Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction
so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction
with the comfort with which we ourselves
are comforted by God.
–II Corinthians 1:3&4
I spent most of my adolescence battling Lyme Disease. The problem had gone undiagnosed because Lyme Disease “does not exist” in our area, according to the likes of government agencies like the CDC. Or at least, it didn’t then. And so my parents spent years seeking out not just treatment for me, but a diagnosis.
In early college, when I was finishing up my final rounds of antibiotics and beginning to feel healthy for the first time in a decade, I began to ask questions, which is what nineteen-year-olds and three-year-olds both specialize in. My biggest question was, naturally, why?
I’m not sure the whys and what fors of life will ever truly be answered. But still, we can see the silver linings, the good things that have come. The verse above became my theme verse in those years. Was the point of suffering to be able to comfort others? I’m not sure that it was, even though the verse uses the phrase “so that” as if it were answering the question of why.
But the verse does explain what can be taken away from a situation of suffering. As the person suffering learns to receive comfort from God, he learns to comfort others.
We have received the ultimate comfort because our trials in this area have mostly been removed. However, there were all the little comforts along the way. There was the friend who paid extra to buy gluten-free casein-free brownie mix so my children could partake of dessert. There were my parents and grandparents, who didn’t let the learning curve intimidate them and cooked food for our children. There was the friend who managed to arrange GFCF meals for us for three weeks after O.’s birth while I was recovering from my C-section. She sent out a huge list of what the children could not eat, and somehow managed to convince people to cook for us anyhow. There were folks who understood that we would rather them come to our house so we could more easily control what was eaten. There were the mommies that, over the years, agreed to meet at a park during a time where food wasn’t necessary, so the children could simple roam around with water in a sports bottle and feel completely normal.
So much comfort. So much generosity towards us. I could fill this blog with the good deeds I have seen.
And now I know. I was never very good at comforting others. I always felt awkward. I never knew what to do. But now I have their example. I know what they did. I know that the best thing you can bring a GFCF family as a gift is a tub of Spectrum Shortening and a bag of millet flour! God has taught me unlikely lessons through all of this, and the biggest is how our family can now comfort others who are struggling with allergies coupled with the know-how it takes to actually do something without hurting anyone.
Of course, there are other things we take away. There are really good, healthy habits that we have built. These will benefit us for a lifetime. They will benefit our children’s children.
There are hidden talents we discovered. It was really this journey that brought about E.’s desire to be a farmer. It brought about the love for gardening. A whole world opened up to us as I was doing my research, and we now have so many ties binding all of us together.
It was also through this journey that we began to see A. for who she was. She was so tired and beaten down from her allergies. Sometimes I think it was more so for her than E., as far as how she felt daily and how it changed her personality. I feel like I’m getting to know her all over again. One thing I do know is that somehow, she has grown a heart of compassion coupled with a morbid interest in health problems. I don’t know if this was always there, or if her excitement over finding a doctor who heals somehow inspired her, but it would not surprise me if A. pursues health care training that benefits the whole family someday, including the family she is yet to create.
We also take away a different approach to health when it comes to our infants. Our younger two have reaped the benefits of this. They have never taken antibiotics. They have never had a vaccine. We have also taken other precautions, like keeping our toddler on goat’s milk instead of cow’s and not feeding her processed wheat products. And, so far, there are no signs of allergies. Our younger two seem so much stronger, so much more vibrant, than the older two were at their respective ages.
This is a short list of the things we take away. What we have suffered becomes part of who we are. This is true for anyone. The question is whether it becomes an asset to our person, or a weakness that forever dampens the future. I like to think that this is an awful thing that brought about a lot of good.
We have seen the grace of God, and we know firsthand that it is good.
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