The perky heads of yellow have sprung from the ground, signaling the end of winter. A new season has arrived — days are getting longer and warmer. The arctic winds of winter have shifted to bring spring showers, awakening the dead earth back to life. Daffodils are the first sign of that annual renewal of life.
For the last 12 years, daffodils have been a danger sign to me. They signaled the coming of spring pollen. Every year, when the tree and flower pollen spikes, my lungs go into lockdown.
Ken and I started celebrating Valentine’s day at other times of the year because me getting sick was so predictable. Every year, I’ve been on steroids. Many years, I’ve ended up in the hospital.
Daffodils signify danger.
So when I saw the first signs of the daffodils of spring, I gasped.
And I exhaled.
I chuckled to myself as I am reminded that I have been set free from the chains of asthma. Even the cough I picked up in Africa in 2012 is now gone. I’ve been off of asthma medications for over 6 months now, and when I saw my physician this week he said aloud, “It’s the strangest thing.” I wasn’t just a typical asthmatic, I was the worst kind of asthmatic. I took the monthly injection Xolair in 2013 to the tune of $3500/month, and it didn’t touch my asthma. A day or two without my daily inhaled medicines would send me into gasps of suffocation.
When Ken and I prayed for my healing as confirmation that we should move to Africa, it was as if we really didn’t expect God to heal me. Though we were certain God could heal me, we weren’t sure He would.
As a medical provider, my entire job is, well, trying to help people God chooses not to heal. I pray for my patients every day as I travel to their homes. I have prayed for long lists of health requests from Sunday school classes, small groups, academic settings, and more.
I spend my days immersed in what God is seemingly not doing.
I am learning that God’s purposes in illness are not always about the cure. He could have healed my asthma 12 years ago, when I first asked. But He didn’t. He waited 12 frustrating years and over a hundred thousand dollars later. Illness did not merely exist in my life so He could heal me from it, but to teach me through it. I had had to learn to find joy, when I could not breathe well enough to walk across the house to get a glass of water. I learned to embrace the struggle as a part of how God was shaping me. I learned to love God not in spite of my physical ailment, but because He had chosen me to discipline in love through my illness. And I ultimately had to offer it as my only request to God before we moved to Ghana. I have often asked Ken, “If I wouldn’t have had asthma for 12 years, would we know for sure God wanted us to move to Ghana?”
While God did heal my lungs, and I am so thankful for the confirmation we needed to know that His plan would be found in Ghana, I am even more thankful for the lessons He taught me on those long days of suffocation.
I wear a heavy cloak of burden these days for all of my patients because of the illnesses that they bear. I carry the burden for our prayer partners who are suffering from illness in themselves or their family. But if what is true in my own life is true for others, an absence of healing does not mean an absence of God’s presence and guidance. Perhaps rather than praying only for my patient’s physical healing from illness, I should pray for their spiritual healing through illness.
My work in medicine must balance what God is seemingly not doing in the physical realm, with what He is doing in the spiritual realm. And He calls me to be a healer in both.
John Piper in What Jesus Demands from the World says, “He did not die to make this life easy for us or prosperous. He died to remove every obstacle to our everlasting joy in making much of him. And he calls us to follow him in his sufferings because this life of joyful suffering for Jesus’ sake (Matt. 5:12) shows that he is more valuable than all the earthly rewards that the world lives for. If you follow Jesus only because he makes life easy now, it will look to the world as though you really love what they love, and Jesus just happens to provide it for you. But if you suffer with Jesus in the pathway of love because he is your supreme treasure, then it will be apparent to the world that your heart is set on a different fortune than theirs. This is why Jesus demands that we deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him.”
Daffodils will now always remind me of delighting in God, whether in danger or disease or deliverance. And this year, I am celebrating what God has taught me, as I embrace the arrival of spring, with every. single. breath.