For just over two years, I have wondered how to do this. I have written and rewritten this post many times. The time was never right. I was not ready. But I'm ready now.
The time has come to tell you that I have Parkinson's disease.
The symptoms became apparent in May 2011. The diagnosis came in September of that year. If you want to know more about Parkinson's disease, please refer to the website of the Michael J Fox Foundation.
[callout]This is not about fighting for victory, it's about fighting from victory. Click to tweet this.[/callout]
The focus of this post is about victory, even where victory appears impossible. This is not about fighting for victory, it's about fighting from victory. Such victory is only attainable through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus…
Seven Incredibly Joyous Lessons I Have Learned Through Having Parkinson's Disease
- Don't Waste Your Parkinson's (Or Whatever). I do not believe that God gave me Parkinson's, nor that he “allowed me” to have it, nor that it is his will for me to have it. All disease is evil, and comes from hell, and God has promised that he heals all of our diseases (Psalm 103, Isaiah 53). Though he does not cause evil to happen to us, God can and does use hellish situations to accomplish his purposes. The day I realized this fully, the day I realized that God's judgment and vengeance will exact a price from the devil (yes, I believe the devil is real!) for every moment of pain he has inflicted on me… that was the day I gained the victory. Satan will be sorry he chose to inflict this illness upon me. If it continues to progress, as the doctors assure me it will, I will fight the good fight of faith with even more joy in my heart. I will not waste the opportunity to show others how to live, fully alive, no matter what is thrown at us. Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world.” Thank you, Lord!
- It Doesn't Matter. I don't want to minimize anyone else's suffering. But for me, I was free from the suffering the day I realized: it doesn't matter. Here's what I mean… before the diagnosis, I had prayed for many people with a variety of different illnesses, and I had seen the Spirit of God miraculously heal them. One of my friends was healed of stage IV cancer. I had witnessed many other miracles like this. Yet, to this day, I myself still experience the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, even though I have been prayed for many times. It would be a mistake for me to ask “why”. It would be a greater mistake for me to attribute the work of the enemy to God the Father. Attributing the work of the enemy to God is blasphemy.The bedrock of my faith is the belief that God is love. My continued illness is not an excuse to abandon my faith, it's an invitation to embrace it. And in the end, if my healing comes only after death, that is no excuse for me to abandon the work God has put in my hands.When three young men were threatened with death in a fiery furnace in the Old Testament, the leader of those young men said, “We will not bow to your false gods. Our God is well able to protect us. And even if he does not, we will not bow.” I have work to do, assigned to me by the King, and he gives me strength and joy every day to do that work, despite what the enemy may throw at me. My light and temporary affliction does not matter.
[callout]Illness is no excuse to abandon faith, it's an invitation to embrace it. Click to tweet this.[/callout]
- I Have Learned Empathy. In the past, before my diagnosis, I would pray for people and often there would be no apparent response. Not everyone I prayed for was healed. I had perfected the art of answering their questions about why they had not been healed. My answers were theologically sound. I gave them with confidence, including answers like these…
- Sometimes God's healing comes as an instant miracle, sometimes as a gradual process.
- God uses many instruments for healing, and often the instrument is medical science.
- God may time your healing in a perfect way we may not understand.
- Sometimes we ask God for an oak tree, and he gives us an acorn. We must steward the acorn.
- And sometimes we must simply embrace the mystery and accept that we don't know everything, but affirm that God is still good.
I knew these answers were true, and yet… when I faced the same situation myself, I found them difficult to accept. However, on the other side of working through that difficulty, I found the answers are indeed still true.
Now, I have great empathy for people who are walking through difficult challenges.
Now, when I pray for someone who has not seen the manifestation of their healing, I meet them with compassion instead of judgment.
Now, I treasure the gift of this empathy.
- Grace Is the Gospel. “Grace” is not merely a topic in a theological textbook. It is the gospel itself. The Apostle Paul tells us that through the sacrifice of Christ we have been given the “gift of righteousness” and also the “abundance of grace”. Grace is more than mere forgiveness; it is taking forgiveness a step further and adding a generous gift on top. The word used in the original Greek Scripture that is translated as “grace” literally means “unmerited favor”. The gospel message, and the state of being “saved”, is about more than just getting “eternal fire insurance.” It's about more than simply getting out of hell.When we accept the gift that Christ offers, we inherit his righteousness. We receive his grace. Jesus took on himself what we deserved, so that we could get what he deserves. The Bible tells us that the Law and the Prophets were given through Moses, but Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ. Jesus is Grace and Truth. Jesus is the gospel. Jesus is the perfect image of the Father.Let that last statement soak in: there are many who believe that God the Father is angry and vengeful, and that Jesus the Son is peaceful and forgiving. I submit to you that anything you attribute to the Father, but that you do not see demonstrated in Jesus, needs to be re-examined. And what do we see in Jesus? First, he only did what he saw the Father doing, and the Father is love…
- So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Fatherdoes, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19)
- “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
Second, Jesus never refused anyone when they asked to be healed. He never said, “I see that you have leprosy, and I have some bad news. This is the kind of leprosy my Father gives. Learn from it.”
No, his response was to heal everyone. He healed them all. Both before and after his resurrection.
