Periodically, I reblog life-giving posts that inspire.
Unshakable Hope is one of my favourite blogs. A few weeks after his 36th birthday, Bill was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), an incurable, terminal illness. Within a year of being diagnosed, Bill could no longer walk or talk. Nineteen years later, Bill creates blogs to “pass along some of the lessons I’ve learned through the course of this trial and hopefully help others avoid some of the detrimental (hope-stealing) mistakes I’ve made.”
Bill is real. He is honest and he continues to experience unshakable hope.
I’ve been wrestling with a toothache for about a week and I learned today that I’ve got some surgery ahead. This is bad news for me — dental ANYTHING just freaks me out — but when I returned home from my dentist appointment and read Bill’s post today, I experienced a much needed “balance” mentally — a perspective check.
Below are wise words from a humbled, hope-filled man.
A Good Quality of Life
I’ve been thinking a lot about quality of life issues lately. More specifically, I’ve been trying to figure out why some people that (in the natural) possess virtually everything we think would make for a good quality of life, yet they’re miserable. Conversely, many others have almost none of the ingredients that we think must be in the mix for a good quality of life, but they seem perfectly content.
I think about this issue more and more as life with ALS becomes an even greater challenge. If ALS takes its natural course, the victim will die of respiratory failure. The muscles needed to breathe become weaker and weaker to the point where you just can’t breathe anymore. Oftentimes the flu or pneumonia are just too much for those with advanced ALS and can speed up this respiratory failure.
I had a severe case of the flu in February, and last month, I spent five days in the hospital with pneumonia. Both times I thought it might be the end of my journey in this life. I was definitely not happy with my quality of life when it took all the strength I had (which isn’t much) just to take a breath.
In a post from a few years ago, I said that I would rather die than live with a horrible disease like ALS. At the time I made that statement (about a year before being diagnosed with this horrible disease), I was healthy and had most of the things that people associate with a good quality of life.
I know that some people look at me and think that they’d rather be dead than live like this. I get it. But, as a Christian, I now believe that I was proud and kind of shallow when I made that statement so many years ago.
It’s so easy for Christians to quote well-known Bible verses when we’re not facing difficult challenges, but these same verses become real and so profound when life gets hard. For example, quoting Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me“), is easy when you’re strong, but it takes on a whole new meaning when you don’t even have enough strength to open your Bible and turn to it.
Does Philippians 4:13 still apply to people like me? YES!
If we put that verse in its proper context by reading the two verses that precede it:
“…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
In this passage, Paul is saying that the strength Christ gives us is to be “content (with our quality of life) in whatever circumstances” that we find ourselves in. I’m convinced that it’s this strength or lack thereof that determines how we view our quality of life when going through a difficult trial.
There was a time that I really didn’t like reading verses about God making us content in difficult circumstances. Contentment means you are happy, satisfied, comfortable and other words that sounded more like a Hawaiian vacation than trying to cope with a difficult trial like ALS. I basically viewed contentment as the enemy of hope (for a better quality of life). But I’ve since learned that contentment (in the Biblical sense) is not the enemy of hope; they’re partners.
“…hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Romans 8:24-25)
God-given contentment gives us the perseverance we need to keep on hoping for a better quality of life. Christ gives us contentment for today and hope for a better tomorrow; if we are not content today, we won’t have hope for tomorrow.
One day “tomorrow” will be eternity; the day that contentment no longer has need of hope or faith. It will be so much better than a Hawaiian vacation.
I’ve learned that the first and most important step to improving your quality of life is to do everything possible to improve the quality of life for others.
“Give, and it will be given to you…” (Luke 6:38)