You have late-stage Lyme disease.” Those six words brought an initial sigh of relief. Finally, at age 24, I had a diagnosis.
It all started when I was 10 years old: the neck pain, chronic fatigue, and nausea. I had joined Pathfinders and gone on as many camping trips as I could. We’d pull ticks off of us all the time, thinking them only a brief nuisance. While I was growing up, my doctors tested me for anything and everything. When the tests came back either negative or normal they dismissed my symptoms and insisted that my problems would resolve in time.
Instead, my initial three symptoms intensified, and more symptoms appeared. In 2010, while serving as a literature evangelist in Colorado, I noticed a bullseye rash on my leg. Then I experienced flulike symptoms. Unaware of the significance, I waited two weeks until the program was over to go to a clinic. The nurse practitioner saw my rash and tested me for Lyme. Since the results were negative, she said I didn’t need any treatment. I believed her.
God doesn’t get rid of every bad circumstance
I continued working hard and graduated summa cum laude from Andrews University in 2013. Immediately following my internship, I married the love of my life, Stephen Mayer. I thought since school was over my health would improve. However, I got dramatically worse. That’s when I finally met the doctor who gave me the diagnosis of late-stage Lyme disease.
She then informed me that the test I had been given for Lyme was wrong 50 percent of the time, but that my list of now more than 40 symptoms pointed to classic textbook neurological Lyme. I was encouraged by the knowledge. I thought I could take a few pills and move on with my life. Yet unbeknownst to me, that day I was embarking on a lifelong journey.
Over the years I’ve been to many doctors, naturopaths, and specialists. I’ve tried multiple antibiotics, natural supplements, diets, and therapies. I’ve had some improvement, but I still suffer from many debilitating symptoms—mainly chronic exhaustion, severe pain, seizure-like episodes, and brain fog.
It has become clear to me that unless I receive an act of divine intervention, Lyme will always be a part of me. There’s something about having a disease with no definitive cure that makes you think. It makes you think the age-old question: Why? Why does God allow bad things to happen to His people?
I thought the answer was easy: there’s sin in the world. However, personal suffering makes the question more confounding and desperately important.
One day I asked God, “Why me? I was working for You when I received the bullseye rash!” I knew, deep down, that Satan is the one responsible for my suffering. But I still thought: Where was God when this happened? Doesn’t He promise to protect those who are working for Him?
Then I heard God’s thoughts: How much is a soul worth to you?
I thought: What if one soul gave their life to Christ as a result of that summer’s work? If my affliction never ceased would it have been worth it? The realization hit my heart: it would be a privilege and an honor to see that person in heaven, and whomever they brought with them through their influence.
A friend shared her thought with me that maybe my prayers were not being answered because I either didn’t have enough faith or hadn’t surrendered to God. Maybe my suffering was all my own fault! I wondered, Was that God’s response to my anguish?
I prayerfully delved into the Scriptures. I found them full of examples in which faith played a pivotal role in healing: the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43-48); the centurion with the sick servant (Matt. 8:5-13); the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:25-30); even the father who didn’t have enough faith (Mark 9:23-25).
But I also discovered examples of people of faith whose prayer requests were not granted: Paul’s thorn in his side (2 Cor. 12:7-10); or the story of Job. The more I read Job’s story, the more I felt that it was just for me. God was giving me a peek into secrets of His administration, secrets Job never learned about what was happening or why. The circumstances of his disasters were beyond the pale of his knowledge or favor.
Then there’s Jesus, praying, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). God was teaching me to pray “not as I will, but as you will.”
I also found the following statement very helpful: “There are cases where God works decidedly by His divine power in the restoration of health. But not all the sick are healed. Many are laid away to sleep in Jesus. . . . If persons are not raised to health, they should not on this account be judged as wanting in faith.”1
The three Hebrew youths demonstrated their understanding of this concept when standing before King Nebuchadnezzar: “The God we serve is able to deliver us from [the burning fiery furnace], and He will. . . . But even if he does not, we want you know, Your majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Dan. 3:16-18). I am convinced that with one word, God can intervene in my health. If He doesn’t, He is still God, and I will serve Him.
With clearer understanding, my burden has taken a swan dive from off my shoulders! I don’t think I could have heard God’s voice any clearer if it had been audible! He has answered my question of what He expects of me. He expects me to believe and while I wait, to trust His decisions, timing, goodness, and love for me.
I don’t know what struggles you are going through. But whatever challenges you may be facing, I encourage you: look to the darkest period in earth’s history and see God’s light. Here’s the light: Jesus rescuing us by dying on the cross, showing that God doesn’t get rid of every bad circumstance; and, at the same time, that God will bring His purpose out of the worst of situations. He will not let go.
1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 230.
Kathlyn Mayer lives in New York with husband, Stephen, fights Lyme disease, keeps house, shares Jesus with all and sundry, and cares for her parents.