Updated: Feb 8
As an adult, there were many times when I felt I was in a remote and far away place from God, but it was always his grace and mercy that kept me near Him. We do not have to look too far to find God’s amazing grace. I believe God’s grace finds us whether or not we are searching for it, even when we have lost all hope in finding Him. When we are faithful in seeking Him, God says His grace is sufficient to handle everything we encounter!
As Paul described the thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12, we can agree we all have some form of illness or condition in our bodies, mental or physical. I suppose in His infinite wisdom, God allows painful situations in our lives to keep us safe and always dependent on Him.
There were many thorns in my flesh, but I did not know what to call them. I recall being very sad as a child, approximately ten years old. This sadness caused me to feel a great deal of pain. I often isolated myself by retreating to a mental place of solitude. I enjoyed reading and listening to music as a way to escape from reality. At times I believed I was all alone in the world, and I knew in my heart that no one understood how I felt. As I look back, my discomfort seemed to be all of the above- physical, emotional, and spiritual.
Spiritual. I will begin with the most critical aspect of my life because it is the part that would ensure I was in a safe place with God. As a child, I did not understand much about my relationship with God. I believed in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior at a very early age, but I did not know what that meant. Like my older siblings, I wanted to get baptized by 12. I didn’t know how to declare my faith in God or what it meant. I knew I was supposed to get baptized. I saw how our family, community, and the church did things during those times, and I wanted to do the same.
I believe that Jesus saved me even before the Pastor baptized me in the traditional pond ceremony.
Many years would go by before I would come to the knowledge of what salvation and baptism truly meant and the importance of my symbolic transformation from death to life. I realize there is still so much more to learn about my life as a believer in Jesus Christ.
At some point, I realized that God had called me to serve Him, even though I was unsure how or when it would happen. The Enemy threw many distractions my way, and I stumbled and fell more times than I care to remember. Retrospectively, I believe the hardship and pain I endured prepared me to serve God wholeheartedly. I am grateful to God that He did not allow me to stay in a place of continued sin and disobedience. The Holy Spirit often brings this Scripture to mind, which says:
1 Corinthians 10 12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
New Living Translation (NLT)
I want to tell you my story of how God equipped me to survive in the military for 28 years. I have to start with a condition I lived with for many years, and I hope you will understand that I could not have survived without God’s mercy and grace. FYI, as I share my story today, the effects of this medical condition are greatly diminishing due to surgery, perhaps age, a change in lifestyle from Soldier to Veteran, but most of all, God’s compassion toward me!
The emotional and physical aspects of the thorn in my flesh seemed to be the same. The condition I lived with from childhood, known as hyperhidrosis, was physically and emotionally distressing. Most people would not understand how this disorder could be a thorn unless they experienced it or if they knew of its impact on someone else’s life. Before the military, my siblings sometimes teased me mercilessly about my cold sweaty hands or hot and clammy hands. They did not know then that it was not just my hands affected by the disorder. I refused to participate in most school and church activities because of the embarrassment caused by excessive perspiration.
I was apprehensive about how I would deal with my condition once I entered the military. All of my fears and anxiety came to pass many times over during the first 14 years of military service. Every day I experienced excessive sweating from many sweat glands in various areas of my body. In case you do not know a lot about the condition, here is a brief definition of hyperhidrosis:
Hyperhidrosis (hi-pur-hi-DROE-sis) is abnormally excessive sweating that’s not necessarily related to heat or exercise. You may sweat so much that it soaks through your clothes or drips off your hands. Besides disrupting normal daily activities, this type of heavy sweating can cause social anxiety and embarrassment. Oct 27, 2017
As a medic, it was always tough performing my job. There were times when I had to take patients' vital signs, and my hands were sweaty and cold. The reactions from the patients varied, but the children were the most brutally honest. I pleaded with God to remove this problem, but there was radio silence. After many years of suffering, sometimes in silence, I tried to find treatments or cures for excessive perspiration. But to no avail. The Army would not treat hyperhidrosis with surgery because many years ago, the procedure was considered cosmetic, and it was very invasive.
I understood what I was going through from a medical point of view once I conducted some research on hyperhidrosis. What explained it all for me was when researchers said hyperhidrosis causes a person to be socially dysfunctional and that I was. Because of hyperhidrosis, I walked away from the military with over nine years of service. I did not want to deal with the anguish of having this socially debilitating condition. However, I returned to the Army after a nine-month separation. Once I fulfilled that contract, I left the military again, but this time I thought it was for good. For good, only lasted ten years.
It was not an overnight sensation, but I learned to be faithful and serve God even with the thorn of hyperhidrosis digging deep within my flesh. During my ten-year break in service, I was fortunate enough to have surgery for hyperhidrosis, which relieved the sweating in my hands. Before surgery, I recall praying and asking God to give me my hands, and He did. I eventually returned to the Army much older and wiser, with a new lease on life and dry hands!
The end of this chapter is not the end of my story. As I continue to serve an awesome God, He is faithful to reveal more of Himself to me.
To be continued!