Yesterday I went and had my third and final HIV/AIDS test at a local HIV/AIDS clinic in Shreveport. In June of 2010, I had unprotected sex with someone who was HIV positive—and yes, he did tell me beforehand. But I was drunk and told him that I didn’t care. As you might expect, I was severely depressed and afraid the next day—and since I didn’t know how to deal with that kind of fear, I just put it out of my mind completely and pretended like it never happened. I don’t know how I was successful at doing this… I guess I just kept myself busy. And saturated with alcohol.
A few months later, in September, I left the homosexual lifestyle and started following Jesus…. but I was not able to leave behind the fear that I had carried HIV along with me into my new life. So I decided, with much reluctancy, to go get tested and after a few days I received the good news that my test result was negative. I repeated the same test again a few months later and was negative again. This second test I had was 6 months post HIV exposure, and the result you get at 6 months is almost proof-positive—but to know for sure it’s advised that you be tested 1 year after exposure. So over the past two years I’ve put off going. Part of me was not really concerned about it, being almost certain I was not infected. Part of me also just didn’t want to know if I was. But I finally decided to go and get my last test done yesterday. My result was negative.
I am so thankful that for some reason the Lord decided to protect me from this virus, though I most definitely merited contracting it. Not only did I have unprotected sex with one particular person who was HIV positive, but I had unprotected sex with multitudes of people who’s HIV status was unknown to me. I did reckless and horrific things with the body God gave me, and I deserve to suffer the consequences for my actions—-but for some reason I’m not. However, I’m not sharing this to exclaim how happy I am not infected with HIV—I’m writing this because of all the people that are having to suffer the consequences of their actions (or the actions of another)—the people that are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. I know there are many of you that read my blog.
I don’t know what it’s like to have this virus and I’m not going to pretend like I do. I have played the scenario of getting a positive test result through my mind a million times, envisioning the difficulties: the cost of medications, the expectancy of an unpleasant death, the loneliness, the judgement from others, the embarrassment. And just thinking about the possibility of these things being a reality in my life produced a sense of hopelessness in my heart—so I can’t imagine what those of you who are living in the reality of an HIV+ status are going through every day. You are walking a road of life that probably no one around you will ever understand and you probably experience a physical and emotional weight that no one around you is able to lift. But I want to try (even if I fail miserably) to encourage you in the only way that I know how… with the truth of the gospel.
If you’re HIV+ a believer in Jesus Christ, you probably have more of a solid grip on eternal hope in Christ than most believers do. However, I know that your hope might waiver at times. All of us feel our hope attacked with doubt and fear when we look at the bad circumstances around us. Fear and doubt are arrows of Satan that target every Christian’s mind, but I imagine that your experiences with this are much more intense than most.
When the reality of the deadly virus living in your body and the fear of death starts to control your mind, remember the reality that your sovereign God has eternally overcome sin, sickness and death. Although sickness/death has a “lease” on your body, so to speak, it doesn’t own your body. Christ owns your body, and He will evict all weakness from it at His return.
When the heaviness of your (emotional and physical) pain tries to crush you under it’s weight, remember that your God took residence in a human body and endured unfathomable pain…. to ransom you from something worse than the pain of sickness and death—the pain of eternal, divine wrath. The suffering you endure now is for a little while…..but you can endure it by remembering that the eternal suffering that was due you has been absolved. By God, Himself.
When it feels like this toil and trouble will continue forever, remember that this life is but a vapor. Your mind can’t grasp eternity now, but Christ is already there and He’s assuring you that this world you presently exist in is quickly fading. And not only is He waiting for you on the other side of time and space, but He’s with you even now—in the pain—always. If He has allowed you to endure this, He has given you the strength in His grace to endure. And the strength He has given you is Himself, His very Spirit.
“ But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”- Romans 8:10
Don’t let the death that’s having its way with your body have it’s way with your mind. Set your mind on the Spirit and seek life and peace in Him. Don’t allow Satan a foothold—fight hopelessness and fear with everything you’ve got. Fight it with the truth and the promises of God that far exceed the time frame of this temporary life. Place all of your hope fully on the grace, the life-giving and body-redeeming grace, that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ comes to destroy death and fully (in spirit and body) redeem you.
Don’t suppress or hide the reality of what you’re dealing with. Stand on the highest hill in your life and let the world see Christ in your weakness. Let Christ glorify Himself in your sickness by showing the unbelieving world that your hope is not in your health or prosperity, but in Him. He is your ultimate possession, and the world will see the brightness of His value to you against the dark backdrop of your horrific circumstances. And please help us, your brothers and sisters in Christ, to see that our bodies are under the very same death sentence that yours is—we just tend to be blind to it because our lack of “medical diagnosis.” Remind us how fleeting time is, and how fickle health and security in this life is. Encourage us not to waste our lives away pursuing false hopes. Lead us to live more radical and biblical Christian lives.
Finally, I understand if you are angered by the fact although I might have lived a more sexually reckless lifestyle than you, I still got off “scott-free”with a good diagnosis. If I were in your shoes, part of me would be angry. But please believe me when I say that Jesus Christ is going to be way more glorified in your sickness than He will be in my health. The world will look at you and wonder how you could have such joy in the midst of such a horrible diagnosis, but they will look at me and say, like Satan did of Job, “Of course Matt worships God. Look how easy God has let him off…” Let the glory of Christ being made visible in your life be your motivation to get up and face the world everyday. And know that I am so thankful to God for using you to show me a picture of His immeasurable strength.
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”- John Piper