Will this Define You or Deepen You?

Written by Anna Aiken

Each one of us has faced a situation that will bring us to our knees, break our hearts, make us feel alone, and utterly helpless. We feel this brokenness in a loss of a job or a loved one, a broken relationship, or a negative health diagnosis.

On March 2, 2017, my family and I were unexpectedly thrust into a journey that felt like a bad dream. That day has been marked as one of the darkest moments I have experienced as a mom. A trip to the pediatrician turned into a five-day stay at Children’s Hospital. A suspicion that my husband, Sean, and I had, turned into a grim reality. Our youngest of five children, Izzy, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. My heart broke into a million pieces in the doctor’s office that Thursday morning. Our sweet, happy-go-lucky, lively six-year-old was diagnosed with an incurable, hereditary disease. Her new way of life consists of six shots of insulin a day, more than seven pricks to her fingers to test her blood glucose level, and a careful balance of food versus insulin, all to keep her alive and healthy.

However, despite her new normal, Izzy didn’t and still doesn’t let diabetes define her and refuses to allow it to dictate her perspective on life. She lives out her middle name, “Joy.” She wasn’t bitter that just two days after her birthday, she was admitted to the hospital. She still wasn’t bitter, even after being poked and prodded by countless doctors and nurses. Her joyful demeanor was and continues to be evident.

I, on the other hand, had a complete opposite range of emotions. On our first night back home, I went into my room and cried- releasing every pent up emotion that I had suppressed for five days. Every emotion from guilt, fear, anger, disbelief, and complete helplessness seared through my spirit.

However the very next day, my perspective began to change. During one of my many failed attempts to draw blood from Izzy’s finger to test her blood glucose level, I looked at her and apologized. “Sorry, Izz. I promise, mom will get this right soon.” With her cute hand rubbing my back, Izzy replied, “It’s ok mom. You’re doing great! Let’s do this together.”  

Wow! That’s when it hit me that my sweet little girl refused to let diabetes rob her of her joy. Izzy, at such a young age, refused to let her identity reside in something negative like diabetes.

I recently listened to a Rick Warren podcast and a statement he made inspired me. He said, “Don’t let an experience define you, rather let it deepen you.” This journey has taught me five principles that has truly deepened my life and my walk with Christ.

  1.  Strength in Numbers

Without the love, support, care, and prayers of friends and family, my family and I would have definitely struggled. Friends organized meals for us even when, in the beginning, my pride wouldn’t allow them to. I had mistakenly thought I could handle it all. I can’t thank the many friends and family members who prepared meals, showered Izzy with countless stuffed animals and cards of encouragement while she was in the hospital. God doesn’t want us to do life alone. He created us to help and care for one another. It is so important to be part of a small group. Let’s face it, life is hard! But life is even harder without a circle of friends and family who will lift you up in times of trouble.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

  1. Strength in Scripture

It is so easy to let your mind travel down the road of “What If’s.”  At the onset of this journey, a wise Godly mentor of mine advised me not to go down that road and let my mind wander and think of all the terrible things that could go wrong. I had to anchor myself on God’s promises in order to get through the next second, minute, or hour of the day.  

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8

  1. Strength in Perspective

I have learned to view things differently, from the eyes of my daughter. Just the other day, she gifted a dandelion to me. I saw it as a weed, but she viewed it as a beautiful flower.

It can be tempting to let the negativity and harshness of life skew your perspective. Believe me, there were times I wanted to close myself off from the rest of the world and wallow in self pity. Our perspective can either lead us to a path of hope or helplessness. But I believe that God will take our pain and transform it into a beautiful story.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

  1. Strength in Praise

I know this sounds counterintuitive to what our hearts and spirits are feeling during a difficult time. However, we need to praise Him for all the good that we see and fix our eyes on Him in the midst of the storm instead of our circumstances. God desires to breath new life into the broken pieces of your heart and your situation.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

  1. Strength and Courage for the Moment

Enjoy the little things in life. Don’t be in such a rush to get to the next life event, appointment, job etc. We live in such a fast paced world, that we forget to connect with those around us. I have learned not to be too busy, to enjoy the gift of relationships because in a blink of an eye, circumstances can quickly change.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

You may be on a journey that has you on your knees and you are ready to give up. Rick Warren encourages us with this quote, “The darkest time we are facing is because we are in a tunnel to our brightest time.”

Don’t give up no matter how difficult the struggle may be because you may be just a few steps away from experiencing a breakthrough and coming out of the dark tunnel.


Anna Aiken
is the Life Group Director of Allison Park Church. She is happily married to Sean and a busy mom of five. She loves all things Disney, chocolate, and her pink beach cruiser. Most days, you’ll find her busily driving her fabulous five around to various activities. But she enjoys every moment of it because she’s over the moon in love with her family.