This past weekend I met four other people with multiple sclerosis. It was not by design. I met them at events that had nothing to do with MS or disability. The uncertainty of the disease is terrifying them all. Multiple sclerosis can take a benign course and cause very little disability or it can take a vicious course and cause great disability—or any variation between those two points. Unfortunately for three out of the four people, the disease is causing considerable damage. The common thread I detected in them all was fear and sadness—I could see it in their eyes.
I know their terror of going to bed at night fearful of what tomorrow may bring. I know the grief of losing physical function. Tasks that were once second nature become difficult or impossible. I know the loneliness of being avoided by people and the sadness of being passed over when once we were sought. We, the disabled, make healthy and able-bodied people uncomfortable. (Perhaps that’s one reason why so many people favor helping us commit suicide. Out of sight, out of mind.)
Of the people with MS that I met last weekend, I have had multiple sclerosis the longest (30 years). What advice would I give them if they were to ask me how to endure this horrible disease? Trust God. Seek Christ in everything. Make Christ your interior guide and master.
Christ has been with me through the most terrifying MS attacks. Christ has been present through the storms rather than delivering me from them. We do not understand why. Simply trust God.
I do know the Bible says that all things work for good for those who trust God. My present sufferings are but a moment compared to the glory that shall be revealed in me. Even though my body is being destroyed, Christ is preparing a new home for me. This is not unique to me.
We have an interior life and an outward life. Thomas à Kempis wrote in his Christian masterpiece The Imitation of Christ: “Christ’s glory and beauty are interiorly experienced and it is within you that He delights to be. He frequently visits the man who loves the interior life. He gently speaks to him, lovingly comforts him, gives him deep peace, and shares intimacy beyond words.”
It is true. Even in the midst of terrors of aggressive disease I have
experienced the deep peace of Christ. He abides forever. The Holy Spirit consoles. Within this towering truth lies another principle: We are to be in the world yet not part of the world. Sanctified. Our interior life in Christ does not mean that we should also turn inward and focus on our affliction or suffering.
On the contrary, I have discovered that the best therapy is service to others. It takes my focus off my own predicament and gives added purpose and meaning to my experience of suffering. Very soon I discovered there are others worse off than me.
In as much as Christ has given us understanding and comfort, we can let His consolation to us overflow for the benefit of other sufferers.
Even in our afflictions and suffering we can take the message of hope in Christ to others. Perhaps our afflictions and suffering may give us unique access to others in their private pain. With Christ, joy follows suffering. With the deep peace that only Christ can give there can even be divinely inspired joy in the midst of suffering!
Mark Davis Pickup has lived with aggressive multiple sclerosis for over 28 years. Although electric wheelchair dependent, Mark has spoken across the United States and Canada promoting the sanctity, dignity, and equality of all human life. He has addressed politicians and legislative committees (both Canadian and American), university forums, hospital medical staffs, religious and denominational leaders, community groups, and organizations about the critical importance of protecting all human life from conception to natural death. Mark is also a widely published writer on bioethical and Christian issues. He writes a column for Canada’s Western Catholic Reporter newspaper. Mark is the recipient of numerous awards including the Monsignor Bill Irwin Award for Ethical Excellence, the William Kurelek Award for fostering respect and appreciation for the dignity of human life (Canada), and a Governor General’s Medal for Community Service.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at http://www.humanlifematters.org/2014/04/are-you-suffering-trust-god.html.