Living at the Intersection of Faith and Chronic Illness

One of my best friends in the world is my guest here at Hope in the Healing today! My friend, Joy Terrell, is a survivor and you will be forever blessed by her words. She lives with chronic illness and has been a lifeline for me the past few years in dealing with fibromyalgia and my SI issues. I have quoted her famous line many times that she uses to encourage me when I think that MY ailments and struggles are not as BIG or important as hers: “Just because I have two broken legs and you only have one doesn’t mean that YOUR broken leg hurts any worse.” Enjoy this real, raw and encouraging post and please share.

I live at the intersection of Faith and Chronic Illness. I have never really cared for the neighborhood; however, I do not know how to move elsewhere. I have been living here for almost 30 years, yet it has never felt comfortable, or too homey.

I was born into a family with a strong Christian heritage. My family’s religious beliefs defined so much about who we were, and still are.  Our upbringing was all about things being black or white, with no room for gray. Either you fit neatly inside our beliefs or something was wrong with your love for God.

As an adult, I have found that this seemingly simple way of approaching spiritual matters sometimes has me in a quandary.

I have been diagnosed with several autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus.  These chronic, debilitating, and painful diseases have affected every facet of my life. Things are drastically different from the ideal life I had imagined. I cannot say it is all for the worse. RA and lupus have taught me enough about compassion and empathy to merit at least a Master’s degree in each!

Now, to get to the topic at hand, having a chronic disease has had a major impact on the spiritual side of my life. I really do believe in God, and in His power to miraculously heal and deliver. I also believe in His ability to walk alongside and give grace to go through the valley.

Many Christians believe that God will always come with healing or deliverance. The scripture in James even lays out a formula, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray…Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up…” (James 5:13-15, KJV.) Sounds simple enough, right?  However, why does it not always happen this way? This question has caused me a great deal of emotional stress!

Many ministers, as well as saints in the pews, have prayed for my healing. Seemingly, every revival or special service included a session of prayer for my physical needs. Nevertheless, my condition only continued to become more disabling.

Because the Bible seems clear about healing, the conclusion reached by many is that there must be something amiss in my spirit.

Living at the Intersection

Maybe I do not have faith. That assumption is quite puzzling. I think I have faith. Maybe I just need more of it. How and where is it that I get more? (They do not offer it for sale at Amazon.com!) Maybe my problem is that I am a realist. Either it truly happens, or it does not.  I have a problem understanding Sister Saint, who claims healing from her migraines only to show up at the next service wanting prayer for her migraines. What is up with that? I guess I am being transparent here. My interest is in the real deal.

Others have wondered if I just do not want healing. I must enjoy living this way. After all, I can just sit at home and draw disability. I have a great excuse to attend services at my convenience. Oh, what a life it is!

Maybe I like the attention of others. Perhaps I do not really have a disease, but am just “overly sensitive”.  I am not joking; I have actually heard it all. These kinds of reactions can really do a number on a person.  Regrettably, I have to say it is usually my fellow Christians drawing these conclusions.

In order to maintain my belief in the goodness of God and others, I have had to work through some tough questions. Why am I continually trudging through this valley?  The simple answer is, “I don’t know.”

I do know that it is NOT a punishment from God.

We are subject to diseases, bad genes, and other things because we are fallen creatures. Life is no longer a perfect paradise. I also know that through it, I have learned a great deal about others and myself. I have learned that God’s grace really is enough to get me through any given day. I can walk in the assurance that God will give the measure of strength each day requires.

Why do folks with chronic illness find themselves being the subject of some not-so-nice comments?

It is an instinct people use to insulate themselves from the reality that bad things could also happen to them.  People do not want to face the harsh truth of chronic disease. It is easier to blame and isolate the sufferer than it is to get too close to the facts. If they can ignore it, it cannot affect them.  People blessed with good health cannot begin to comprehend life on this side. It is not their fault; it just is what it is.

I feel compelled to remind all of us not to judge a situation we have never experienced.

Remember, the only people who want a truthful answer to “How are you?” are your doctor and your mother!

It is more comfortable for almost everyone else to hear, “I am fine”.  Living with chronic illness often becomes a lonely place.  Folks around you have moved on, but your reality remains.

