If you have had a diagnosis of RA then you will identify with the doom and gloom that settles over our minds when we hear for the first time the words, “You have Rheumatoid Arthritis”. The word ‘arthritis’ has very negative connotations. Visions of old age, crippled joints and wheelchairs flash before our eyes. It strikes fear in our hearts and my first reaction was denial. I was 20 years of age and studying to be a Primary School teacher. Arthritis did not fit into the vision I had for my life. Over a period of about 7 months my entire body was progressively taken over by agonising pain, swelling and inflammation. Unlike osteoarthritis that may affect one or more joints, RA affects the whole body. Both hands, both knees, both feet – the bilateral nature is a key indicator of the disease. RA became my personal tragedy and I felt trapped by the disease. I was experiencing ‘the worst of life’.
There are two key words that I want to leave with you today: “But God…” God has a way of showing up in our lives at just the opportune moment. I describe my early RA experience as being surrounded by a sea of pain and I felt as though I was drowning. It was a terrible shock to discover that no-one could help me. My parents were helpless, friends were in shock and the extreme gravity with which my Rheumatologist spoke about the disease, drove me to a state of depression. There was no ‘cure’ – at best the medication would attempt to ‘control’ the RA. I felt out of control and in utter desperation I made the best decision of my life. I looked up. Maybe God would help me. I had attended convent schools all my life so I knew about God and I knew that Jesus performed miracles when He was on earth. Could there be a miracle for me?
The hard pew made the pain in my coccyx (unrelated to the RA) unbearable and tears flowed down my cheeks as the pastor prayed for me. In an instant my life changed. I received not one but two miracles! An intense heat flowed down my spine and the coccyx pain was gone – I was healed! The second miracle happened in my spirit. I felt as though a huge weight had been removed from my shoulders. I experienced my first moment of pure joy. I was healed in my spirit! Over the next days, weeks and months I began to understand the enormity of what happened to me on that spring evening. For the first time in my life I was alive spiritually to God. I longed to go to church. I began reading the Bible. I enjoyed being with other Christians. I visited the local Bible Centre and discovered a whole new world of literature. RA was instrumental in making me see my desperate need of Jesus Christ in my life. The worst experience of my life miraculously turned into the best experience of my life. Jesus became my Saviour and my Healer in a moment in time. Sadly, the RA has remained for the past 33 years and brought with it many surgeries and much pain. Nevertheless, I have learned to trust God with my life. I know that He has the power to heal. I know that it is His will for me to be healed. I have faith that I will be healed. Just as Jesus showed up at just the right moment in that church I live in hope content to know that the same Jesus will rescue me from RA. When all hope has gone I want you to remember these words: But God …
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)