“Sometimes God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” -Joni Eareckson Tada, The God I Love. It’s an extremely difficult truth to hear. It must have been hard for Joni to hear she would be permanently disabled. She would require 24/7 care. She would have to be turned in her sleep to avoid bed sores. She would need to be fed for the rest of her life. Here’s Joni’s story.
Four days ago I experienced what doctors believe is a stroke. It started with an angina attack (spasm of arteries without blockage) , which led to a mast (immune and systemic) cell attack, which culminated in my stroke. I have pronounced weakness along the right side of my body. I can only stand for a few seconds. Before, even with my advancing peripheral neuropathy, I could stand for a few minutes. There are delays in understanding what people are saying. I’m having great difficulty making logical leaps in a conversation. It’s hard for me to speak in continuous complete sentences. I’m having more trouble getting words out. That’s when I really get frustrated. I’m having to rely more on support care to help me with bathing and getting my meals set up. I tire easily.
We thank God that I’m recovering. I couldn’t move my right hand. Now, I can use it to pick up light objects.
God has an amazing plan for Karen’s and my life He’s working out through all that’s happening to us.
I have an extremely rare auto immune condition called mastocytosis. Many of my readers know what this is from reading my blog pieces. For the benefit of those who haven’t, it simply means I have an auto immune condition, which causes me to have too many immune and systemic cells. I take a series of mast cell stabilizers, antihistamines and immune system boosters to stay alive. My gorgeous wife, Karen, says it’s like having allergy on steroids. I tell people it’s like a neighbourhood block party out of control. My former doctor says my form of it may only be seen in 1 in 20,000,000 people. I have been intubated nine times for mast cell attacks that have become anaphylactic. Through it all Karen has been there. Through many lonely nights sitting on hard ER chairs, praying through her tears I would be alive in the morning, she has been there. I’m so wonderfully blessed that God loves me so much, He gave Karen to me!
Yes, we have asked those why questions Joni has, and still are. I will never forget hearing Joni’s story on a cassette tape over 20 years ago (Yes, I am dating myself) with the title Why me?Joni yelled at God it was so unfair of Him to take away the use of her arms and legs. That’s a tough blow to an athlete, who puts so much of their identity of strength in their athleticism. God taught Joni He didn’t need her legs or arms. What He desired was her complete commitment to her Lord.
There have been so many times I have screamed at God saying, “This is so unfair! I can’t endure this journey any longer! Please, Father, take me home to be with You. I’m so worn down by the judgment of others that I’m weak, lazy and stupid. I hate this life! I don’t want the humiliation any longer of trying to exchange the remaining amount on my phone card for a bus ticket home. No one should have to decide between eating or paying their rent. No one should ever have to decide between paying for their medications and eating. I want out! I can’t endure family,friends and colleagues labeling me as one who doesn’t try hard enough. Those devastating words of my physically and emotionally abusive schizophrenic father played over and over again in my mind. “You’re clumsy. You’re stupid. Your brother’s smarter than you’ll ever be. You disappoint me. You’re a mamma’s boy.” It was like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My father was gentle and kind one moment. Then, suddenly, he would become vicious, using cutting words to make me feel like such a loser.
At the age of five I prayed this prayer under a willow tree by our home, as the cool wind on a hot and humid summer day caressed my face. “Lord, if you save me from my abuse, I’ll grow up to help others heal from theirs.” Six years later this prayer was answered when God provided an opportunity for my mother, brother and me to escape. My two sisters had already left, and got married.
In my mid thirties, I sent out so many resumes I could have wallpapered my room with them. There were so many times it would be between me and another candidate.The other person would be chosen.
In 2001 I was diagnosed with pernicious anemia, which is also known as B12 deficiency. The pieces of my medical puzzle were starting to come together. The constant fatigue and all the bugs I had to fight off began to make sense. The struggle in high school to graduate with honours now was understood.
I have lived through four bouts of pneumonia, one of them in both lungs.
in 2014 I was diagnosed with mastocytosis through a skin lesion.
Throughout my life there has been the reoccurring theme of forgiveness. It has taken me over 48 years to finally forgive my father for all of the terrible abuse I experienced. God has required me to do this, so that the calling He has upon my life will be fully realized. Where God is taking me there can be no unforgiveness. I’m still in a process of healing from my abuse. I have been in counselling for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for six years.
Many doctors and specialists are befuddled. How is it that with all my challenges I did graduate from high school and in my undergraduate theology studies with honors? Why is it that I’m now doing doctoral studies in counselling and theology? I believe it’s so others see I don’t do these things in my strength. They can’t put it down to sheer determination. God is showing His strength in me through my weaknesses.
I share Joni’s, Karen’s and some of my life with you to illustrate an important point. You may be angry at God for all the suffering you’re experiencing. You think He’s allowing you to be harmed. You would like to tell God where He can stick Jeremiah 29:11, that He has plans not to harm you, but to give you hope and a future. Please let Joni’s, Karen’s and my life speak to your heart. In all the pain you’re experiencing a loving God is there. He will show you the way out of your dark tunnel of hopelessness if you let Him. If He did it for Joni, Karen and me, He can do it for you too.
Let all of us, disabled and able-bodied alike, be uplifted by Joni singing Spirit Wings. Let us thank God when life gets rough we can go to a place in our heart where there is no wheelchair, where disability both visible and hidden never exists in His eyes.
When our work for our Lord is done He’ll take us home to be with Him in Heaven, where there is no more sorrow or pain. It will be an eternal Kingdom party of joy. I hope to see you there. More importantly, I believe God wants to see you there.
Kevin and Karen Osborne are Christian pastoral counsellors and psychotherapists. Kevin is studying to become a psychologist and professor of Psychology. He feels called to also be a chaplain. We have started You Can Hope Again Counselling. Karen enjoys doing cross-stitch while I like writing and singing songs. Karen makes me laugh when she sings the kitty bed-time song saying, “It’s that time. It’s the bestest kitty time of the day!” Kevin enjoys teasing the kitties and making them do kitty dances with music. Their kitty, Catherine, loves it when kitty daddeh sings All Things Bright and Beautiful. Kevin likes doing impressions. He tells children’s stories and helps others with their problems using his hand puppet, Dr. Teddy, who is a therapy bear. He is a partner with us in our counselling practice.We are available to assist with worship and preaching to give busy pastors and ministers a much-needed break. Please visit our counselling website, where you will also find our blogs. We offer in-office, and phone counselling to anyone in the world.
Co-author on Mind’s Seat, a Christian inspirational blog