What follows is a letter I posted on my first blog on October 9, 2014, the two year anniversary of the day I received a life-changing call from the doctor. A lot of time has passed since then, so I’ve added and reworded a few things, but the essence is still the same. If you just received a life-changing diagnosis, this letter is for you.
I may never have the chance to meet you or sit down with you at a coffeeshop, but I feel so many emotions for you in this life-changing moment. I feel sad with you. I know this isn’t what you expected for your life. This wasn’t part of the plan. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to play out. And yet, here you are. I’m sad because I know all of the fear and heaviness you feel. I know how deeply your heart aches. I know the questions that are flooding your mind. I’m sad because I know the obstacles and challenges that lay ahead. I’m sad because I know that in this moment, it feels like your dreams are crashing down, and I so wish I could take all of this away from you and make it all better.
I don’t know you or your personality, but I do know that if you haven’t already, one day you’re going to ask, “Why?” It’s an honest question; it’s also a hard one. And unfortunately, I don’t know that there’s any answer that can truly satisfy. So even though you will find yourself asking that question time and time again, I want to tell you to not dwell on “Why?” Because if you do, you’ll find yourself at a dead end. Don’t dwell in a dead end. Dwell where there is life. Ask life-giving questions: What now? What do I have to live for? What mark can I still leave in this world?
When I got off the phone with the doctor who told me I had lupus, I had no idea the immensity of what was in store. Each year has been so incredibly hard, but my life has continued. Hardship has not in any way taken the good from my life. If anything, it has helped me to see good in places where others cannot, to feel hope in ways I never did before. I feel hope for my future. And I feel hope for you. Yes, in this painful moment, there is hope! I feel hope for you because even though your life will be hard, your life is not over. There are still joys to experience, celebrations to have, and beautiful memories to make. Your life will be hard. That does not mean your life will be bad. Choose to dig deep and see the good.
I feel hope for you because as big as this diagnosis is, there is a God who is bigger than your diagnosis. He is not distant. He is near. He hurts with you. He loves you and His love never runs out. He wants to hold you in His arms. He is good and continues to be good when nothing else in this life seems to be. He gives strength to the weary. He can bring peace in the midst of the biggest storm. He can make beauty out of the chaos. He can bring joy in the midst of the greatest pain. He can bring light to the deepest darkness. Hold onto Him. Hold onto Him when your body hurts too much to move. Hold onto Him when you feel alone. Hold onto Him when it feels like you have nothing left to give. And when you feel like you just can’t keep holding onto Him, trust Him to hold onto you.
I may never have the opportunity to see your face or learn your name, but I pray that you would be full of courage, peace, joy, and strength. And I pray that when you feel like you have none of these things, that you will have a community to support and encourage you. I pray for your family as they walk with you on this journey, for them to experience strength and encouragement as well. I pray that as chronic illness dramatically changes your life, that your life would be abundant and full of purpose. And I pray that you wouldn’t just be a survivor. I pray that you will be a warrior who is more than a conqueror.