As I sat in church today, watching the palms waved by the children and listening to the account of the passion of Christ, I realized just how much Christ had to suffer for me. He knew He didn't have to go through being crucified and He knew he could've stopped all the suffering. However, He knew the pain and suffering was for a greater good. He knew His pain would lead to cleansing of sin and the salvation of His people.
Earlier this week, I found myself hearing the same words on the radio. A K-love radio feature from the Francis Anfuso foundation spoke about "The gift of pain". My first thought was "How could anyone be grateful for pain?". Then I listened to the radio feature describe how our shallow understanding of God's plan causes us to miss the point and purpose of our challenges. I think that described me a few years ago.
When I was sick, before I knew what my diagnosis was, I could not understand why God would put me through so much suffering. Everyday was a challenge. I was tired and achy all the time, had brain fog, struggled with anxiety and depression, and felt like like knives were constantly stabbing me in the stomach. I never felt rested, sane or calm. I went to see several doctors all of whom told me nothing was wrong with me. I even had one tell me all my symptoms were in my head and because I was a nurse, I simply "knew too much". I could not grasp why God wanted me to live a life like this and I even told my mother at one point that I was not living life but suffering through it. After months of more suffering, my mother finally got me to see one more physician.
Then came a diagnosis of Celiac Disease. I was so sick from it that I had a variety of other items I was ill from that would resolve with time once I started recovering from my gluten poisoning. I had a name for what was wrong with me and I had a physician to treat it. It took over a year before I started feeling better. Slowly, but surely, my symptoms faded one by one. Four years later I feel better than ever. My experiences gave me a whole new perspective on life. I now knew why my patients hated taking so many pills and why they were so cranky some days. I had been impatient with their lack of compliance before but now I knew why they hit roadblocks on their road to wellness. I also realized what it was they need from me and what I needed to do. Perhaps, before I was sick, I was too self-confident and too independent. I lived arrogantly even though my career was about making people feel better and live healthy lives. I had compassion but very little empathy. Even though I feel I was a good person, I don't think I was anywhere near the person God wanted me to be. I needed to know what a sick life was before I could appreciate a healthy one. It was the pain and suffering that kept me from destroying my life and continuing to poison my body. The pain provided me with protection and it kept me humble.
I know I could never repay God for the suffering he put His Son through and the gift that came from His Son's pain. However, I hope that I can use the pain I've been put through to learn God's will for my life. Christ's suffering had purpose and even though I can never come close to the level of sacrifice he made, I hope that I can model my behavior after him and show others the love and support I was given. The purpose of me running for Mrs. Alaska United States was to bring more attention to the illness that I almost let conquer me. Being Mrs. Alaska and working to increase knowledge of my platform is my way of serving others. Starting a support group and running a website about gluten allergies is my humble attempt to ease the suffering of others and bringing them the hope that I almost lost sight of.
I now can say with certainty that I am grateful for the gift of pain.