Her Sight Is Dim, But Her Faith Is Bright
CAROL DIVERS has weak vision but a strong sense of humor. She lost her right eye to diabetes in 1976 and has only partial vision in the remaining eye. “I could lose it any time,” she admits, “but I can’t let myself think about that possibility.”
Carol has suffered from diabetes since she was 11. She is now in her 40’s and has raised two sons despite her physical problems. “When I learned I had diabetes I thought that, like measles, it would go away. The doctor gave me a book to read about the disease. I read it and threw it at the wall. My diabetes would never go away. It seemed so unfair. I was pretty depressed about my future.
“Everybody knows that diabetics have problems with their blood-sugar level,” Carol points out. “What is less well known is that juvenile-onset diabetes” which I have, often leads to a host of nasty problems for the body. Blindness is one of them, caused by tiny extra blood vessels that grow in the retinas of diabetic people and then rupture, filling the eye with blood. Diabetics have severe circulation problems and can lose limbs to gangrene. They can have kidney problems, hardening of the arteries, extra difficulty in childbearing. The list just goes on and on.”
It sounds depressing, doesn’t it? But for millions of people diabetes is a grim daily reality. “You can go batty just thinking about the horrible things happening inside your body, and waiting for the next retinal hemorrhage.” The solution? “Try to see the humor in the situation if you can,” advises Carol, “and don’t let yourself dwell on negative things.”
The humor in the situation? “Sure,” says Carol cheerfully, “like the time I tried to make a call on a friend’s princess phone. Only the phone turned out to be her butter dish.
“The point,” Carol adds, “is that laughter can keep you from feeling too sorry for yourself. The last thing a sick person needs is self-pity.”
Similar good advice can be found in the Bible, a book whose practical counsel on living is often underappreciated. For example: “A heart that is joyful does good as a curer, but a spirit that is stricken makes the bones dry.”—Prov. 17:22.
In other words, “a glad heart is excellent medicine” (Jerusalem Bible), “but a broken spirit makes one sick.” (The Living Bible) Carol Divers did not always appreciate this good advice. What changed her point of view?
“Back in 1962,” she relates, “I was newly married with two little boys when an elderly lady called by to offer me a subscription for the Watchtower magazine. I wasn’t very interested in the magazine, but I took the subscription because the lady reminded me of two of my aunts who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had always admired my aunts, although I didn’t really understand what they believed.
“The result was that I started to learn what the Bible says about human suffering, and I realized that it made a lot of sense. I was glad to learn that the Bible does not teach that God wants us to suffer. In fact, there would be no diabetes or any other kind of suffering if people had been obedient to God from the beginning.
“Reading about Job helped me not to feel sorry for myself. In the account of Job, Satan claims that any person who suffers enough will eventually turn against God. I was determined not to let Satan have the last laugh in my case.”
Bible knowledge has helped Carol avoid self-pity in another way as well. “When you have a chronic disease,” she says, “it’s so easy to think ‘Why me?’ Why don’t other people have to suffer as I do? But the Bible shows that everybody is really in the same boat with me. We are all dying. Some of us just happen to be dying faster than others. Knowing that makes me want to go out and help other people to have the hope for the future that I have, instead of just moping around, wishing I didn’t have diabetes.”
What is Carol’s hope for the future? “I’m going to be totally cured,” she announces confidently. “I’m going to get my sight back, I’m never going to have to take another injection of insulin and I’m actually going to feel healthy all day long, every day.”
Of course, modern medicine cannot cure Carol’s diabetes nor replace her missing eye. But she isn’t looking to medicine for a cure. “If Jesus were on earth today he could cure me,” she points out. “He cured people blinder than I am. Why did he do it? To show how people will be cured under God’s kingdom.”
Carol believes deeply in that kingdom. “You’ve heard people pray, ‘Thy kingdom come’? Well, believe me, it’s coming. I fully expect to be here when those prayers are answered. Jesus gave a prophecy to show when the Kingdom would be near, and it reads like your morning newspaper. You can read it yourself at Matthew chapter 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13.”
Carol’s Bible-based faith has given her more than hope for the future. It has helped her to avoid health problems now. How so?
“The Bible taught me that Jehovah God views life as sacred,” she says. “As I studied the Bible I realized that I had an obligation to take better care of myself. How would Jehovah believe that I wanted to live forever if I cheated on my diet or neglected my present health?
“Of course, taking care of yourself requires self-control, but the Bible helps a person to develop that quality. Besides, self-control is a matter of life or death to a diabetic.”
Why is that? “When the body is under stress it releases stored sugar from the liver. So when a diabetic gets excited, it’s like gobbling sugar cubes, the last thing a diabetic needs! I’ve always been an emotional person, but I had to learn to bite my tongue before saying something that would start an argument. I had to learn to be a peacemaker. It has taken years, but now things just don’t get me as upset as they used to.
“The Bible says that the peace of God will guard our hearts and mental powers,” laughs Carol, “but it guards my blood-sugar level as well!”
Doesn’t Carol Divers ever get depressed? “Sure, I get depressed,” she answers candidly, “but it never solves anything. Over the years I have learned that when I’m depressed the best thing I can do is get interested in other people and get my mind off myself.
“My vision started to go in 1970, and that was very depressing. But about that same time it seemed as if I kept getting opportunities to help other people to learn more about the Bible. You know, getting more involved in teaching the Bible was the best therapy I could have had. Since I started going blind I’ve studied with 11 persons who really got the message, and who are now teaching others.”
As her vision has become worse, Carol has become steadily more active in this Bible teaching work. “My two sons are both away from home, serving at the headquarters of the Watchtower Society,” she says proudly. “That means I have more time than I used to. So last September I was able to begin serving as a regular pioneer, which means that I spend most of my time now visiting people to share things with them from the Scriptures. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
“I’m not a superwoman,” Carol admits. “I could never get along without a lot of help from my family and friends in the congregation. I was always an independent person, and when I started going blind it was very hard to admit to myself that, like it or not, I was handicapped. I had never thought of myself that way. Asking for help didn’t come easy to me, but I’ve learned that I can ask for help, both from other people and from Jehovah God. Jehovah provides both the people and the help. That has been a wonderful lesson for me.
“I find that depression comes from thinking about things I used to do and can’t do anymore. The solution is simple. I make myself think about what I can do, and then try to find a new way or a better way to do it.
“For example, I was discouraged one summer because I had to spend long periods at home. So I started a little ‘Kingdom School’ for children in the congregation one day a week in my home. That cheered me up since I love children, and the kids love the school. We act out Bible scenes, play games, memorize scriptures. Once we even tried to build Noah’s ark out of Popsicle sticks!
“There have been times when my remaining eye has hemorrhaged and I’ve been totally blinded and confined to bed for days or weeks. Prayer is very important at times like that. So are the wonderful tapes of the Bible that the Watchtower Society provides, and so is the telephone. Even if I can’t get out, I can still phone people. If I think hard enough, I can always remember somebody who is in even worse shape than I am, and who would appreciate a call.”
Nobody likes to suffer, including Carol Divers, who has suffered more than most people. While we do not choose to suffer, we can choose how we will react to suffering. Will we become bitter, blame God and dwell on what might have been? Or will we take advantage of our opportunity to lean on God for help, drawing closer to him?
Carol puts it this way: “I don’t know what is going to happen to me tomorrow—what more there will be to live through—but I know that whatever Jehovah permits, it will be all right. I know he will give me the needed strength. He always has.”
[Blurb on page 28]
“When you have a chronic disease, it’s so easy to think, ‘Why me?’”