When I was thirty years old, I sat in a doctor’s office and learned something that would change my life. I had rheumatoid arthritis.
“Congratulations,” said the rheumatologist, “You have an old woman disease.”
I thought my joint pains were the result of years of playing rugby. I soon learned that I suffered from this condition starting in my early twenties. My distorted and damaged joints we permanent and painful.
The following Sunday I shared the news with my church. Their response was a surprise: I suddenly became legitimate. For years I led an undiscovered country filled with broken bodies- cerebral palsy, downs syndrome, amputees, spina bifida, diabetes, cancer and many other conditions. A quarter of our church are confined to wheel chairs. Most of the others struggle with addiction recovery, physical and mental challenges.
On that Sunday morning I became another broken body.
As other healthy believers learned of my condition, they immediately started praying for my healing. I didn’t discourage this, but I wondered if that was the right thing to pray for. I’d love to be healed. My condition makes life a real challenge. Whatever I want, however, is a distant second to God’s plan.
What was personally devastating was in fact a unforeseen blessing. I was broken, just like everyone else in my church family. It opened up new opportunities and ministries. I was not just their spiritual leader, I was one of them.
This reminds me of Joseph in Genesis. There’s a moment in Joseph’s life when he confronts his brothers. He tells them, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result.” (NASB)
That’s how I view my rheumatoid arthritis. As painful as it is, God still uses it for his glory.
That’s life in the Undiscovered Country.