Slowly, I began to realize that I was allowing my health restrictions to imprison my soul. Where was my joy in living?
As I prayed for help in living a more meaningful life, I felt strongly that I needed to simplify my life by removing all unnecessary things and activities. This certainly didn’t seem to me to be the way to an abundant life!
I asked the Lord for faith, then, resignedly, began to eliminate non-essentials. Despairing, I could only see a bleak, barren existence stretching out before me. Maybe I needed to learn patience and endurance. It seemed so obvious to me that having better health and being able to do more would bring me happiness.
Soon, to my surprise, I began to have more energy. I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders: the weight of unnecessary responsibilities. As we gave away the things we weren’t using, I felt joy in sharing and new freedom from burdensome housekeeping chores. Feeling fewer demands on my limited energy, I started to relax more.
There seemed to be more time. I was even able to devote some time to my family history. As the only member of the Church in my family, I was rather overwhelmed at all that needed to be done, but now it seemed possible.
Since I now felt unrushed, I found that I was really enjoying studying the scriptures. I even began using the Church’s student manuals. This was a lot more fun than just dutifully wading through a couple of chapters a day. I was understanding more, plus it was exciting to have new ideas to share with my husband. As I continue to study the principles of the Gospel, I feel a growing sense of strength and joy. My neglected spirit is at last being nourished. As I grow spiritually stronger, I am gaining a more positive eternal perspective, seeing my challenges for what they are— opportunities to grow. Light is beginning to enter my life again causing years of depression to dissipate. I had forgotten how good it felt to laugh.
Unforeseen opportunities for service appeared. As usual, I began my dismal recounting of all the reasons my health prevented me from doing them, but stopped as I felt a calm assurance that I really could do it.
So mustering my faith, I gave a few new things a try. Some months later, I found myself brimming with enthusiasm. I was sharing my talents and interests with others! I taught a night class to adults, encouraged budding eight-year-old writers at the local elementary school, tutored a couple of neighbor girls, gave support to our grown children, helped a friend through cancer treatments, and even had something I’d written published.
What more would I have done if I’d had good health? Yes, I have a degree in elementary education, but do I really want a class of my own? When would I have time to listen to a friend, or write a poem? If I had better health, I could do the shopping, cook fancy meals, and keep a lovely garden. Now I had to spend a lot of time just sitting, resting, thinking, and studying. I smiled. Why was I feeling gloomy that I was unable to spend my life doing things I hate? I enjoy teaching, studying, and writing. Why was I complaining when the Lord had led me to develop my greatest talents and share them with others?
Thoughts kept coming to me about all the lessons my health problems are teaching me. I am learning to speak up and explain my limits. More importantly, these problems are helping me understand who I really am, and that my worth was not dependent on what I can do for others, but on who I am— a daughter of God.
I also found I simply didn’t have the energy to spend rushing around trying to please everyone all the time. Often, I have to ask my husband for assistance. As a result, we now have a close relationship built on interdependence, communication, and service. This was the desire of my heart. My husband and I are both converts and had seen generations of less than fulfilling marriages. We wanted a happier future for our family than we had known. Dealing with health problems has given us the opportunity to break the chains of the past and make a new start more effectively than most anything else would have done.
I certainly had a lot of time to think about what was most important to me. What did I really want to achieve, and how do I get there? I knew I wanted my children to grow and become loving adults. I wanted them to have strong testimonies, know that they were capable people, and learn to serve.
Since I had to spend much of my time in bed, I taught our children how to care for our home and yard. At first, I saw this as just a way to get needed things done, but as the years passed, I realized that they were growing far more than if their mother had been waiting on them. They knew that their efforts were needed and important to the well-being of our family. Learning to work gave them confidence in themselves and encouraged them to develop other talents.
Another benefit was that I stayed home with our children. They knew that mom was always there and had time to listen to them. Yes, I had to admit; instead of hurting our family, my poor health is strengthening us, creating what I wanted most: a close marriage and strong children.
I also thought about all the time I had to study. Being presented with problems had encouraged me to look for answers. In doing so, I learned about nutrition, cooking for special health needs, allergies, exercising, first aid, child raising, photography, personality, decorating, organic gardening, landscaping, teaching, and writing. Not only do I study these things, but I share my new knowledge with my family. In turn, they share their interests with me, teaching me about animals, art, sports, dance, music, business, construction, science, and computers. I hadn’t realized what an opportunity for education I have been given.
Other thoughts came to me. What about learning to prioritize, delegate, and organize? More significantly, what about the spiritual lessons I have learned? What about learning faith, patience, and humility? What about all those moments of desperation when I reached out and always found Him there, loving and strengthening me? If I had the energy would I just rush quickly by never taking the time, or feeling the need, to come to know my Savior?
Slowly, I started to see that my health problems are not restricting my life, but are giving me opportunities to grow and develop in ways I never would have done if I’d had the health I’d wanted. I now know how blessed I am to be tutored by the Lord. He is giving me the experiences that I need to grow and progress. He is helping me feel loved by allowing me to experience His understanding and concern for me. He is directing my life in ways that give me the greatest happiness and fulfillment.
My life isn’t thwarted! Instead of removing my health problems as I had pleaded, the Lord is showing me how to live with them and even use my challenges to develop my greatest talents. He proved to me that happiness is available to everyone. It isn’t dependent on health, wealth, or a life or ease, but on living correct principles.
He hasn’t merely given me what I asked for, but what I truly need. The Lord knows that my husband and I need to blaze a new path for our family based on Gospel principles. My health problems are giving us this new start and opportunities to develop close family relationships. If I had been given the health I had wanted, I fear I would have wasted my energies vainly trying to amass things and do more, but never achieving the approval and happiness I sought. Instead, our Savior is mercifully giving me the experiences and time I need to grow spiritually. He is allowing me to learn that happiness isn’t something you can grasp, but simply comes as you lose yourself in service to others. He is helping me to see how limited my understanding and strengths are, and to completely trust in His power to make my life into “something remarkable”.