The thorn of my flesh
I have suffered with psoriasis since I was about 9 (that’s about 17 years for those who are counting), and it is the thorn in my flesh. It has caused me a great deal of pain and embarrassment over those years, and, despite lofty and expensive efforts, I have yet to find any sort of effective solution to the “problem”. Perhaps, however, I’m not meant to find a solution at all. Perhaps this is one big, red, itchy, painful, disgusting blessing in disguise.
If you’re a psoriasis sufferer, you know how daunting and exhausting (let alone expensive) it can be to try to find a treatment that will work. In the past, when I would break out and start to have a large percentage of body coverage, I’d go running to the dermatologist looking for prescription meds and treatments, spending countless hours traveling, standing in PUVA therapy booths, and thousands and thousands of dollars on copays and meds. I’ve taken so many steroid pills, covered my body with so many creams, and injected so many immunosuppressants that I know most psoriasis meds by name, and also know that none of them have long term effects. Psoriasis is an incurable disease, which, by definition, means that I’m not going to find long term relief in a dermatologist’s office.
Because of that logic, I stopped going to doctors a couple of years ago, and, up until about 8 or 9 months ago, have been pretty lucky. I was on first shift, and was getting plenty of sun, and, thanks be to God, had been relatively clear. That all changed shortly before my son was born, however, as I switched back to night shift, and was never to see the sun (or it’s wonderful vitamin D) again. I started breaking out, slowly at first, but after the stress of a new child and starting school again, it didn’t take long before I had a large percentage of my body covered again. I now have my back covered, my arms fairly covered, my chest and legs have substantial amounts, my scalp is spotted all over (especially around the ears), and my face is even starting to get quite a few spots under the eyes and on my cheeks.
I knew that I didn’t want to go back to a dermatologist, because I’m a route cause kind of guy and I know those prescriptions are only going to treat symptoms. Also, those treatments that treat the symptoms, such as the injections mentioned above, are oftentimes detrimental to my health in other ways, such as reducing my immune system and allowing for infections of various kinds. I really didn’t want to deal with all of that again. So, for a while, I let myself browse the internet, like I often do, looking for “miracle cures” from obscure websites with insane promises. After a while, I saw a video from CNN talking about the healing effects of Dead Sea Salts, “hmmmm…this sounds interesting.”, I thought.
I ordered some Dead Sea salts from Beer Sheva Israel and took a bath in them. My skin felt tight, but I saw no effect…and I really didn’t have time to continue such a lengthy treatment, as I work so much I barely have time to shower, let alone sitting around soaking in the bath every week or two.
Scratch that. It was a fun thought.
All the while, I had been petitioning to God to take this thing from me. I just didn’t understand why I needed to suffer with this thing. Why me? What have I done to deserve this disease? Wait…what haven’t I done? What do I deserve? My wife had even asked something to the effect of, “don’t you think God is being unfair by making you suffer this way?”, but in all reality, he is not, and I have no right to question why he has chosen for me to suffer with this disease…but it must be to a greater purpose, eh?
Yes, this was a better mode of thought. There must be some purpose here. I mean, after all, I know I’ve seen my psoriasis, oddly enough, work out to my benefit and according to God’s will several times in the past. When I was pursuing joining the military, a psoriasis flare-up is how God ensured my disqualification. And while I was upset at the time, I was later able to see how crucial it was for God to close that door as it was my path, not His path for me. Not only that, but if it were not for my psoriasis and my “useless” efforts to calm it, my wife and I would not even be together! (perhaps this is a story for another time…)
I’ve noticed too, that when I pray, if I think about my psoriasis, and the pain that it causes, I feel a deeper connection with Christ and I find myself pondering the extent of the suffering that he has endured on my behalf. Also, when in prayer, these thoughts help me to remember to pray for others suffering around the world with incurable diseases. This suffering has in fact helped me to remain humble. To remember others. To not think too highly of myself (who, looking the way I do, ever could?). To feel a certain connection with Christ, who suffered the excruciating pain of crucifixion so that I could be saved. My psoriasis is the thorn in my flesh, just like Paul who was given a “thorn” to remain humble after his revelation, and, regardless of how painful and embarrassing it may be, I am grateful for it.
I’d appreciate prayer, however, to have the strength to endure.
Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. – 2 Corinthians 12:6-8