but it’s still an everyday fight to persevere in hope.
These years have been dark and difficult, but this place of weakness—of sharing in the sufferings of Christ—is where Jesus has drawn me closer to Himself. He’s shown me that my greatest need isn’t actually bodily healing but salvation from sin. And He’s taught me the beauty of a life totally dependent upon His strength, joy, and peace when I have none of those in and of myself.
Battling Lyme Disease and its accompanying roller coaster of emotions was never part of my plan. But remembering what Christ suffered for my sake arouses in me feelings of awe and gratitude that soothe the festering wounds of hurt and fear.
While I don’t have a choice in what I face from day to day, I do have a choice in whether I’ll gladly share in Christ’s sufferings or resist and question every moment.
Just as “not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed” (Josh. 21:45), I can trust in God’s faithful character and know that He has not failed me either.
Of course, this doesn’t mean I wake up every morning with a smile on my face! Most days I fight hard to see light through the darkness. But I’m learning (ever so slowly!) to appreciate the growth that comes from pain and suffering:
- I am much more limited and helpless than I ever recognized or acknowledged. Jesus is stronger and more loving than I ever imagined or gave Him credit for.
- I am prone to place myself in the center of the universe and forget there are others who are suffering. Jesus, the Creator of the universe, set aside His rights and gave up His life to save a sin-sick people.
- I am not the savior with all the answers. Jesus is the Savior, and He has everything perfectly under control.
- I am a frail being who needs to admit her needs and ask for help. Jesus is all-sufficient, kind, and good. He supplies everything I need.
The list could go on, because suffering is a school from which I’ll never graduate this side of heaven. Thankfully, though, God is a patient teacher. He doesn’t grow weary of me when I grow weary or become irritated with me when I’m irritated. His love and grace are constant even on my worst days.
When I was about ten years old, I started struggling with physical illness. For ten years I faced worsening symptoms, and my family took me to doctor after doctor, some of the best in the nation, specialists who would take hours to study my case just to refer me on to someone else in their field or to provide a treatment solution that did not last.
We moved away from the home where my brothers and I had grown up, and when my symptoms became too severe, I withdrew from my high school. My identity, built on accomplishments at school, fell to pieces; my friends were suddenly far away; my future lacked the certainty of a world I once thought I could control.
Desperation changed my relationship with Christ. It was when it seemed like I had nothing that Jesus became everything. I was not diagnosed with chronic neurological Lyme disease until a decade had passed, and in the process, I learned what it means to throw yourself on the mercy of Christ.
People tend to assume that the worst part of living with a chronic illness is having to withstand the physical pain, but that has never been my primary struggle. I can often muscle up enough strength to make it through the day, but I’ve often wondered what to do with disappointment. Over the years, I have banked my faith on blood tests and pill bottles, and when healing did not come, when I woke up with fever or with a migraine that was too much to manage, what I could not handle was the pain of a broken heart.
Chronic illness is a lonely place to live. I have cried more tears over the isolation and loneliness of Lyme than over any physical symptom I’ve ever suffered. This is the side effect of sickness that I would not wish on anyone, and yet I thank God for how He has used it to pull me closer to Christ. In those moments, the Holy Spirit’s whispered grace has proven that Jesus is enough…