Heather M. Dixon
I hung up the phone and sat on the couch to absorb the news. I looked into my husband’s eyes but said nothing. Tears were the only language we could speak at the moment. We knew this phone call was coming. And we intuitively knew what the doctor would say. Finally, after years of mysterious major medical events, we had a name for my story.
Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
It was my mother’s story too, but she never got to tell it. My family had accepted that her untimely death at the age of thirty-seven was due to an unknown illness. But after the phone call from my geneticist on that gray, January day, we knew that my story was her story.
I had inherited a rare, genetic connective tissue disorder from her, one that causes major medical events and threatens a shortened life expectancy. So far because of Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I have experience pre-term labor and delivery, a ruptured colon, a miscarriage, a partial kidney infarction, and a ruptured carotid artery. There is no cure or treatment for my disorder, only a recommendation from my doctor to prepare my bucket list and live my life well.
What do we do with stories we didn’t choose and don’t like?
My diagnosis wasn’t the only hard story I had to rebound from. Several years prior to that, my father died suddenly in a car accident. Like a tsunami, the grief washed over me, and I let it change my heart. Bitter and broken, I turned away from my faith.
Standing in the middle of my living room floor, I whispered to God, “I hate you.”
In that moment, I felt very much like Naomi, a character from the book of Ruth who understood living with a story that is not easy. I had read in the Bible that God was always working for my good, and I was expected to believe it. But I questioned whether that was true for me. Maybe God meant that verse for someone else, surely not for someone with my story.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 NIV
The goodness of God rolls comfortably off our tongues when life is pleasant but proclaiming the truth of Romans 8:28 when we are carrying difficult stories can feel nearly impossible.
Except that with Jesus, nothing is impossible.
In a way that only He could orchestrate, Jesus lovingly wooed me back into a close and personal relationship with Him after the death of my father. And after my diagnosis, He turned one of the hardest seasons of my life into one of the sweetest. Every moment now is precious. Every memory is priceless. For every day that I am given on this earth, I’m so thankful. I still carry my hard story, but now I let Jesus do the heavy lifting.
When we’re given a story, we didn’t choose and don’t like, we can let bitterness consume us or we can turn to Jesus and trust Him to renew it. I wonder if we were sitting down with Naomi right now, might she say the same thing? As a woman who had lost both her husband and her two sons, forced to provide for herself in a time when women were hardly self-reliant, Naomi understood the heartache of authentic, raw grief. She knew the life-altering path of a story you can’t change.
Maybe you do too.
Here’s what I want us both to remember about Naomi’s story today: she also witnessed a God who moved in her details, coordinating circumstances in her favor even when she couldn’t see it. He was always working for her good as He moved her from a place of bitterness to renewed joy.
The women said to Naomi: "Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. – Ruth 4:14-15a NIV
Can you see God moving in your story today? If not, would you be bold enough to trust that He is there, with you right now? The same God that moved in Naomi’s story is moving in yours. He is arranging things behind the scenes to renew your heart.
You may not be carrying a life-threatening medical condition, but all our stories cry out for our need for the Savior and His redeeming love. If you think that your marriage is lost, Jesus can redeem it. If you have no idea how to restore a broken friendship, Jesus can redeem it. If you think you’ve made far too many mistakes, Jesus can redeem them all. If you are facing suffering and hardship that seems too difficult to face alone, Jesus longs to do it with you. Will you trust Him today?
Your story isn’t over. It ends with hope. Even now, God is working to renew it.
Heather M. Dixon is an author, speaker, and Bible teacher who is passionate about encouraging and equipping women to trust in God, face their greatest fears, and live with hope, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances.
When she is not blogging at The Rescued Letters or speaking at women’s conferences and events, Dixon loves to make the most of everyday moments such as cooking for her husband and son, brainstorming all the possible ways to organize Legos and superheroes, checking out way too many library books, or unashamedly indulging
in her love for all things Disney.
Dixon is a regular contributor to Journey magazine and the author of women’s Bible studies, Determined: Living Like Jesus in Every Moment and Renewed: Finding Hope When You Don’t Like Your Story.