For almost two decades, Sara Frankl, the blogger behind Gitzen Girl lived with a rare, terminal autoimmune disease that caused her chronic, horrific pain (ankylosing spondylitis, leukopenia, and Cushing’s syndrome, if you feel like googling). After years of complications and medications, Sara eventually became housebound, literally allergic to the outside world. Though she once dreamed of having a husband and kids, she had to let go of those dreams, as well as her career as a writer, her love of singing in church and at weddings, and the active social and family life she adored, and surrender to isolation as her disease ran its course. She was last able to leave her home in 2009, and though Sara fought a valiant and inspiring fight, she died at home at age 38 on September 24, 2011.
So young. So much lost.
Sara’s story is not a tragedy. It’s the opposite of that. Sara’s life and story are a victory of faith, and one that’s filled with PURE joy. You see, through her years of pain and illness, Sara clung to her faith in Christ, and put her life—and her “quality of life”—solely in His hands. And from this tiny, medically frail, terminally ill woman who was in pain 24/7 during the “prime of her life,” we can all gain amazing inspiration. Though housebound, Sara was not silent during her illness. She blogged her journey and left beautiful, insightful, joyful words with us to remember her by. Words that remind us that over and over again, in the face of suffering and a shortened life, Sara chose JOY and THANKFULNESS every day.
I want to share with you some extraordinary quotes from this woman of faith about choosing JOY even in the midst of the hardest, hardest things. But first, to put Sara’s JOY into perspective, I want to share her own words about her pain as well. Sara lived with chronic, debilitating pain, which few of us can imagine. Of it, she says, “I haven’t had a break from pain in years. Mine fluctuates between really awful and wanting to beat my head against a wall until I’m unconscious. In other words, I have chronic pain. It is torture and it is exhausting…It can literally make me feel like I’m losing my grip on reality at times.”
Her pain was unbearable, but she bore it, with God’s help, and with JOY. Because while in one breath she’d acknowledge her suffering, in her next breath, she’d say, “When people say they can’t see the good coming from the pain, my answer is that it’s not our job to know. It’s God’s. It’s just our job to trust, whether we see it or not, that He brings beauty from the ashes.”
So much of the beauty God has brought from Sara’s pain is in the beautiful words that put things into perspective for us even years after her death. Here are 10 quotes from Sara Frankl on choosing joy in the midst of the hardest circumstances. I hope they will inspire you today!
1) I had to lose my job, my health, my abilities and my hobbies – all the things that made me “who I was” – to see who I am.
2) I am blessed because I take nothing for granted. I love what I have instead of yearning for what I lack. I choose to be happy, and I am. It really is that simple.
3) I believe in a God who is so much bigger than I can imagine Him to be that anything is possible. I’m not wasting a moment of what is by waiting for what could be.
4) I appreciate my life because it’s the one He has given to me, and I don’t want to waste a moment of it wishing for anything else.
5) He knows my past, present, and future. He is surprised by nothing. He is with me, never leaves me even when I feel alone, and holds me up even when I think I am standing on my own two feet. He is good. All the time.
6) This life is not about me and my goals and my wants and my worries. Nothing about my life is about me; it’s about who He needs me to be.
7) I really think we find what we are meant to do when we stop focusing on what we are kept from doing.
8) I’ve come to understand that the only thing I can control is whether or not I open my heart. Open it to embrace my circumstances. Open it to be who He needs me to be in the here and now rather than assume happiness can come from the “If only…” and “When I get…” Open it enough to let Him in to change me here so I can be with Him there.
9) This disease has taken things from me, but it can’t take away the spirit that God put inside of me, the core of who I am as long as I choose to nurture that side of myself.
10) If this is my life, if this is where I am, then this is where God is, too.
Whoa. That last one just took my breath away. May that be the joyful, thankful prayer I start my day with each morning!
Though Sara has been gone more than four years, she continues to bless us. Sara’s words on choosing joy through chronic pain and terminal illness were lovingly compiled into a truly wonderful, soul-soothing book by her friend Mary Carver. It is called, of course, Choose Joy.
This book has been kicking my butt in the best way—giving me a perspective on where my happiness and joy REALLY come from, and helping me see God’s hand in all the day-to-day trials of life this side of heaven. I am truly learning to “count it ALL joy,” and I am so thankful to have learned about Sara’s brief, joyful life. Her joy will stick with me forever.