A Different Look at Disease

Lydia Grace then and now“This sickness will not end in death.
No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son
may be glorified through it.”
John 11:4

Making sense of any hard thing that comes into our lives must begin with this premise:

We are here to bring glory to God.

I’m not a theologian. I can’t answer those hard questions about whether God allows bad things to happen, whether they are His permissive will or the result of our free will.

In our western culture, first-world mindset, we want answers and explanations. Sometimes we demand them as a condition of continuing to serve God. We want reasons to help us process these hard things. Some want to tell us that “everything happens for a reason.” But I’m not sure I can go there.

When Lydia was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, life as we knew it changed forever. Managing this disease came with a steep learning curve. It was overwhelming at first.

It’s easier now, but I hate seeing my daughter live with multiple sticks with a needle every day. I hate seeing her take 4-6 shots a day. I hate knowing she is insulin dependent. Without insulin, Lydia will die.

As diseases go, there are much worse diagnoses that could be given. I know that. But this was the crisis that God brought into the Macfarlan Family. This was the situation that He used to teach me and to help me understand a little about hard things.

I rose to the challenge in the hospital. I took notes, I studied. I asked questions. I made lists. I was going to be the best mom ever in caring for my baby. But after getting home, I just melted. I fell apart. I curled up in a fetal position and I cried out to God, “Why?”

God could have made it all go away. He could regenerate her pancreas and un-do the damage caused by whatever virus attacked and caused her to have juvenile diabetes.

But God was silent. He could do it. But He chose not to.

That was my crisis of faith. That place where I learned that we live in a world with many consequences that come as a result of the fall of man in Genesis 3. God had to make me see that diabetes wasn’t in the garden.

And neither was cancer, birth defects, heart disease, and dementia. (We can add divorce, bankruptcy, depression, and an unending list of other challenges that many deal with daily.) Those times of hurt and pain and disillusionment make us ask questions that can drive us mad – questions that we can’t truly find answers to.

So what we must do is cycle back to what we do know. We declare what is truth:

  • God loves us.
  • He loves those that we love.
  • He created us for His glory.
  • He is for us!
  • He understands our pain because He saw His own son suffer.

When we come to accept that we are here to bring glory to God,  our paradigm shifts. We can begin to look at our circumstances through a different lens, or from a different perspective.

I want to be willing to lay down the Laura lens. The lens that sees my life through the near-sighted perspective that God’s love is defined by comfort and safety and health. I want to exchange it for an eternal lens that offers a more far-sighted perspective – one that sees how our great God can and will use all things for HIS glory. A perspective that enables me to hear from God what Isaiah heard:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

Aren’t we glad we serve a God we don’t always understand? I mean really…? A God that Laura Macfarlan’s human brain could always predict and fathom would not really be much of a god. I’m grateful to serve a God whose ways are higher than those of this world, whose thoughts are higher than my own.

It’s all about Him. We were created for His glory.

I’m not saying this is easy. But as we begin to embrace this perspective, life takes on a shade and purpose that transcends the here and now. And it changes everything.

  • It changes how we view life.
  • It changes our look at bad things.
  • It changes the way we see people.
  • And it even changes the way we pray.

I find myself learning and then re-learning what this means. God keeps reminding me that He is the master and I am the servant. And that means I must pray HIS will to be done and not my own. And I can’t even presume that I know His will or what He wants. It is abundantly freeing to simply pray the prayer that never fails, “Thy will be done.”

This new view of praying for God’s glory will prompt us to pray bigger, more expansive prayers. Prayers that go beyond mere physical healing, but prayers that draw others in. Prayers that want all those affected to be impacted spiritually. Prayers that want God to be made much of – prayers that God will be glorified. Prayers that see hard things as greater opportunities to bring glory to Him.

The woman of God knows God will use all things for His glory.

We begin with the basic truth – our existence is to bring glory to God.

It’s not about me and it’s not about you. It’s all about Jesus.

If we begin there, it becomes perhaps a little easier to put challenges, heartaches, disappointments, tragedies, suffering, and difficulties, into an eternal context.

Could these painful, hurtful events actually serve a great purpose – the purpose for which each of us was created – to bring glory to God.

How do you and I need to open our hearts and minds to see that our great God can and will use ALL things – even sickness and disease – for His glory?

You can hear the Mother-Daughter sharing from Lydia and myself on the topic of hard things and Lydia’s living-with-diabetes testimony here:


(We presented this at a Mother’s Day event two years ago.)


This post comes from a portion of the teaching lecture for John 11. You can listen to the full teaching here:


We will study John 12 this week. If you are local (Siloam Springs, AR), please join us at First Baptist Church on Thursday, January 14t, at either 9 am or 6:30 pm. If you are out-of-town, you are invited to study on your own and then listen to the teaching lecture on line.

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