Now I will jump back a little in my story. My first bout of serious illness that wouldn’t go away was after the birth of my first son, Logan, in 2002. Six days after he was born, I came down with mastitis. Mastitis is a painful infection of the breast (related to nursing) accompanied by fever, chills, and general un-wellness. My mom recognized the symptoms, I went to urgent care, the doctor told me it was no big deal and gave me antibiotics.
Six days after I finished the antibiotics, it came back. I called my ObGyn, and she gave me more antibiotics. Six days after I finished that round of antibiotics, it came back again. This time my doctor examined me, admitted she didn’t know why it was coming back, and put me on a long round of strong antibiotics. By this time I was getting discouraged, upset, and a little fearful. I prayed every night, “Lord, please don’t let this come back again. I feel like I’m missing this first stage of being a mom! Please just help the antibiotics to work this time.” I was sick and weak and weepy.
Six days after I finished the antibiotic, the mastitis was back. Mom put me in the car and drove me to the doctor. I was shaking with chills and fever. The doctor took one look at me and said, “We’re admitting you to the hospital.”
“Can I bring my baby?”
I saw lots of doctors in the hospital. I was ill, heartbroken, and numb. When Brett came to see me he just looked stunned. Logan was having to adapt to bottles and formula and it wasn’t going well. They kept me in the hospital for 6 days on IV antibiotics, did cultures and blood tests, and sent me home with more antibiotics and instructions for slowly drying up my milk, which was also infected.
I felt better being at home with my baby. When I first walked into the house, Logan greeted me with his first smile. I cried and just knew I had rounded the corner. I had prayed so much. My whole church and family was praying. They had treated me in the hospital for 6 days. It had to be over.
Six days after I finished the antibiotics, it came back. And I could tell it was worse this time. We called the doctor and she said to meet her at the hospital. My fever was so high and I was so out-of-it, I didn’t even care that I was leaving Logan again. I was in a lot of pain.
This time, the infection was in my blood. They said it could have killed me. They did tests on my heart, to make sure no damage had been done. I saw a surgeon, a heart specialist, some kind of expert ObGyn, and an infectious disease doctor. No one knew why the infection kept coming back. A week later, they sent me home with a set-up to do three weeks of IV antibiotics at home.
That finally did it. Four weeks of IV antibiotics, and it didn’t come back. Logan was five months old, but he was a year old before I was strong again.
But aside from all the physical strain, something in my heart had cracked. Something in my faith felt broken. Where was the God I had grown up believing in? Why hadn’t he helped me? Why had he allowed me to suffer and cry and hurt for months and months while I was begging Him to heal me? I had known countless sick people in church – we prayed for them; they got better (unless they had like cancer or something, then sometimes they didn’t). Why wasn’t God there for me when I needed him? All the doctors said it should have been a normal, mild infection. Why couldn’t God help me with THAT? And then I felt guilty for asking the questions.
It was a long time before I came to peace with those questions. I did a lot of reading, from the Bible and good Christian thinkers, on the problem of evil and the providence of God (I can send you a good list of books if you'd like). And God helped my heart and my body to heal.
Sister, I share this story because I want to join you in two things.
One, if you suffer from chronic illness or depression, you have probably suffered through things that seem senseless. Things that don’t make sense and you never get answers or diagnoses for. You are not alone. Some things don’t make sense, and we may never know why God allows them. That’s ok. But one thing I know for sure – He is still with you. Wherever you are, and whether you feel it or not, he is always with you.
Two, it’s ok to ask the questions. God is not afraid of your questions. He is not fearful that you will expose something in Him He doesn’t want you to see. He wants to hear from you. He wants to help you. He wants to guide you. Ask Him your questions and ask Him to help you find the answers. It is always in His will for you to find truth.
A Christian thinker once said, “Faith and doubt are not opposites. They’re dance partners.” I love that.
Doubt is part of the dialogue of faith. It does not mean that you are weak or wrong or bad. I wish I could go back and tell myself that when I was crying myself to sleep in the hospital.
Doubt leads to clarity. It shows us the places where our faith is selfish, or shallow, or closed. Stay engaged with God. If we stick with Him and keep asking and seeking, He will always lead us to good places. Places of peace, purpose, and transformed faith.