by Joy Martin, Set Me Free Ministries Co-founder
For whatever reason, it seems that God uses really mundane, everyday things to speak some of the most profound things to me. Perhaps it’s because it enables me to share things with others in really simple, easy-to-understand terms. Perhaps it’s because I’m dense. Whatever the case, I’m glad He does, because such lessons always seem to come at a time when I need them most, which is no coincidence, I’m sure.
So for today’s lesson, I need to tell you about my skin. (You’ll just have to trust me on this one.)
I have eczema. For those of you who don’t know, eczema is a hereditary skin rash. It can present differently in different people, but for me, it has always appeared in red, itchy patches of dry skin. Sometimes it is worse than other times, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had at least one patch somewhere on my body.
My eczema can be triggered by different things, including allergies, heat, sweat, and stress. And sometimes I think it pops up just to drive me crazy. I have seen countless dermatologists and allergists who have recommended any number of things to help clear my skin. Some have helped, and some have not—but absolutely nothing I’ve tried has rid me of the annoyance that is my eczema.
My mom tells me that my eczema first appeared when I was about nine months old. So there literally isn’t a time when I remember not having it. And so, I have learned to live with it. I hate it—really, I do—but I have learned to live with it nonetheless.
About a month ago I started getting random flare-ups that would subside after a day or two. But then, about two weeks ago, I woke up with a crazy-bad flare-up that covered my stomach, arms, chest, and face. And it stayed … and stayed … and stayed. Nothing I tried seemed to help.
Finally, a week ago Sunday, I reached my breaking point. When I woke up that morning, my skin was itchy and tight, and my face felt like it was on fire. It was so uncomfortable that it actually brought me to tears. I was beyond over it and was ready to try the one thing I had been hoping to avoid.
That morning I bought a book that talks about how eczema is really a symptom of an internal problem. The author goes on to explain that in order to heal your skin on the outside, you first have to heal your gut on the inside. And so my journey to attempting to heal my skin from the inside out began.
I have made several changes over the past week, and although I’m farm from healed, I have started to notice a difference. In fact, just this past Friday I woke up feeling better than I have in years. It’s crazy to me how such simple changes can make such a profound shift in how I feel.
The reason this struck me as so profound this morning is because I have recently come to the realization that many of my ongoing struggles—some small, some big—stem from a deeper, internal cause. Only in this case, it’s not my gut but my heart that is the root of the problem.
I am learning, day by day, that it’s essential for me to keep my heart and mind focused on my Creator in order to combat life’s everyday struggles. It sounds so common sense when I type it out, but it’s harder to see when you’re in the midst of the struggle.
Perhaps you have been in the same place. Perhaps you are in that place now. If you find yourself dealing with an unpleasant “symptom” of life, I would highly recommend looking within.
A good place to start is to simply pray every day. Beyond that, I can’t stress enough the value in setting some time aside each day to spend time in the Word. Find a good devotional to work through, or just open your Bible and begin reading—the Gospels are a great place to start.
In Philippians 4:8, Paul tells us the following: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
He gives these instructions with good reason. Jesus Himself spoke the following words to His disciples: “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” (Matthew 15:17–18)
It’s so clear, and yet, I find that I need to remind myself on a regular basis that in order to combat my external struggles it’s necessary to properly nourish my heart and mind with the Word of God—the Bread of Life.
Perhaps Proverbs 4:23 sums it up best: “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.”