Every year when Pascha ends, I start to eagerly anticipate the next one, the next opportunity to completely focus on my faith and forget the rest of my earthly obligations.
In the Orthodox faith, we are gifted with an abundance of fasts, feast days and other opportunities to embrace what we believe by sacrificing ourselves. But during the last 10 years or so, Lent has been a time of year when I have been blessed with a physical pain that has forced me to concentrate on nothing but the support and love of Christ.
My multiple sclerosis was diagnosed years ago during Great Lent, with a case of double vision. And it seems that since then, many of my most significant exacerbations have occurred during Lent and, specifically Holy Week.
I have gone up for Holy Unction multiple times with different afflictions – optic neuritis, scorching pain in my limbs and even a limp and loss of balance that made me wonder if I would be able to reach the priest without falling down.
Every year I have been blessed to endure physical symptoms that I could only overcome with a firm faith in Christ’s purpose and true love for me. My disease has acted like a cheat sheet of sorts, a way for me to grow closer to my Creator through a physical disruption of my earthly existence.
Having never been cured of my multiple sclerosis, the symptoms have been consistent companions, reminding me that God is here to strengthen my faith by illustrating that only He has complete control. The pains ebb and flow, growing stronger when the seasons change or when I give myself over to the stresses of this life.
As I write this, my fingers are tingling, my torso feels like it’s being crushed by a steel belt and I can’t feel my footsteps clearly when I walk to the kitchen. The soft towels I just folded, fresh from the dryer, felt like they were coated in sandpaper and all I want to do is go take a nap. But I’ve never been happier or more at peace.
These pains may sound strange and foreign to anyone who has never lived with a neurological disease. But I know that the sensation of never having full control of our physical lives is something that everyone understands.
It is up to us to find and recognize these instances, these blessings, where we see that only God has the power to heal.
I was having dinner with a friend a few weeks ago, and she was saying that things in her life had been going really well. Work, family, everything was great. She felt so in control, in fact, that she hadn’t been going to church or praying as much as she did when she was searching for answers.
And she suddenly had a new challenge – to focus on her faith even when she felt she didn’t need to rely on Christ.
So often, when things are going our way, it is easy to forget our spiritual center, to forget that strength is not ours but Christ’s alone. As we continue through this journey, let us all be grateful for the pain and disappointments of our lives, seeing them instead as gifts, as opportunities to know the truth of Christ our God.
Kali Sarakosti, everyone, and may we pray for every opportunity to fight the good fight.
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