A little over three years ago I got to marry the love of my life. I’ll never forget the butterflies I felt in my stomach as I waited to walk onto the stage. And shortly after, the sheer awe that I experienced as my beautiful bride walked down the aisle. Weddings are a time for celebration. They are a time of great joy and thanksgiving. And while my wedding day is without a doubt etched into my mind as the best memory of my life, the season surrounding that time of my life was one of complete misery.
To be clear, it had absolutely nothing to do with my wife or the wedding itself, or even the wedding planning process. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was dealing with what I now know to be a chronic immune system disease called eosinophilic esophagitis (EE). In short, this condition is due to an excess build up of white blood cells in the esophagus that causes constriction and difficulty swallowing. I have been a slow eater my entire life, and I’ve often had trouble swallowing my food. On four or five different occasions throughout my life, I’ve actually choked and had to receive the heimlich maneuver from friends or family members.
The EE was at the worst it’s ever been in the six months or so leading up to my wedding. I could hardly get any food down, and was basically on a diet of mashed potatoes, soup, and protein shakes. I lost an unhealthy amount of weight, and at six foot two, I weighed in at around 165 pounds the day of my wedding. This was an extremely embarrassing, exhausting, and miserable time of my life. Keep in mind, while all this was happening, I did not know that I had EE. Up to that point, doctors, psychologists, and therapists all thought I was just dealing with symptoms of anxiety. My anxiety was so bad that it was just causing my throat muscles to tighten up and make it feel as if I couldn’t swallow easily, is what they would tell me. I certainly did have a degree of anxiety that I had been dealing with since my teenage years, but this definitely seemed to be more than that.
Thankfully, after rigorous psychological testing to determine what was causing this degree of “anxiety,” a grad student who was reading my list of symptoms said that she learned about a condition in class that sounded similar to what I was describing. She referred me to a GI doctor and he scheduled a time for me to have an upper endoscopy. Sure enough, I had EE. In fact, my esophagus was so constricted that they could not even get the tiny scope to go down. They had to stretch it with a balloon-type instrument first.
After they stretched my esophagus and put me on a few different medications, I was able to eat much easier and within the next three months I gained about 40 pounds. That was about two and a half years ago. One would think that things are much better now, but that’s not necessarily the case. While my eating is certainly much more normal now, I still have to eat extremely slow, be careful what I eat, and I often experience indigestion and chest pain. More than that though, I’ve been dealing with some lingering anxiety symptoms for the last few years. You see, when you’ve had something lodged in your throat multiple times and needed someone to give you the heimlich, in that moment, you’re in a state of extreme panic and don’t know if you’ll ever take another breath. Plus, after being told that an actual physical condition was just “in my head” for several years, that led to much more anxiety, which produced many panic attacks. Most of those panic attacks felt like the oxygen was cut off and once again, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever take another breath.
Years of these experiences has led to my current predicament: a fear of choking again, a fear of losing my breath, a fear of not being able to breathe. As a result, I’ve become hyper aware of my breathing and often will try and “take over” my breathing on a conscious level. Many times this will lead me to hyperventilate until my face gets tingly and numb. This has happened dozens of times over the years, and often the only cure has been to take a prescribed anti-anxiety pill in the midst of it. Over time, I’ve learned to “deal with” these symptoms and I’ve become comfortably miserable. After things seeming to get worse again as of late, and having sought the Lord in prayer about it, I’ve decided to start seeing a therapist to focus solely on this one breathing fear / issue.
Very few people know any of this about me, as I don’t like to talk about it and bring attention to myself. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, I don’t want to be misunderstood or labeled as “weak,” and I feel embarrassed because I know in my head that it’s all just an irrational fear. It’s not easy for me to share this with the world. So, this begs the question, why am I sharing all of this? Well, ultimately, my heart is that it will bring some much needed hope to someone else. But also, I want to explain how all this relates to God and the new covenant.
This blog talks a lot about the new covenant. The forgiveness we have in it. The freedom we have in it. The healing we have in it. I have always been passionate about the supernatural healing power of God. I love the fact that Jesus healed everyone who came to him that was sick and oppressed (Luke 4:40, Matthew 15:30, Acts 10:38). I’ve witnessed many people get supernaturally healed right before my eyes. Deaf ears opened, legs grown out, migraines dissolved in a moment, and more. I’ve even had the privilege of seeing others get healed through me laying hands on them and praying. However, in spite of all of this, I’ve yet to experience this same healing power of God in my own life. It’s left me questioning God many times. Why haven’t I been healed? I’ve been on numerous medications, seen many doctors and therapists, sat through deliverance and inner healing sessions, gone to healing rooms, and prayed persistently. All this, and yet still, nothing.
While it may be easy at times for me to doubt God’s healing power and His intentions, I’ve never been more convinced of His goodness than I am right now in my life. As I’ve come to a greater understanding of how to read the Bible through the lens of God’s covenant journey with mankind, my heart has drawn closer to the Father like never before. Despite my circumstances, I no longer have to question His true character or motives. I know that as a partaker in the new and better covenant, healing is God’s will. If Jesus is the perfect representation of God the Father (Hebrews 1:3), then I have to accept that my sickness is not His doing. If it were, then Jesus would have been in direct opposition to the Father throughout His ministry on earth. His ministry was one of healing. And it’s a ministry that he passed along to his disciples and us today as the church. Furthermore, we can see from Jesus’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 that the Lord’s will is “on earth as it is in heaven.” Obviously, there is no sickness in heaven. If God’s will being done means that earth would look like heaven, then I can rest in the sureness that sickness is not His will for me.
So, now to address the big elephant in the room: If it’s God’s will for me to be healed, then why hasn’t that happened? In all honesty, I have no answer. I don’t understand it, and I may not receive an explanation this side of heaven. However, I refuse to change my theology on healing just because I haven’t experienced it in my own life. Instead, I will line my theology up with what the word of God says and stand firm on that. I will continue to pursue my own healing for the rest of my life, and I’m hopeful that I will receive it. I’m hopeful because I trust in the goodness of my Father. He really is good all the time. It’s not just a cliche that I say from time to time, but it’s a reality that’s molding my relationship with Him.
One of my heroes, Bill Johnson, put it beautifully when he said, “You cannot hold God hostage to your questions. He doesn’t owe you an answer. If you want the peace that passes all understanding, you’re going to have to give up your right to understand. It’s called trust.”
I truly believe that my healing will one day fully manifest and I will have another great testimony to share with others. In the meantime, I will continue to boldly declare that Jesus is the healer and His will is that all would be healed. I will lay hands on the sick and expect that they will recover, and even if they don’t, I will still move forward declaring God’s goodness. And I will never, ever attribute sickness as something that is from God. We may not always understand why someone hasn’t been healed, but we can understand that sickness is a work of the enemy, and not of the Father.
So, if you’re reading this today and you can relate it to something similar going on in your own life, then I would encourage you to walk in the freedom that we have as new covenant believers. The freedom to not only receive healing, but also to admit that you’ve not yet been healed, and that it’s okay to not be okay. I believe the first step we need to take in order to receive healing is to admit that we’re not okay. Once we’ve done that, then God will meet us where we’re at and love us and comfort us through it all. He really is a good Father, and there’s no exaggerating His goodness. Whatever your situation, whatever your sickness, whatever your frustration, take it to Him today. He’s waiting with a smile and open arms to welcome you into His lap.
With unwavering hope,