“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Phil. 3:7
Loss has been on my mind a lot lately. This December marks the first anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. She was beloved by many who knew her. The world seems a little hollower without her here.
I also have a good friend who has been battling breast cancer. After surgery, chemo, and radiation, her life is now forever changed and marked by this devastating disease. I marvel at how she has coped with and battled through so many changes and pain. My heart hurts for her.
Not to mention that our world as we knew it before CoVid-19 seems to be forever lost. It is so apparent now the things we once took for granted. Social gatherings, restaurants, movies, and even our workplaces are marked by this viral nuisance.
Sometimes our gains are only fully realized once they are lost.
As I mentioned before, this year has been a doozy. Watching loved ones and the world-at-large struggle is not enjoyable. But I am not immune. Unfortunately, I have received two incredibly discouraging diagnoses this year.
The first was the diagnosis of Macular Degeneration over the summer. The doctor says my eyes look a lot older than they are. There are tiny spots on my macula which are migrating toward my central line of vision. My retina specialist told me he hopes I have twenty to thirty more years of vision before I become blind. He is optimistic that maybe we will be fortunate and have a medical breakthrough in the meantime.
In all honesty, I’m disturbed by this. Twenty or thirty more years? I watched my great-grandmother and grandmother develop it much later in their lives. Needless to say, it was debilitating for them. There are days I want to scream, “This shouldn’t be happening to someone as young as myself!”
My husband is good to remind me that there is a small chance my eyes may never fully develop blindness. I hope he is right. But with the data and my family history, I know that I need to be prepared for it to happen whether we like it or not.
If that were not enough, I’ve recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. To briefly summarize, I have gone years with constant achiness and pain flare-ups in many different areas of my body. I have also long suffered from anxiety and sometimes depression, as well as some mental fogginess. Taking all these things into consideration, it appears Fibromyalgia may be to blame.
On the one hand, I was thankful to finally have the label of a diagnosis. It is an actual thing that is wrong with me. Hooray! I’m not crazy! It is not just in my head! (For years I would go to the doctor with complaints, and they would run tests only to find nothing wrong with me. It is a horrible place to be when you hurt, and no one understands or can validate your pain.) But on the other hand, this means a life of battling unexplained pain, medication, and the need for a new lifestyle to minimize symptoms.
Between both diagnoses, doctors have encouraged me to limit stress, avoid sugar, eat more fruit and vegetables, remove refined foods from my diet, and find some sort of way to exercise that does not result in pain flare-ups in my body.
Sounds like a total cakewalk, huh?
“…for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” Phil. 3:8b
When I read this scripture recently it got me to wondering, how can there be gain in Christ amidst our loss and/or struggles?
I wished that I could say that in the future when I pour over scripture, I won’t take them for granted. That I will be more considerate about how many more times I have in this life to actually read them with my eyes. That maybe I’ll even start memorizing more of them. Or that when I gaze at a sunset or gaze upon my husband and children’s faces, I will work harder to etch these images into my heart so that I won’t forget them. But then I wonder is this even possible when you’re blind? Will I be able to remember? Or will I lose this too?
I wish I had confidence knowing I will get used to dealing with the constant pain and flare-ups in my body. That I could learn to be more stoic, like “Jane Wayne.” That I could learn how to become unaffected when I physically hurt most days.
But today, I feel pretty small. I’m not sure how well I’ll actually fare trying to do all these things that seem quite superhuman.
“…and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith…” Phil 3:9
Truth be told, I have learned that I really don’t have the abilities that I wished I did. Over the years, I have become more and more aware of my weaknesses. And in this, I understand my dependence on Him so much more. Daily I am reminded that I can’t. Sometimes, I don’t even want to. But I have learned that thanks be to God, He can, and He wants to.
Whether from the words of Jesus or Jan Brady, often I hear the “Martha, Martha,” admonition in the back of my mind. I am a doer, and I am prone to worry. I’m not proud of it, but it is probably safe to say that I have been a Martha all my life. It is a real bother. Relaxing does not come easy for me. It can be a real challenge to just relish the moment, and be able to trust God with the finer details. But it’s now in this season of health ailments, that I hear him calling me to become more like a Mary. He’s helping me to see that the possible future loss of my eyesight and the current loss of pain-free living is meant for my gain.
“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Jesus never said we would not face suffering in this life. In fact, if we are his, we will indeed share in his sufferings. But his suffering was not permanent. It enabled and provided redemption. What was lost, his very own life, became our greatest gain.
My prayer is that Jesus will help me to receive the gain that is intended through these seeming losses. Whether my eyes can see physically or not, I hope to always see him spiritually in all things and in all seasons of my life. That whether my body feels well enough to run a marathon or not, I will always be able to run to seek and obey Him and find my greatest delight in Him.
If you find yourself in a season of loss or struggle, I want to encourage you to pray for the ability to perceive God where you are. Try not to dwell on all the obvious negatives. Look for anything good, improved, or changed in your heart or understanding of God during this season. How can you see that He is with you? What have you learned about Him, yourself, or your heart through your struggle?
“Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute—if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise—dwell on these things.” Phil. 4:8
Sometimes the greatest gain is first preceded by loss. Sometimes we don’t understand everything or even like it. But if we will do as Paul instructs us in Philippians, we will certainly find the gain that is meant for us in Christ. In your struggle and loss, be found in Him. Search for the good, possess His peace in all circumstances, and stand firm in the Lord.