- When the sun was setting, all those who had any sick with various diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. (Luke 4:40)
- That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. (Matthew 8:16)
- Jesus, perceiving that, withdrew from there. Great multitudes followed him; and he healed them all, (Matthew 12:15)
- At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to him all who were sick, and those who were possessed by demons. All the city was gathered together at the door. He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. He didn't allow the demons to speak, because they knew him. (Mark 1:32-34)
- All the multitude sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all. (Luke 6:19)
- But the multitudes, perceiving it, followed him. He welcomed them, and spoke to them of the Kingdom of God, and he cured those who needed healing. (Luke 9:11)
- More believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. They even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mattresses, so that as Peter came by, at the least his shadow might overshadow some of them. Multitudes also came together from the cities around Jerusalem, bringing sick people, and those who were tormented by unclean spirits: and they were all healed. (Acts 5:15-16)
- It happened that the father of Publius lay sick of fever and dysentery. Paul entered in to him, prayed, and laying his hands on him, healed him. Then when this was done, the rest also who had diseases in the island came, and were cured. (Acts 28:8-9)
- Victim Thinking Equals Death. In the early days after my initial diagnosis, and the apparent failure of prayer to heal my condition, I began thinking like a victim. Poisonous thoughts repeatedly ran through my mind: why did this happen to me? Doesn't God see how I've been serving him? Is it really not God's will to heal me? Even more subtle, and more deadly: how can I minister to others when I can't even help myself? Who wants to hear a message about the God who heals from someone who is sick? That last question began to wake me up-because the Lord instantly showed me how ridiculous the question really is. For instance, if we substitute “sin” for “illness”, the question becomes: who wants to hear a message about the God who forgives from someone who still sins? We don't require, expect, or even believe that any pastor in any pulpit is 100% free from sin. Yet we don't tell them to go home and stop preaching until they are. Victim thinking robs us of our identity in Christ. Whenever we start thinking about our sins, our illnesses, our shortcomings, or our lack of faith, we are ultimately just thinking about ourselves. The best thing we can do is to take our focus off our self, and put our full attention on Christ.Paul writes in Galatians: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live through faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”My diagnosis gave me an opportunity to once and for all move out of victim thinking, and into victorious thinking.
[callout]Victim thinking robs us of our identity in Christ. Click to tweet this.[/callout]
- Our Trials Represent An Opportunity That Won't Last. Whatever we face in life that seems like a problem or a trial actually represents an opportunity. In this life, we have the opportunity to praise God, and to worship him, in the face of adversity. This takes an act of will, a decision, a certain amount of discipline.When my hands are trembling, and my relatively young body tries to feel like the body of an old man, it is a sacrifice for me to put a smile on my face and raise my hands, and praise the goodness of God. The opportunity that is time-limited is this: once I am in my eternal body, in heaven, I no longer have the option to offer that sacrifice to God. Each of us is able, today, to offer God the gift that one day will be impossible for us to give. Truly, I refuse to waste my Parkinson's.
- The Law Demands, But Grace Supplies. I have encountered a number of good-hearted, well-intentioned believers who want to tell me that my disease must be caused by some hidden sin in my life… a “generational curse”… a failure on my part to follow an obscure law written in Scripture… etc. I have been prayed for, prescribed to, undergone various forms of “inner healing ministry”, and otherwise subjected to condemnation thoroughly and completely. I'm here to tell you, no amount of shaming, blaming, or justifying your illness is going to help you. Inner healing ministries are good and valuable, and have their place. But we must move beyond the idea that our sin is more powerful than the sacrifice of Christ. With his last breath, Jesus pronounced: “It is finished.” What part of “finished” is unclear? Jesus died to redeem us from the curse. No curse he redeemed me from has any power over me. Jesus died to free me from condemnation. Therefore it is a dishonor to him for me to accept condemnation. Condemnation comes straight from the fiery bowels of hell. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” (Romans 8:1)[callout]Grace doesn't require rules – it supplies us with a heart that makes rules unnecessary. Click to tweet this.[/callout]Many worry that the preaching of “radical grace” will encourage people to sin. I'm glad there is concern over this, as it tells me we are preaching the right gospel.
This kind of outrageous liberty is exactly what Paul was criticized for, and the reason he had to tackle this issue head-on when he said: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Paul goes on to explain how our old nature died with Christ and we were resurrected as new creations. Grace does not require that we follow rules and laws-Grace supplies us with a new heart that makes rules and laws unnecessary.
In the movie “Shawshank Redemption”, Andy Dufresne says to his pal Red as they sit in the prison yard, “It comes down to one simple decision. Either get busy living, or get busy dying.”
This line has always reminded me of another memorable piece of dialogue.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
I choose life.
The Time Has Come
I wrote this for two primary reasons.
First, I never want to write things that give an impression about me that is not true. It's probably impossible for me to fully achieve that goal. People will draw their own conclusions no matter what I write. On the other hand, it is possible for me to know my own heart, and in my heart I knew that keeping this secret any longer was just not an option.
Secondly, and most important, I wrote this for you. I may not know what your specific struggles are, but I know that you do have a choice before you. You can either let the enemy steal, and kill, and destroy your life… or you can choose to accept life, and accept it abundantly.
The time has come.
Question for you: how has facing a great difficulty given you the gift of a more abundant life? Please share your story and your insights below.