How can I cope with all of this?  I need to know I am not alone.  There are plenty of you out there walking down a similar path. We understand each other! We know how to share compassion. We know how to listen, really listen to each other. We know how to encourage each other. We can share in the good and the bad times.

  • Being alone with thoughts is not a good plan.
  • Dwelling on what has happened, and the losses suffered, solves nothing.
  • Fretting about what might be is a waste of energy.

It is important to live in the present. It is only physically possible to get through one day at a time anyway.

It is important to continue to feel useful to others. Find someone you can help. It does not need to be some huge, difficult thing. Simply sending a card can make someone’s day.  Pay it forward in some unexpected way, like paying for someone’s order at your favorite drive thru place. These acts of kindness are a blessing to the recipient, as well as the doer. Try it!

Most importantly, I need to find a place in God that is right for me. This meeting place of faith and disease should not be a place of guilt, or blame. I have to know that God’s love and faithfulness are unconditional. (Take some time to think on that. It is almost more than I can comprehend.)

My spiritual walk is mine alone. I need to be at peace with it. God is not keeping a scorecard. There are no boxes to check off.  I am not forsaking my commitment, or leaving my spirituality to wither away. Here comes that reality thing again! I can only do what I can do. God knows the path I walk, and understands my struggles. My spirituality may look a shambles in the eyes of man, but I humbly pray that God sees me with eyes of understanding and compassion.

Be blessed today!

385665_437965479547500_1068992269_nJoy is a graduate of Purdue University School of Pharmacy. She is a licensed pharmacist, in early retirement. She is married to her favorite guy, Doug. They are “pet parents” to a golden retriever, Jack, and to Kenzi, a golden doodle. Joy has served her church family as a Sunday school teacher, church secretary/treasurer, board member, and a willing helper.

 You might also like He Heals Me, He Heals Me Not, along the same subject lines. Blessings.

 

 

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Reaching for the Little Ones

Sharing with Kate at #FiveMinuteFriday! The word prompt is REACH. What else could I talk about but the great length the Savior will go for us? What is YOUR experience with His outstretched hand?

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:12-14 NIV

Alford Usher Soord (1868-1915) was a British painter whose most famous work is a depiction of The Parable Of The Lost Sheep, a sheep stranded halfway down a steep cliff and the shepherd hanging perilously over the edge, risking his own life to save it.   The painting was exhibited in 1898 in the Royal Academy and by 1916, over 300,000 reproductions of it had been sold in England and America.

lost-sheep-soord

Soord has captured the great lengths the Savior will go to reach “the little ones”. He doesn’t want anyone to perish! In the painting, it looks as if He is in danger, His feet could slip and both of them would perish. Who would go out on a limb, literally, to save another?

Jesus did.

Calvary, the work of the Cross, doesn’t show Jesus just risking His life; it shows us that Jesus GAVE His life. He did it for each one of us, reaching across the chasm of time and eternity to even save those that no one else would dare try to redeem.

The most fascinating scene from this story is that he left the 99 on the hill just to go look for the one that was lost. Some would say that He was careless, or that He was showing preference.

Thealso did not need coddling; pampering, babying or spoiling…they were safe with the Shepherd.

But the “little one” was lost; in desperate need of rescue before he plunged to his eternal death.

So Jesus went searching until He found him and brought him back into the fold.

How do we feel when there we see another hanging on for dear life? Do we grumble and complain that we aren’t getting fed, we need

more programs,
more Bible studies,
more preaching,
more singing,
more things for the children,
and on and on and on…

Friends…we truly have this in the Church. I met a congregation who literally said they liked their small family church and wanted to keep it that way.

“If Jesus wants them to be saved He will send them here, we don’t have to go out looking for them.”

But Jesus did.

He risked His life for ONE. He gave His life for ONE.

YOU were that ONE that He reached down to save.

I was that ONE.

Now, will we do the same?

Reaching the Little Ones

Kingdom2Sharing with Faith Filled Friday, Essential Fridays, Everyday Jesus, Fellowship Fridays, Making Your Home Sing, Inspire Me Monday, Living Proverbs 31

 

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