Diabetes: Enemy or Pure Joy?

It’s human nature. It’s intuitive. As human beings we look at the trials in our lives as the enemy. Trials like diabetes or cancer or marriage problems or, well, you name it; they are all uninvited antagonists that only want to make our lives miserable, and worse, to destroy our lives

In a previous post, “Successful Diabetics Own Their Diabetes,” I noted that some people with diabetes seem to view their condition as a kind of “Dr. Evil” (from the Austin Powers movie series)–a villain who is constantly scheming to terrorize their bodies.

Of course we look at trials this way. Like I said, it’s human nature. But that doesn’t mean our human nature is what’s best for us. Sometimes we have to fight against our human nature and look deeper within us to something that’s better, that’s healthier.

Part of my premise, my basic assumption about life, my guiding principle, is that life circumstances—the stuff of life like living with diabetes—is best dealt with holistically. That is, health is not just something that’s physical; it’s also mental, emotional, social, and spiritual.

Sometimes in order for us to deal better with something like diabetes, we must change the way we think about it, or feel about it. And perhaps to do that better, we need the relational support, encouragement, and accountability of friends and family. Or we need to put it all in the hands of a higher power; we need to trust God.

For me, the physical, mental, emotional, and social parts are like fingers. I need each one to hold on. But the spiritual component is the thumb; without God, I’m eventually going to lose my grip.

I enjoy reading the Bible. It provides guidance for me in how I think and feel and live life to the full. It provides quite a few … well, let’s just say counterintuitive ideas. Here’s one:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2–4).

Wait a minute. Consider dealing with my diabetes as “pure joy”? Are you kidding me? But look at why we should consider it a joy.  It develops really good things in us, including perseverance and maturity. See, having a positive, even joyful, attitude toward my diabetes is not just some pie-in-the-sky thing. I’m being totally realistic in the way I look at my diabetes.

Yeah, sometimes the highs and lows aren’t fun at all. They feel awful. They can bring lasting damage. But each one is also a learning experience. What did I do or not do that caused this high or low? What can I do better to avoid it?

Yes, these trials test me. They test my resolve. They test my strength. They even test my faith. And each one tests how I will respond. When I respond with a negative mindset, with unconstructive emotions (yes, I am in control of my own emotions), with unhealthy habits, without the support of others, and especially without the power of God (the one who created my body, brain, and emotions), it sends me into a destructive downward spiral. But when I chose to respond by considering my difficult trials with pure (not fake) joy, I can persevere through them.

That’s right: Considering it pure joy does not mean faking it. It simply means I decide with the free will I have how I will respond.

Read my next post on this topic. It’s very practical about how to live this out in your life. I’ll show you how to use all five “fingers” as a handy diagnostic and prognostic tool.

In the meantime, keep your grip!


  • Laurette Presley July 17, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    Really appreciate your perspective. As a Type 1 diabetic for 47 years, diagnosed age 11, this is the mindset that I feel most comfortable with and seem to thrive when I discipline myself to think diabetes in this way. Glad to have found your blog. Keep up the great work. I’ll take your advice and keep my grip (both on and off my road bike). I’ll be on the look out,too, for more of your encouraging pieces.

    • Michael C. Mack July 17, 2014 at 11:57 pm

      Thanks for your kind words, Laurette. It’s good to meet a fellow t1d (and road cyclist) who has had diabetes longer than I! I’ve been a t1d for 42.5 years, also dx at age 11. I rode 63 miles in the Tour de Cure here in Louisville in June and am now training to ride my first century (100 miles) in the Bike to Beat Cancer in September.

      Keep your grip and keep turning those pedals!

  • Niall McKeever November 3, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Awesome post and perspective Michael. I’ve had type 1 diabetes since I was 6, and my parents have always told me that having it actually provides an opportunity for better health and resolve.

    As a result, health has become the central focus of my life and battling the disease has challenged me to engage in lifelong learning about nutrition and fitness, and its given me a degree of willpower and self discipline that I don’t think I would ever have achieved had I not been so fortunate.

    When testing my bloodsugar in front of new people I often get this response: ‘Are you diabetic? That must be such a nightmare.’

    I look at them and laugh and say- it’s the best thing to ever happen to me!

    I think Victor Frankl (Holocaust Survivor) summed it up best:

    ”We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential, at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement.

    When we are no longer able to change a situation- we are challenged to change ourselves.”


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