In late October of 1996, just weeks after my 36th birthday, I was diagnosed with a terminal disease called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. After hearing the long and difficult-to-pronounce name of this disease I understood why people use the abbreviation of ALS or call it “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” (after the famous New York Yankee’s player that died from it).
The diagnosis that I had 2 to 5 years to live came as a complete surprise because I had always enjoyed such great health. I didn’t even have a family doctor and had never spent one day in the hospital. Our life was going well. Our 11 year marriage was great, our daughters (ages 7 & 4) were healthy and happy… A few years earlier we built a new home and I had been promoted to the regional sales manager position that I had wanted for 10 years. Every aspect of our life was working well; we were living our small part of the “American Dream.”
I quickly discovered that trials don’t just affect one area of our life; a health crisis impacts our finances, our emotional and spiritual life and our relationships etc. Every part of our lives are connected to one another like parts of an engine and one part breaking effects the performance of the whole engine.
Within a year of being diagnosed I could no longer walk or talk so I had to resign from my job.
Even though ALS has drastically impacted my life and that of my wife and our two daughters, I don’t believe anyone should allow a disease or any life-challenge to define who they are. To do so is to give that disease or challenge more credit than it deserves and it’s the first step on the dead-end road of hopelessness.
This trial has taught us that the only way to experience genuine and consistent hope, peace and joy in the midst of a trial is to view our life and situation through God’s eyes. For me, learning this was a long and difficult, but rewarding process; an ongoing process that will continue to the day I go to be with God.
My motive for starting this blog is to pass along some of the lessons I’ve learned through the course of this trial and hopefully help others avoid some of the detrimental (hope-stealing) mistakes I’ve made.
These are important lessons for everyone to learn because, as I heard someone say, if you’re not going through a trial now, a trial is coming. I know that’s not good news, but it’s the truth. But, as I hope to show, we don’t have to fear trials because God can handle anything that this life throws our way and we can handle them too if we see the trials through the eyes of Christ!
Why did I choose the name “Unshakable Hope” for my blog?
I don’t believe God causes trials, but He clearly does allow them for reasons I don’t believe we will ever fully understand, at least not in this life. But, whatever other reasons God has for allowing trials, I discovered two big things that He accomplishes through our trials; He helps us reset our priorities and forms our character. (Obviously He had a lot of work to do on me).
God helps us reset our priorities (through trials) by “…the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain…we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken…” (Hebrews 12:27-28)
I certainly discovered that my health, finances and many other things I unknowingly was putting faith in (prior to this trial) could be shaken.
Through the following character shaping process (in our trials), I discovered that hope is one of the things that cannot be shaken; hence the name “Unshakable Hope.” “…we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…” (Romans 5:3-5)