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From the Back Pew: Figuring out God's plan

December 16, 2010|By Michael J. Arvizu

As a youth, I was diagnosed with a stomach condition that eventually reshaped the way I see the world and forced me take things a little less for granted.

This condition, in its early days, forced me to be hospitalized many times in order to get my health back on track. I've stayed in hospitals, from Childrens Hospital in Los Angeles to Verdugo Hills Hospital in the foothills. It's under control now, although I still have my bad days. But they are nothing like the punch-in-the-kidneys kind of flare-ups I've experienced in the past.

Which is why this week's In Theory question on the Religion pages, "What good is God? Does belief in him really matter when life gets tough?" hits close to home for me.

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I'm a person of faith, sure. I find myself talking to God on occasion when I have doubts about my career or when I am seeking guidance when life throws me a curveball. In my youth and during my illness, I was a person of faith as well. But I believed then that God could be equally good and bad. I embraced the latter belief during my early years with my illness. I didn't talk to God as much, and I blamed him for putting me on a hospital bed, hooked up to IVs and blood-pressure monitors. I believed in God, but I also believed that he had put me there more than I believed that he would cure me. Others would tell me that I would get better, that all this would pass, and that it was all in God's hands now.

Yeah, right.

I blamed God for making me feel like crap, for making me throw up, unable to hold down my food. For making me spend my 18th birthday in the hospital. For making my parents worry and making me miss school (OK, that was the only good part).

It wasn't until much later in adulthood that I realized that in those moments when I was blaming him for my illness, he had my back the whole time and carried me to good health. I mean, I've been in the hospital more than I care to recount — and I recovered, right? I'm here to write this today.

Belief in him really does matter, even if you believe God gave you something you don't want and you curse at him for it. "God just takes it all in," said a priest friend of mine.

Did God give me the illness? I don't know. I blame it on genetics. And as I've grown "wiser," I have come to appreciate my illness for teaching me to be patient with and more compassionate of people who suffer from other illnesses, and with people in general.

And maybe that was God's plan all along.

MICHAEL J. ARVIZU writes for the La Cañada Valley Sun. Reach him at (818) 637-3263 or e-mail michael.arvizu@latimes.com.

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