From Max’s blog Sententia. (H/T Fred W.)
I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in May 2004 at the end of my Junior year of high school. Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease and mine happens to be in my terminal ileum at the end of my small intestine. When I first went to the emergency room seven years ago I felt like someone had reached into my gut and started twisting my organs around while I was digesting glass. It was, and is, extremely painful and nauseating. It was about the sixth day in the hospital when the doctor diagnosed me. I wept once he left the room because I knew that this had ruined my life dreams of serving in the U.S. Army as an intelligence analyst. Well, seven years later I can look at this disease and honestly say that it has been one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me.
I’ve had a flare up (reoccurrence) about once a year since I was first diagnosed. I refused long-term medication for a while since it started out as a mild case and medication wouldn’t allow me to join the Army. I graduated high school and took a year off before going to college so I could work with the Army and doctors so I could enlist. My attempts fell short and I could not overturn or appeal my medical disqualification. It had been my dream since I was a young child. I have a very patriotic family and both of my grandfathers served. My mother’s father was an NCO in the U.S. Air Force around the Korean War and worked with nuclear bombs. My father’s father was an officer in the U.S. Navy and served on the U.S.S. Dauphin. I felt it was my duty to serve my country. I excelled in J.R.O.T.C. in high school as the Battalion Commander, the leader of over 250 other cadets and I was one of the most decorated (if not the most decorated) cadets in the school’s history. I studied government until my second semester sophomore year of college. I knew then that I was called to something greater; I knew that God had a specific purpose for me and his purpose was greater than anything I could have planned for. I then became an undergraduate biblical studies student and I’m now a philosophy graduate student. However, these are peripheral details that resulted from my Crohn’s. The blessing is so much greater than any classes I’ve ever taken.
God used Crohn’s to alter the course of my life. This one event was a catalyst for so many changes. Since getting Crohn’s I have gotten saved. Since being saved I started asking myself the deeper questions of life and existence, which led me to study philosophy. My relationship with God continually grows and I think about God throughout the entire day. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about God or ask him questions about him and existence. God has used Crohn’s as a means to demonstrate my purpose in life. Well, it’s not so much that I know my meta-purpose, so to speak, but it’s a way that God has shown me that I do have purpose and meaning. When I think about the way my life would have been without Crohn’s I don’t believe I would appreciate my existence and God’s work as much as I do now; because of that I have no problem believing Crohn’s is a gift from God.
Please read the whole post, there’s more to it. It shows you how Christians think about suffering in a completely different way from non-Christians. We think that suffering can be valuable if a person endures it well and learns from it.