I was diagnosed with diabetes around eleven years ago. For those of you who are not familiar with the disease, diabetes is an incurable condition that leads to dangerously high levels of blood sugar. There are two types of diabetics: those whose bodies cannot produce insulin and those whose bodies cannot use insulin. What makes diabetes so dangerous is that high blood sugar severely damages circulation, which in turn leads to organ failure and other terrible things.
Diabetes is often called “the silent killer” because the symptoms are subtle (frequent thirst, urination, and hunger) and the damage is gradual (with the rare exception of the diabetic coma induced by severely low blood sugar).
Why Diabetics feel Guilty
When friends and family ask me how my diabetes has been I usually answer by telling them that I’ve either been a “good diabetic” or a “bad diabetic.” Diabetes is a manageable disease. Through medicine, diet, exercise, and by carefully monitoring my blood sugar I can keep my blood sugar in a safe range. I feel like a “good person” when I am keeping my blood sugar down. I feel like a “bad person” when my blood sugar is high.
Usually, I go through cycles of getting scared by my high blood sugar, working hard to bring it down, then getting comfortable because it is low, and indulging in unhealthy food, and the cycle repeats itself.
I have a good doctor who likes to monitor my blood sugar. When I am a “good diabetic” he tells me so. He tells me I am doing a fantastic job. When I am a “bad diabetic” he gives me a “come to Jesus” talk (he’s a Buddhist so I’m speaking figuratively). He sits me down and tells me all the ways that diabetes will kill me and urges me to do better. Fear of suffering and death are very effective in the short run. These talks usually inspire me to get my sugar down. But it’s not long before I get complacent and my sugar goes back up.
Grace for Diabetics and Other Sinners
My fasting blood sugar this morning was 190, down from 210 yesterday. This is dangerously high, and if it continues really bad things are going to happen to me. I’m genuinely scared, upset, defensive, and a little depressed about that. It doesn’t help that I have this raging headache and feel fatigued. I need Jesus.
The truth is that I am far worse than just a “bad diabetic.” My sins go far deeper than eating bad carbs. Beneath my self-destructive eating habits there is selfishness, a sense of entitlement to enjoy good food, a feeling of invincibility, a denial of the truth of my condition, and above all else a disbelief in the lavish goodness of God. I am tempted to eat bad stuff because I don’t believe that this disease is for my good. I am a sinner in need of forgiveness and rehabilitation.
The wonderful thing about Jesus is that Jesus does not drive me with fear but with grace. Jesus doesn’t look at me, shake his head, and think quietly to himself, “don’t you know better?” Jesus takes away my guilt. In Jesus there is forgiveness, the favor and approval of God, the defeat of death itself, and the hope of the resurrection. It was Jesus, who said,
“This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)
Jesus was referring to his friend, Lazarus, who would die from that disease yet rise from the grave. Jesus did not abandon his friend to the grave, and he will not abandon me either. If I have been united with Jesus in his death on the cross, then I will also be united with him in his resurrection (Romans 6:4). I will not ultimately beat diabetes by being a “good diabetic”; I will beat diabetes through faith in Christ.
In Christ, I have assurance that God allowed me to become diabetic for his glory. My disease is a unique gift. My wife often tells me that I need to take care of myself because she wants to grow old with me, and it melts my heart every time. God declares in Christ that he has taken care of me so I can be with him forever. What my wife’s love hopes for, God fulfills through his love.
Because Jesus has freed me from the fear of death, I don’t need to live in denial. I can monitor my blood sugar regularly, own up to my bad habits, and strive for better health with freedom precisely because these things do not define me. I am loved by God and by the people he’s placed in my life. In Christ my sickness is a “slight momentary affliction” preparing me for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). Jesus makes me something far better than a “good diabetic.” He makes me a “happy diabetic.”
I’m so glad that I need Jesus. What are some of the ways that you need Jesus?