It is ironic that, as a Catholic, the most difficult part of having a chronic health issue isn’t the health issue itself but is the big question: Should I pray for healing…or should I carry my cross?
And it is that question that often keeps us spiraling through a journey that is already burdensome and often overwhelming.
In my own journey, which has lasted for the better part of two decades, I know that I’ve gone through many different phases. There were times that I tried to take on St. Paul’s attitude of embracing the “thorn” of an illness while at other times I was on my knees praying—between sobs of anguish—for healing. I’ve attended Healing Masses where I’ve been prayed over by a team of healers and have hands laid upon me; I’ve had private healing prayers said over me.
I’ve done novenas and have sought alternative medical care—all at my own expense—when the established medical system failed me. I’ve been in bed unable to move from the dizziness that has enveloped me and have quietly asked God to use it as He saw fit. I’ve asked Mary to join my suffering to her Son’s and heal another person’s suffering. If a book has been written about healing, I’ve read it and believed in the miracles that Christ performed—and waited for mine.
What I’ve come to see, though, is that while the case can be made that Christ always healed, there is also an important back story that we don’t often think about: how long did that person suffer before Christ healed him or her? In one case we know it was 12 years. The woman with the hemorrhage suffered for 12 years. I remember well the 12th year of my own illness. I remember thinking “This is it! It is my time for healing! Sure 12 years seems like a long time but now I’ll be healed!”
Twelve years came and went and still no healing; but that is because it wasn’t my time. Not easy to admit; but the back story is very important. And that is what I’ve really learned during these past two decades: the back story is the real story. It is always about our personal journey towards Christ and towards wholeness and holiness.
My back story is unique for me; it is the yoke Christ has fashioned that joins me to Him but has my own growth and salvation in mind. It wasn’t easy for me to begin sharing my story with others but I learned in these past few years that the story wasn’t mine to begin with—no story ever really is—it belongs to God to use for His kingdom.
What is the back story Christ is trying to tell with you?
I hope that in sharing my gift of suffering in my new book co-written with Teresa Tomeo, Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Women , your own journey will be lightened. I’ve prayed for every woman who reads this book and trust that God will honor those prayers for you—and that your own back story will be blessed.