In middle school, my mother started having some strange symptoms following a bad car accident. She easily felt dizzy, to the point that she couldn’t drive anymore. She began losing control over her muscles. She would kick her legs around uncontrollably, and she experienced constant twitching. We knew that something was wrong, but doctors could not figure out what it was.
During my freshman year in high school, a neurologist finally suggested that she fly to California to get tested for a specific neurological disease called Huntington’s Disease (HD). My mom and dad went together. The results came in. She did have this incurable neurological disease.
God Saved Me Through Her Disease
When I heard my mom’s diagnosis, I became incredibly depressed and spent many hours each day of my freshman year of high school looking at pornography. Depressed and hopeless, I realized that I could no longer try to fight through life alone. I felt the emptiness of my life.
But at my lowest point, the Lord began to slowly awaken me. I started going with friends to a Bible study on Wednesday nights. In a way I never would have expected, the Lord was using my mom’s disease to draw me to himself.
I soon became close to the youth pastor who led the Bible study, as well as with the other high school guys who went. For the first time in my life, I started to read the Bible on my own and asked lots of questions about it. I continued for another five years, still not truly committing to the Lord. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that I fully put my trust in the Lord and became a new creation.
My mom’s disease awakened me to the Lord. I can honestly say that if not for this disease in my family, I may have never come to faith in Christ. And even since turning to Christ (about fifteen years ago), I can see how the Lord has used the disease to continue to sharpen and purify my faith in him. I believe with all my heart that the Lord was sovereign over all of these things. Even something as seemingly “terrible” as an incurable disease is still ordained by our good God who works out everything for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).
I still remember my dad telling me that there was no cure for this disease, and that my mom would continue to get worse until she died. That’s what happened. During high school she was having too much trouble staying with us at home, so we moved her into an assisted living center. A few years later, as her disease grew worse, she was put into a nursing home. She was in the nursing home for a few more years, until she finally died in January 2007, in the middle of my second year as a missionary in China.
Testing for Huntington’s Disease
When my mother was first diagnosed with HD, our dad told my siblings and me that we had a 50% chance of contracting the disease. It’s genetic. Knowing this, I planned to get tested when marriage was on the horizon. So, when I was engaged in 2008, I thought that before Lynne and I got married, I should get tested for HD, so that she would know everything before we made our vows. We drove with my dad to Wichita to get tested. I got the results about a month later.
Before the man who showed me the results opened the envelope, I prayed aloud from Job 1:21, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” I prayed that even if I were to be tested positive for the disease, I may still be able to praise the Lord for his goodness and wisdom. We opened the envelope. Positive.
I had dreaded that day for many years. I had always assumed that I had HD, trying to lessen the potential blow if I did test positive. But really l had hoped deep down that I wouldn’t. When we saw the results, Lynne and I wept together and prayed in tears.
After receiving the diagnosis in 2009, I prayed for joy. I prayed that I would not just be able to deal with having the disease, but that I may be able to rejoice in the disease. I prayed for more trust in this part of God’s plan for me. Since then, I have seen God use these trials to build my faith. He desired to show the power of the gospel in my life, that through my disease somehow his name may receive glory and honor.
Fear is still a consistent temptation. My condition could begin to affect me more any time. The symptoms showed up for my mom in her mid-30s. Now I am in my mid-30s. God’s veiled purpose behind all of the uncertainty and waiting feels unbearable at times. Paul writes, “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength . . . to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8–9).
HD took my mother, and it may take me, but it cannot take my hope. Because of my disease, I now constantly cry out to the Lord for mercy. I literally cannot rely on my own strength to survive. If we hope to escape the constant despair and debilitating fear that often comes with incurable disease — or whatever unique fears you face — we must rely on the Lord to carry us through and strengthen us, one day at a time.