Brett Fredenberg

Though My Flesh May Fail: Reflections on Chronic Suffering from the Hospital Bed

In the midst of your chronic suffering, remember that God has no aimless thorns. Each thorn perfectly meets its mark exactly as He intends for the duration He determines. Each one will accomplish all He desires. Learn to seek God in the struggle with the thorn. See how He might be using it to conform you to the image of Christ and prepare you for eternity with Him.

“You have dysentery.” My common fate on the old Oregon Trail computer game became reality three years ago in Madagascar when my doctor spoke these words to me. As much as I wanted to laugh at how ironic it was to struggle with such an old disease as dysentery, I was in pain.
Little did I know then that this illness would set me on a trajectory of doctors’ visits, medical diagnoses, and hospital stays for the next three years, leading up to this very day where I sit once again in isolation at St. Luke’s East Hospital, missing my family and wondering why they can’t design hospital beds to be more comfortable.
I’m a firm believer in the sovereignty of God’s grace. I believe everything that happens to the believer is for good. After receiving an autoimmune diagnosis and seeing the subsequent bills roll in, though, this conviction has been put to the test.
Amidst temptations to doubt, God continues to reveal His good purposes for me in my affliction. As I sit in my hospital bed today, three lessons stand out among the rest as reminders of the sovereignty of God’s grace and His goodness in my life.
1. Your present trajectory does not determine your eternal reality.
Beginning in the fall of 2020, my life seemed to be on a negative trajectory. A house fire displacing our family for six months, the loss of my job and financial stability, and an autoimmune diagnosis hit us all in the span of a few months. Health, home, career, and finances- all taken away before we knew what hit us.
Any onlooker to the situation would quickly- and rightly- surmise that we were in a tough spot, in all senses of the phrase- emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
And in that season, Psalm 73 became my refrain.
“My feet had almost stumbled… For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked…For they have no pangs until death…They are not in trouble as others are…Behold, these are the wicked; always as ease.”
Why do the wicked prosper? So often, prosperity seems to attend the wicked while the Christian seems to go from bad to worse. I often wonder, “How can this be?” Anticipating my question, God answers…
“But when I thought how to understand this; it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end… Truly you set them in slippery places.”
For the Christian, God saves us not only from our sin, but He also saves us from all other saviors. During this season, I began to see that I found more comfort, identity, and satisfaction in my home, health, and finances than I had previously realized.
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