My Illness Is A Gift

“Some people might say I’m crazy to consider my illness a gift. But, God used it to give me a relationship with His Son, and He turned this sickness into my platform to speak to others about His goodness.”

My life is but a weaving between my God and me. I cannot choose the colors He weaveth steadily. Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow; and I in foolish pride forget He sees the upper and I the underside. Not ’til the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly will God unroll the canvas and reveal the reason why. The dark threads are as needful in the weaver’s skillful hand as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned. He knows, He loves, He cares; Nothing this truth can dim. He gives the very best to those who leave the choice to Him. – by Corrie ten Boom

“For many years, I felt pretty comfortable with living for the ways of the world,” said Ashley Leffers. “My rebellion began in college and continued afterward. No matter what I pursued, nothing ever made me happy. That all changed about 10 years ago when I began to experience small strokes, chronic pancreatitis, ulcers, extreme fatigue, and cognitive issues. It was like having Multiple sclerosis, Lupus, and Crohn’s disease at the same time. There was no clear path for treatment when doctors diagnosed me with a rare autoimmune disease.

“During the early stages of my illness, the Lord began working on my husband’s heart and mine simultaneously. I began desperately looking for something that a doctor could not provide. My husband was seeking something that his job and accomplishments couldn’t satisfy. Some of our friends, Matt Moss and Beau Fournet, had been inviting us to visit Watermark with them, but until that point, we always had a reason to say no – from this being a large church to our preference for traditional music.

“When we finally did visit Watermark, something resonated in the message we heard. As we looked at God’s Word, we realized what was missing in our lives was Christ. In the past, I’d been told that my illness was the consequence of some sin that my parents or I had committed. Others recommended everything from vitamins to going to healing services. So, when I finally immersed myself in the truth of God’s Word, it was freeing to know that those things were not true. My sins had been fully paid for when Jesus died on the cross. I had a choice to seek hope in medical science or in my Heavenly Father… to choose bitterness or allow my illness to become a catalyst for trusting the Lord and growing in Him. It didn’t happen overnight, but I began to see this trial as an opportunity to ‘consider it all joy… knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.’ (James 1:2-3)

“I had been on chemotherapy for my illness several times, which made conceiving a child impossible. We moved forward with domestic adoption, and in 2013 we received the news that Alex, our son, had been born. Every child is a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5), and the adoption process has made me see Alex as a particularly special gift.

“As a mom, the ups and downs of illness have been challenging. Our community group and broader circle of Watermark friends have stepped in and helped us in so many ways – from praying for us to helping with meals and lending a hand with caring for our son. Even a text letting us know they are here for our family is always so encouraging.

“When I learned about Refuge, Watermark’s ministry for caregivers and those facing chronic illness, I got involved. Soon I was co-leading a small group of women who were familiar with the same journey on which the Lord had our family. Refuge offered a place for us to talk about our struggles and how the Lord was working in our lives as we navigated the waters of illness and caregiving. Each session was a great reminder that rather than looking for hope in medicine, respite care, or healing, we must keep our hearts and minds focused on the hope of Jesus Christ.

“My illness is not curable, so when people ask me if I believe God is good, my answer isn’t predicated on a change in my circumstances. I can tell people that bad things happen in this world, and illness and other tragedies will continue to happen until Jesus returns. I think of it like the poem by Corrie ten Boom, The Master Weaver’s Plan. Here on earth, we only see one side of the tapestry God is weaving. Only when He unrolls the fabric will we see the other side – the skillful work God has done. Until then, I must trust Him.

“Some people might say I’m crazy to consider my illness a gift. But, God used it to give me a relationship with His Son, and He turned this sickness into my platform to speak to others about His goodness. I’m not a public speaker, but God’s work in my life has given me the courage to speak out to doctors, nurses, medical staff, and others I interact with. If it were not for this experience I would not have the credibility to talk honestly with others about depending on Christ during times of suffering. If I hadn’t been ill, perhaps I never would have discovered my great need for a Savior.”

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