Arthur Ashe, one of the legendary Wimbledon Players, the only African-American man to win the Wimbledon and the U.S. and Australian Open had died of complications from AIDS at the age of 49 years. In 1983, it was believed that Ashe had contracted HIV from a blood transfusion which he received during his heart bypass surgery. For in those days, screening of blood for transmissible infectious agents were not done. During his illness , he received letters from his fans, one of which conveyed, “Why did God have to select you for such a bad disease ?”
To this Arthur Ashe replied, “50 Million children started playing Tennis, 5 Million learnt to play Tennis, 500 000 learnt Professional Tennis, 50 Thousand came to Circuit, 5 Thousand reached Grand Slam, 50 reached Wimbledon, 4 reached the Semifinals, 2 reached the Finals and when I was holding the cup in my hand, I never asked God, “Why Me?” So now that I’m in pain how can I ask God,”Why Me?”
“We live in a completely interdependent world, which simply means we cannot escape each other. How we respond to AIDS depends, in part, on whether we understand this interdependence. It is not someone else’s problem. This is everybody’s problem.” Bill Clinton
Yesterday had marked the 30th Anniversary of World AIDS Day with the theme for the observance this year being “Know your status”. The main focus is to contain the disease and reach the 90-90-90 target. The latter is a treatment target to achieve by 2020 which would help end AIDS epidemic. The three targets include that 90% of all people with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression. While we are on this track, an important aspect not to be sidelined is how the present population who are suffering from this disease are holding up and facing their inner turmoil.
“Because of the lack of education on AIDS, discrimination, fear, panic, and lies surrounded me.” Ryan White
Sometimes we ourselves are responsible for what affects us. While we do bear the brunt of the bad decisions, choices and mistakes that we make; sometimes things are not in our hands. While some ask the question of “why me”, others condemn themselves for their past errors wondering how can they live or forgive themselves. Alone the burden of the disease is hard to bear. When we add the feeling of guilt and depression as well as melancholy, living becomes difficult. Forgiveness is not just a great gift to bestow on others, it’s also something that allows us to be free. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”(1 John 1:9)
Our God is a forgiving God as seen in the scriptures. For even when we pay the price for the wrongs that we have done, as long as we resolve to turn over to the right path, our Lord will protect us in His Hands. For forgiveness frees us to be better people through God. As John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Even when we suffer from the mistakes that we have made, when we submit to the Lord, we gain our strength from His Words. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
“My name is Ryan White. I am sixteen years old. I have hemophilia, and I have AIDS.” Ryan White
For those who are affected by the disease for no known fault of theirs like Arthur Ashe, the question of “why me” lingers in the mind. Yet what we should remember is that, the Lord’s plan is not known to all. Many a time what happens may not make any sense, but when we look back and view the events that have taken place; we realize that everything had their own purpose. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” As the scriptures have shown that the Lord works in miraculous ways in His Time. What we as man can do is to put our trust in His Words, pour our hearts to Him and cloth ourselves with faith in His Words.
“Never, never, never give up.” Winston Churchill
As time and again have proven, the Lord never abandons us as long as we keep our faith in Him intact. For He walks by us at all times and when we are tired He carries us mentally, spiritually, emotionally and even physically indirectly or directly. Despite being weighed down by disease, the Lord will give us the strength and courage to face each day. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.”(2 Corinthians 4:8-11)
“The most important thing in illness is never to lose heart.” Nikolai Lenin