Here’s the Secret I Found When the Struggle Is Real
by Mandy Meehan
It was mere weeks before my wedding day when I found out I tested positive for mononucleosis. That certainly was not the news that I was hoping to hear. Mono + Wedding Planning = The struggle is real! Thankfully, I managed to get enough strength together for my wedding, and everything turned out beautifully. Soon after, we returned from our honeymoon, eager to begin our life together. But our new life together wasn’t full of the joyful energy I was hoping for.
The Struggle Is Real When You Don’t Get Better
Getting sick is never fun, but typically when you get sick, you expect to get better. For me, that was not the case. After weeks, and then months of not getting any better, I started to get pretty worried. Not only did I not get better, I started to get worse. Because of this, I had to step away from my dream job of working as a pastor at Life.Church. I was newly married, unable to work, and spending my days on the couch, having all kinds of crazy and unexplainable symptoms that just wouldn’t go away.
I went from living a healthy, energetic life, to being debilitated by chronic illness, and I did not know how to handle that reality. I laughed at myself for thinking the struggle is real when all I had was mono. Now, I was really struggling. Big time.
What Can Be Learned from Suffering?
At some point in our lives, all of us go through hard times. I’ve heard it said: “Either you’re just getting out of a storm, you’re in the middle of a storm, or you’re about to go through a storm.” That may sound a little crazy, but in my experience, it usually rings true. Life isn’t easy.
So the question must be asked: What should we do when we experience hard times?
This is what I learned.
When I had to step away from my job, that is when my life truly felt like it was falling apart. It was an incredibly difficult decision. But I knew that something had to change. I didn’t know when or even if I was ever going to get better. So I decided to make the most of it. I realized that up until that point, I was just enduring. There is nothing wrong with enduring. I do believe that endurance is an important quality. But enduring for me meant passively waiting for this hard time to be over. I learned not just to endure hardships, but to embrace them. Enduring is passive; embracing is active. There is power in embracing, rather than just enduring.
And we know that God causes everything to to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT
God has a purpose in all things. That means He even has a purpose in pain. I didn’t know exactly what that plan was for me, and even to this day His plan is still playing out, but I knew that I got to decide whether I wanted to embrace, or just endure.
How to Embrace, Not Just Endure
So what does embracing look like? It will look different for each person. For me, it looked like making YouTube videos, sharing all the ups and downs of my journey toward health, and how I was learning to find joy in the midst of pain. Every day, I pray for healing, but I also thank God for my illness, because my faith is deeper, my marriage is stronger, and I’m reaching people for Christ I wouldn’t have reached, all because of this trial.
Quite a few people have suggested that maybe Satan tried to attack me with this illness to keep me from doing the work that God has called me to do. Maybe some of that is true. Maybe this is the devil’s attempt to take me out. I don’t know for sure. What I believe is actually quite the contrary. I truly believe that this is God’s plan. God loves to make broken things beautiful. He knew my times of greatest pain and deepest sadness would cause me to seek Him, know Him, and love Him in new way. My YouTube channel has become a huge passion and ministry reach I never would have had if things had gone according to my plans. God has a purpose in my pain.