Suffering comes in all sorts of packages—physical, emotional, relational. No one is immune to the trials of life. With suffering come questions: How will this change my life? What happened to God’s plan for me? Can He still use me?
When I was 15 months old, my body was continually covered with bruises. Doctors diagnosed me with severe hemophilia, a disease in which the blood doesn’t coagulate. They referred to me as a “bleeder.” The doctor told my parents to take me home and treat me well, because the first time I fell or had an injury, I would probably bleed to death.
The next 30 years were a cycle of painful weekly bleeds, usually into the joints. My life consisted of hospital stays, transfusions, crutches, and pain pills, all while I tried to keep up with classes and later maintain a job. It might have served me well if I had been happy to stay out of harm’s way, but I was energy-on-wheels, determined to be as normal as possible and to milk to the utmost every day I had.
Chuck Swindoll once referred to me as having a “yes face.” God implanted in me at an early age the ability to be joyous in spite of my circumstances. When I was 8 years old, I asked God for a miracle, but if a miracle was not His will, I asked Him to use me to glorify Him for whatever time I had to live. When I was 21, I married my childhood sweetheart Joann. She has been the stabilizing force in our family because I was often hospitalized while our children were growing up. When it seemed humanly impossible for me to endure my circumstances, Joann was by my side with unwavering love and just the right words of encouragement.
In the 1970s, the medical field made great strides in hemophiliac care, replacing blood transfusions—which have limited effectiveness—with pure factor VIII. We were blessed with a treatment that worked faster, more efficiently, and could be self-administered. It was a wonderful breakthrough for the hemophiliac community . . . but one that became this community’s death warrant. Proper screening of donors did not occur at that time, and soon the majority of hemophiliacs were infected with HIV. Today, only 15 percent of the hemophiliac population from that time is still alive, and those who are living are all infected with Hepatitis C. I am blessed to be among the few “healthy” survivors.
Because of my disabled condition, I have the opportunity to share with a variety of people my story of God’s “keeping power” and faithfulness. After 74 years of living with a serious health condition, I can firmly attest that God does not waste our suffering. He is faithful and sovereign, and He cares about every detail of our lives. However, He allows us to choose whether or not we will surrender to Him and allow ourselves to be used by Him.
As I mentioned, no one is immune from suffering. Are you or someone you love facing an impossible circumstance? Are you filled with fear, loneliness, and questions? I can relate. My charge to you today is from Joshua 1:9—“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NKJV).