On December 19, 2014, I woke up to a phone call from a diabetic educator. This struck me as a little odd because I hadn’t been officially diagnosed with diabetes yet (the nurse who called me the day before said I had blood sugar levels they saw in Type 1 Diabetics). I scheduled my appointment with her after meeting with the doctor who would tell me that I do in fact have Type 1 Diabetes.
That day was filled with several activities to keep me busy: a doctor appointment, trying (and failing) to get my insulin, meeting with a diabetic educator, picking up blood sugar testing supplies, successfully picking up insulin, packing my car, and driving six hours home from my university for winter break. I had been so busy doing things, and it had come on so quickly (I hadn’t even realized how sick I was), that I didn’t really have time to emotionally process my diagnosis.
When I finally paused and reflected on my situation, I felt incredibly frustrated at the utter lack of fairness. I was convinced I had done nothing to deserve this horrible disease. I angrily questioned God about why, after the worst couple months of my life, He decided to give me diabetes. I suppose if I had actually listened to Him, I would’ve gotten through the bitterness a little easier, but instead it’s taken me time, mistakes, and growing in faith to get a better understanding of my situation. Demanding an answer from God for why He would put something so horrible in my life only showed how little I understood Him.
God isn’t Punishing Me
At the time of my diagnosis, I argued at God (I say “at” and not “with” because my prayer was not conversational at all) as though He in His infinite wisdom looked down at me and decided that He wanted me to suffer horribly and zapped me with a cursed pancreas. The problem is that this isn’t how God works. He doesn’t want us to suffer. His intent for us is to achieve eternal happiness and perfect union with Him. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world. Bad things sometimes just happen. This is not what God desires for us, but He allows it to happen. I know the thought that bad things happen just because we live in an imperfect world isn’t an uplifting one, but it is the reality we face. The bright spot in this suffering, however, is that God can use this suffering to sanctify us.
God uses my Diabetes to Sanctify Me
Again, my thought was that God had given me diabetes for no good reason, but as I have lived with these challenges I’ve been able to see how God has been able to make my life better despite living with diabetes. I am much more attentive to my health and have been able to catch other illnesses earlier than I normally would have. I naturally make better food choices. I am much more aware of the struggles people with chronic illnesses, especially invisible illnesses, face on a daily basis after being shamefully unaware of how hard life can be for others. I am more sympathetic to people with chronic illnesses and am able to relate to other people I care very much about who also suffer from different chronic illnesses. I have learned how important it is to say “no.” I’ve had to stop basing my value as a person based on what I accomplish.
The biggest, most important change, however, is that I have grown much, much closer to God. In the face of suffering, we have two options: we can either abandon God because we can’t understand why a loving god would cause us so much suffering, or we can rely on Him fully, and He will help us carry the burden. Obviously, there are various shades in between that, but I don’t think anyone who goes through a huge life change leaves with the exact same level of faith that they had coming in. Though my life absolutely has gotten harder the last few years, I find myself facing the challenges better and leaving them with a better perspective. I can find the value in my suffering because I believe it is preparing me for Heaven.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not grateful for this disease itself. It hurts to check my blood sugar, change my sensor, or inject my infusion site. I am self-conscious about the bruises, scars, and marks that cover my body. I miss the ability to be spontaneous. I get tired of counting carbs. I get frustrated with people making stupid jokes about a serious illness. I get hurt by the judgement that I brought this disease on myself and somehow deserve it*. I get upset when I feel sick or feel like I have no control over my own body. And I still get angry at God sometimes.
However, I am grateful for what this disease did for my spiritual life. It took me awhile to get where I am, and I still have a long way to go along my faith journey, but I am confident that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for something happening to me that made me realize how desperately I needed God.
A little over two years later, I realize that there isn’t an answer to my question “why did God give me diabetes” because it is the wrong question. I know now that my questions should be “how can God guide me through this,” “how can I stay connected to God,” and “how can this suffering sanctify me?”
*Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Nothing I did caused it, and there is nothing I could have done to prevent it. For a reason doctors cannot figure out, my body decided to attack itself. That being said, judging Type 2 Diabetics is also wrong. There are a lot of other factors that go into it developing beyond lifestyle.