I was on a church mission trip in Guatemala when I got sick. Most of us thought it had to do something to do with living in a foreign country and that my symptoms would soon pass. But when my illness became life-threatening, my mission was cut short and I had to come home.
Even at home, everyone around me knew what I was struggling with, and they all kept trying to offer words of advice. It wasn't uncommon to hear someone tell me I "just needed to have more faith, and God would heal me."
That broke my heart. Did I not have enough faith? Is that why I couldn't fulfill my mission trip? Was I not good enough for God?
I thought back to my last few days in Guatemala. I remember kneeling down in prayer for several hours at a time, my eyes shut so tightly I could see stars. "God, please heal me," I said over and over again.
I told him I was willing to do whatever it took if I could just stay in that country and complete my time there. I repeated in my head, "I know you can heal me. I have faith that you can heal me."
I read scriptures like Exodus 23:25 where God promises to heal those who serve him. What was I doing wrong? Why hadn't he healed me yet?
My last night in Guatemala, after pleading with God in prayer, I was laying in bed. One girl I was sharing my room with asked me how I was feeling. I thought about all the people Jesus had healed during his time here on Earth, specifically the lepers.
I was sick, "cast out" from my mission trip, and knew I needed Jesus more than ever before.
"Jesus can heal me," I told my friend, my faith turning to conviction before my very eyes. "He healed lepers, he caused the blind to see, the lame to walk, he even raised the dead. So he can absolutely heal me."
We were both silent for a moment, reflecting on the many miracles we have seen through Jesus' hands.
Then I added: "But if he doesn't heal me, it's because I have more to learn and more to do with this experience."
That mission trip feels like a lifetime ago now, and I still get sick from time to time. I'm still waiting and praying for God to heal me.
Sometimes the real test of faith is learning how to see God in the storm, not just in the rainbow. It's easier to have faith when things are going according to plan, but what about when they're not?
My illness, though chronic and unpredictable, doesn't compare to the suffering others go through on a daily basis. Pain, grief and suffering is very real on this Earth, but that doesn't mean the love of God is not there.
Maybe God hasn't healed you (or a loved one — watching someone suffer is just as hard) yet because he's teaching you how to have a new kind of faith. Maybe he's leading you to something better.
Because of my illness, I had to learn how to change my prayers from "please heal me" to "help me get through this" or "help me to understand what it is you're trying to teach me." In hindsight, it's easy to see how your challenges may have actually been a blessing, but you can pray to understand your trial now to help your faith grow, not weaken.
I wouldn't be where I am now if I hadn't gotten sick when I did. Maybe I would have wound up here eventually, but the path to get here would have been a lot different — and I'm happy with the route I took to get here. God was with me the whole time.
Of course, it's still not perfect. I'm still sick. On particularly bad days, I'm not one to kneel down and express gratitude for the struggle. But maybe I'll get there one day. And maybe you will, too.