Ten years ago this month, I was officially diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. [NB. Basic explanation for those who don’t know – RA is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its own joints thinking they’re foreign (like a virus would be), causing pain and swelling in the joints and pretty high levels of fatigue since the body’s in a continual battle with itself.]
To say that first year was tough seems like a vast understatement. Between the depression that settled in at the thought that I was stuck with this for life, the exhaustion of getting through every day, the frustration with my body for not doing what I wanted it to anymore and the nauseating/dizzying side effects of the high doses of medication my doctor had me on to get the disease under control – oh yeah, and the pain itself – I was a mess.
But in the midst of the mess, there were a few things that kept me going. Believe it or not, one of them was a billboard. I saw it on the way home from work every day, and every day, it gave me another desperately needed dose of hope.
It was for a bank and had a picture of a guy looking off into the horizon. To be honest, I have no idea what they were actually advertising, nor do I even remember which bank it was for, but the words changed my life. “In two years, he’ll start again.”
I felt, every time I saw it, like someone was saying that for me. Though the diagnosis had crushed the dreams I’d held for the future, that billboard gave me hope. Hope that, maybe, a year from now, I too might start again. Hope that maybe something good might come of my pain. Hope that maybe one day, life would be better. Just like fictional Mr Advertising Campaign’s life wasn’t over, neither was mine. I had hope and a future. I just had to get through that year.
Don’t give up. There is hope. You have a future. Make it through this and you’ll see. There’s light and hope and a reason. There’s more than the pain you see today. One day, you’ll start again – start smiling, start living, start giving. Where you are today is not the end. Don’t give up.
I was reminded of the power of not giving up again last week as I spent five hours or so watching online presentations from Platform University’s Influence and Impact Summit – interviews with a bunch of writers who’d made a big difference in the/their world and how they’d gotten to that point. Though I only had time to watch eight of the twenty-four sessions available, I was really encouraged and inspired by them and learnt a lot.
Though each of the speakers had a vastly different story of how he or she had become the influence they are today, every single one of them said one thing the same:
The people who succeed in the longterm and have a lasting impact on others aren’t the ones who are the best at what they do or who aren’t afraid. They’re not even the ones with the most money or influential friends. They’re simply the ones who didn’t give up.
The wording might have been different but the message every one of those people of influence had was the same. Don’t give up. You’ll never know how close you might have been to succeeding.
I’ve come a long way in ten years when it comes to dealing with my RA. I’ve found medications that work and learned to look after myself and my joints and for the most part, I’m okay with it. But I still have days when I’m exhausted and in pain and just want to curl into a little ball and pretend the world doesn’t exist. Days when I’m tired of fighting and just want to give up.
Fortunately, though, they’re more rare these days because alongside the pain, I have something else – ten years of proof that I’m stronger than I feel, ten years worth of people I’ve had the chance to encourage and support because I have RA, and ten years of story after story of God’s faithfulness over and over again in my life. His provision, his care, his power, his incredible goodness. His faithfulness when I flail. His strength when I have nothing left. Because I know now that no matter what I am or how I feel, God is good.
And Hilary Duff? Where does she fit in?
She sang a song in a movie that was yet another thing that got me through that first year and convinced me to keep going. It’s played in my head hundreds of times since.
So I won’t give up
No I won’t break down
Sooner than it seems life turns around
And I will be strong
Even if it all goes wrong
When I’m standing in the dark I’ll still believe
Someone’s watching over me
Life is tough. You don’t have to have a chronic disease to know that. It seriously hurts some days. Or maybe it hurts every day. But God is good, and you have a future, even if you can’t see what it might be today. There is always hope.
Don’t give up.