Very often, when we are confronted by unexpected or unpleasant situations, we hear from most people or even from ourselves the comforting words “God has a purpose for that” or simply “there is a purpose for that,” as if God gives us problems and difficulties to test us.
But as I reflect on a particular experience I had this year in the formation — which I will be sharing with you shortly — I think God never gives us problems, sickness and difficult situations, instead things happen as a product of own choices in life but also sometimes come involuntarily and unexpectedly from nowhere, out of our control. I believe that these things are not necessarily given or come from God. I don’t think He wants us to suffer, be sick and have problems for a purpose, but instead I realize that as we grow older we experience these things because we can find purpose in them and why we do the things we do.
Last January, I suffered from pain in my ankle, and it was painful even in taking steps. I went to the nearby clinic for a checkup, and my laboratory results revealed that I had elevated uric acid which was the reason for the pain with my ankle. I suspected that result with my own background in nursing, but what was surprising to me was for my blood sugar to be in a pre-diabetic range. When I saw the results, I was really frustrated and disappointed, and I was blaming myself about my condition. I never wanted to start any maintenance medication at the age of 38. I talked to the doctor about any other options to manage my prediabetic condition aside from taking medications. He advised me to diet and exercise. He challenged me by saying that we will check my fasting blood sugar every month for three months, to see if I can manage to lower it without medication, only exercise and diet. And happily, I was able to manage it.
I don’t think He wants us to suffer, be sick and have problems for a purpose, but instead I realize that as we grow older, we experience these things because we can find purpose in them and why we do the things we do.
Exercise was the least of my interests before although when I was still working in Manila in the past, I used to go to the gym. I do diet, but I was more focused to look good, toned, pleasant, and attractive physically. I never thought about being healthy when I spent my money for my yearly membership and monthly dues except “I want to look good.” That was 15 years ago. Now that I started exercising to manage my sugar level, I set at least one hour a day for walking around the neighborhood. At first, it was really hard but as I went on walking every day, I started to love the effects it brought me. I was able to manage my problem with constipation, I had better sleep at night than before and I have more endurance when I started to join playing sports with my brothers in the community. My weight trimmed down little by little, giving me a lighter feeling as I carried myself up and down the stairs.
One day, when I was doing a walk, I was able to pass by a building and I saw myself reflected so clearly in its glass windows. And as I look at myself there, I saw the significant loss I had with my weight and my bloated tummy seemed to size down. As I continued walking, I became so emotional that tears just welled up my face, which brought me to stop somewhere as a question keeps ringing in my mind “for what are you doing this?” After sometime I felt pacified from the emotions. I continued walking as I realized that for so long I have never cared for myself like this. And recalling my own reflections in class, spiritual readings, recollections and retreats I had in the past, I have always known how God loves me and how He cares for me—how come I have not cared for what God has given me? And from that moment, I got the answer to the question that that particular encounter with myself and with God has brought me. I do care and will care for my body and myself because God loves and cares for these in the first place. If before, I was more concerned only with my physical looks for the reason that I pay so much for expensive membership, monthly fees and fitness trainers in the gym, now I do it for free, only with self-determination and dedication that I want to be healthy because I value my body and myself, because these are God’s gift to me, because He loves me.
I want to be healthy because I value my body and myself, because these are God’s gift to me, because He loves me.
I believe God did not give me my pre-diabetic condition. It was the result of how I lived my life in the past. It was because of my choice to eat and drink excessively. It was my choice between looks and health, and it was also because of my hereditary health history, as diabetes also runs in our family. It was never from God. And I cannot just tell myself “God has a purpose for this” or “there is a purpose for that.” Rather with this experience, I can say I find purpose in doing things, because God loves me, and because of that love, I will and should love and care for myself and my body.
Marvin Salarda is a Columban seminarian.