I “met” Emily a few months ago when she contacted me through this blog in February. We started emailing and encouraging each other in Christ when the one day she asked me for prayer. She told me she had an undiagnosed illness that was causing her much pain. We continued to pray for each other and encourage each other but for a while our communication was put on hold. A few weeks ago I emailed her again and we have since been communicating frequently. Emily told me that her disease had been diagnosed and asked that I continue praying for her. Since she has been such an encouragement for me, I asked her to write a guest post for Denied Self so that she can encourage the readers of my blog as well. I hope you enjoy reading this post from Emily!
My name is Emily Schmidt, and I am 17 years old. I was born in Australia but when I was 11, I moved to the USA with my family. I am the youngest of three girls, and we are all pretty close. I love to spend time with my family, write letters to my sponsored children around the world, get to know God better, and read missionary biographies.
A year prior to moving to the US, I got a simple flu/cold that developed into a constant headache that never left. As the years went on, I developed other symptoms, and my headaches worsened. They never left, and the sensitivities that now accompany them prevent me from doing a lot of things. Although my headaches used to be part of an undiagnosed, downward spiral of my health, I was finally diagnosed this year. I have fibromyalgia, which is a chronic pain disorder that is incurable and largely untreatable. It isn’t life-threatening but certainly can be life-altering.
A few months prior to the illness that triggered this disease, I became a Christian, and Jesus completely changed my heart and life. When my headaches developed later on that year, I worried at first that I had caused it somehow. God comforted my heart that this was not the case, but rather that it was something that He had allowed in my life.
For the first few years, my headaches didn’t really get in my way too much. Although I was always more susceptible to getting sick, and on bad days couldn’t do as much as I wanted to, it wasn’t too bad. Eventually, though, because of another health complication, my parents pulled me out of traditional school and began homeschooling me. After a few years of up and down schooling, even that stopped. It has been a really hard journey of trust in the Lord. It is so hard when your heart aches to be more productive with your life and all you see is limitations and inabilities. The lessons that God has taught me through these 7 years are many. I probably couldn’t articulate them all. The things that surface a lot, though, are courage, trust, and a new definition of usefulness.
Courage has become my “word”, especially during the last year and a half. In memorizing the book of Philippians, I came across a verse that encouraged me so much: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:20 NIV) This verse showed me that in order for Christ to be glorified through everything that is going on with my body, I needed to have courage. Of course, the courage is supplied by Himself, but I need to be willing to exercise it. Joshua 1:9 also became a significant verse for me: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (NIV) It encouraged me that *wherever* my health journey led- whether it would continue to get worse or not, and whatever that ended up looking like- HE would be with me. HE would never leave me. When I think about that wonderful promise, I can be courageous. I can trust in Him.
Trusting that His plan is best is not easy. In fact, it can be really hard. The “great unknown” can be daunting. Seeing your days pass by without much to show for them can be depressing, especially to someone who loves to “achieve”. God is teaching me a new definition to usefulness (but it is still something I struggle with and fight to overcome my emotions about). It is useful to pray for others. It is useful to smile. It is useful to encourage someone else. It is useful to be joyful when there doesn’t seem much to be joyful about. It is useful to trust God when you are scared about your future and what it may hold. These may seem like small things (at least they do to me) but to God they have great value. Although I do not know what the future holds, and it can be so hard to persevere through each day with all the challenges having this chronic illness involves, God promises to be with me and to use it all for His glory.