Contentment in Life

I wasn’t in a particularly good place a few minutes ago.

Having cerebal palsy, and not having taken proactive-care of my health, my mobility is becoming more problematic. In the last few months this has become much more apparent. My legs are have lost flexibility, and my arms can no longer always cajole them to behave. (Actually cajole is too soft a word, let’s go with force). Even the simple act of putting on shoes takes more effort than it once did. Add to that, my gait is now so bad that the rate at which I go through shoes is not an insignificant cost.

And so, at crazy-stupid-o’clock this was bearing down on me, and I was feeling a little sorry for myself, and all involved. I guess it’s like growing old – only I’m experiencing it a few decades too early.

One could continue to wallow in self-pity, but that really is an ugly thing. Especially when I sit in a first world country with all that it offers. I’ve found through life’s varied challenges, physical or otherwise, that self-pity calls for a perspective change. It’s not about looking at what you don’t have, but being thankful for what you do have. Sure, my legs aren’t all that great, but I do still have good mobility. Sure, I should own shares in a shoe company, but at least I can afford to buy shoes.

It reminded me of the amazing Nick Vujicic. Nick doesn’t have any limbs, but he does have incredible determination, adaptability and a joy that shines through.

In his book Unstoppable Nick speaks of a man named Phil Toth who was an encouragement to him. Among other things, Phil shows us that age, experience or circumstance are no barrier to being used by God. The value of Phil’s example is so poignant that I must share the passage:

For nearly two years his doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong, but they finally diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)…

The life expectancy for one with this incurable disease, which destroys the motor nerve cells in the brain and spine and causes muscles to deteriorate, is usually two to five years. Initially, Phil’s doctors told him that his case was advancing so quickly that he might not survive another three months. Instead, Phil lived for five years, and I think it was because he did not focus on his suffering. He focused instead on encouraging others to pray and trust God. Phil dealt with his deadly illness by celebrating life and reaching out to help others, even though he could not lift his arms or legs from his bed.

ALS is both wickedly cruel and extremely painful. Within a few years, Phil was bedridden and unable to do much for himself. His large circle of loving family and friends provided constant care. Even his voice was affected, making it difficult for people to understand him.

Despite his pain and suffering, Phil remained deeply devoted to his Christian faith, and beyond that he even found a way to put his faith into action so that he could reach out to console and inspire others who were suffering debilitating and deadly illnesses. By God’s grace, with all his physical challenges, Phil created the website that my mother discovered through the church. Here is part of the message he posted about his illness and the impact it had on his faith:

“I thank God for leading me through this! It has brought me closer to God [it would be worth it if this is all it did], it has caused me to reevaluate my life and see if I’m in the faith, caused me to experience the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ, near and far. Taught me to depend fully on the Word of God, my knowledge of the Word has increased, as well as maturing in the faith. My family and friends are a lot closer now. Additionally I’ve been learning a lot more about health, nutrition, and taking care of my body. The benefits of my situation are endless.”

Make every moment count.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:11-13)