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Not Unto Death

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By Sarah Merly, YWA Ambassador at Patrick Henry College

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it He 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 11:1-4, ESV

Every year, I stand upon dusty brown grass in the bleary grayness of January, joining a vast crowd huddled for hours on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. As nihilistic as it sounds, this event is truly one of my favorite traditions. This year, the March for Life celebrated its 50th anniversary by holding its first March after the reversal of Roe v. Wade, and everyone was so proud and thankful to stand in our nation’s capital for this historic moment. Speakers like Tony Dungy and Jonathan Roumie continually encouraged us to persevere in Christ’s name. Reporters weaved their way through the masses, hoping to share our thoughts with the world. One of those reporters, Doug Blair of Salem Media Group, asked me a few questions about my stance on the issue of life.

“What does this mean to you?”

 What does this mean? I thought to myself. It means everything.

I ended up answering the question apologetically, thinking of the unbelievers who may be watching the late-night show later on. The March means we’re saving unborn, overlooked, and devalued children’s lives. We’re the ones who are empowering women, not the Left.

I knew it was meant to be a brief interview. After editing, I appeared on the show for less than a minute. But I also knew that many pro-abortion activists hear those same arguments, day in and day out, and never once stop to think that they could be true. For me, though, the issue of life is not simply a moral issue with completely rational supporting arguments—though it is—it is also an issue that I care about from my heart, from the experience I journeyed through as a child.

Here follows what I longed to say on camera.

I grew up in the glorious sunshine of Florida as the eldest of five children. I had known and loved Jesus for as long as I could remember. In addition, I had participated in several local Walks for Life and volunteered to help younger children in my church. I always believed abortion was equal to no less than murder, and I never questioned that.

On one fateful day in February 2015, however, my life changed forever. At age 12, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D). My pancreas had stopped working (no one knew why), and because of that, I couldn’t eat again without insulin shots, on an average of seven times per day. My first task every morning was to stick a needle in my leg, and my last task every day was the same. I was utterly terrified of needles at the time—and what was worse, the first type of insulin the doctor prescribed to me gave me a horrible allergic reaction. And I had to do this for the rest of my life because there was no cure. Eventually, I fell into a state of serious depression.

Those who argue for abortion could use this as a classic tale of why babies in the womb who might have disabilities are better off dead before birth. After my diagnosis, I felt like I wanted to believe that. One of the main reasons was that I was terrified to fall asleep at night because I knew that if my sugar suddenly dropped and I didn’t wake up, I could soon die. I felt like I had my life in my hands at all times, and when I fell asleep, I was utterly helpless, utterly at the hands of death itself. Like Martha and Mary, I was convinced that this illness only meant a slow, miserable death.

Contrary to my imagination, though, Jesus was indeed holding onto me. During one of my worst weeks with depression, I had to practice some music on the piano for worship that coming Sunday. One of the songs was “Give Me Faith” by Elevation Worship. Listening to the chorus over and over and talking with the other women on the worship team completely changed my perspective.

Give me faith to trust what You say
That You’re good and Your love is great
I’m broken inside
I give You my life

At that point, “I give You my life” suddenly took on a very literal meaning for me. It wasn’t just a matter of accepting Jesus into my heart but trusting Him with the overwhelming fragility and difficulty of my earthly life. From that point on, I committed to giving God all my burdens and trusting that if He wants me to live another day, He’ll make that happen, even when I can’t comprehend how.

With that trust arrived so much joy, albeit gradually. I began to see the beauty in every day and rejoiced at the miracles with which God had surrounded me. Now I am filled with a zest for life that I never could have had without T1D, because I have learned to let go of my physical life. Yes, I still go through a lot to take care of myself every day, but it no longer feels like a burden because the fear of death doesn’t define me. I now wear several devices on my body that prolong my life very much, but looking back, I realize that I needed to live through the difficulty of needles (versus a pump) to truly treasure those blessings. Without diabetes, who knows how much I’d be committed to investing in others, to proving that a disability does not necessarily equate to a life of misery?

What does the “life issue” mean to me? It means that everyone should have a chance to experience the joy with which my heart now overflows. It means that we do have an answer to the Left’s pathetic version of “pity” for the “disabled.” It means that every trial, every tribulation, every thorn in the flesh can transform into a pristine, Heavenly avenue of God’s glory.

This sickness is not unto death.