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Glorifying God Through Chronic Illness

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By: Megan Evans

I recently read that over 3 million people suffer from some sort of chronic illness or pain, me being one of those people.

I don’t think those that suffer from chronic illness have worse lives or that there are not greater sufferings in the world. However, I do think there is something unique about the battle of something that is chronic, or long-term.

People with chronic pain often feel isolated, embarrassed, judged, exhausted, frustrated, and scared. There isn’t a “normal” day, and it is often hard to accomplish a daily routine.

But God enters into all of those feelings and graciously renews our strength, even when the circumstances don’t change. Here are the truths I daily meditate on:

 

We share in Christ’s sufferings

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 says that as we suffer in affliction, we are guaranteed comfort from Christ.

There is no promise that we will have just comfort without suffering in this life, but there is a promise of comfort in a way that only Christ can give.

There have been many nights that I have cried out to God, wanting him to take away the pain and bring comfort. There have been days that I want him to bring complete healing to my body. It is not wrong to desire this sort of healing and absence of pain, but I sometimes make this ultimate.

I want comfort now. I want a different way of living now.

I want a life other than the one God prepared for me. But how much would I miss if God decided to take it away when I wanted it? What would the need for God be if my life was easy?

This passage has been such a comfort for me because Christ suffered for my sake. He didn’t say “no” to the cross to bring himself comfort. We now get to say “Yes, Father, I will suffer like Christ did” so we make his name great, sharing the even greater sacrifice of Christ.

We suffer for others so that we can “comfort those who are in any affliction.” We suffer for Christ, we suffer for others, and we suffer to see our great need for him.

 

We are dependent on God

 

We will always be dependent on someone or something.

During the most intense period of my illness, I was presented with many options of dependence. I could have chosen dependence on control, wanting to find my way out of things, but ending up in a cycle of fear and worry. I could have depended on distractions or ways to numb my pain.

While I fought daily to do this, I chose dependence on Christ, even when this looked messy. I was honest with God, crying out to him even in anger and frustration (and repenting of doing so).

I got in the Word daily, even when I didn’t feel like doing so and even when my time in Scripture didn’t make me think anything different about my circumstances.

I prayed. I confessed. I talked to others.

Eventually, this became water to a very parched soul. I saw that the Lord was sustaining me, even if it was just enough to get me through the day. I saw that trusting in God, depending on him for every breath, looked more like resting, waiting, and being still.

I started to enjoy time with God even over being out of pain. The Lord wants this sort of dependence on him because he knows the best plan for us – even if that plan isn’t filled with the comfort, we so desire (Prov 3:5-6).

 

God has given us his Church

 

God didn’t let me suffer on my own, and he still doesn’t. During hospital stays, painful nights, and hard days, I have been surrounded by a body of believers that have sat and listened, provided meals, and prayed for me.

One of the great benefits of being a part of a church family is just that – we are a family.

The church is imperfect like a family, yes, but the church shouldn’t leave, abandon, or forsake its body, like a family. Hebrews 10:24-25 says that we are to watch out for one another, so we produce “love and good works” and that we encourage one another as we gather together.

This is the family God wants and calls us to be to everyone, not just those suffering from chronic illness. But the church regularly telling me that God is “making all things new,” (Rev 21:5) and meeting me where I am during my hardest days and moments, have made the long-term suffering feel like a battle that I can face confidently, knowing I am not alone.

Comfort From the Lord Doesn't Always Feel Comfortable

 
 

By Debi Russell
 
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Your rod and your staff they comfort me...." - Psalm 23:4
 
This very familiar part of Psalm 23 anchors much of the grief counseling I do. Grief and suffering can rightly be compared to a valley surrounded by fear and darkness, and we encourage those in suffering to look to the presence of the Lord as comfort in those times. And clearly, there is great comfort in knowing we do not walk through those dark places alone. Recently though, I have seen something new in these verses that has both challenged and encouraged me in my own suffering and in my perspective on Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
 
I am not a farm girl–I am a proud suburbanite through and through. I feel stressed about any living situation where getting to a Target is "a trip" instead of an easy errand. I like all the convenience and options. So while considering the Lord as my Shepherd I had to step outside my natural experiences and do a little research.
 
A shepherd, if having any wisdom at all at the time in which this Psalm was written, would never ever be caught without his rod or staff. It was a multi purpose tool, offering both protection and direction for the sheep. Have you ever wondered what a shepherd did with his rod and staff? Probably there were other functions, but in thinking about how it pertains to the sheep here is what I learned:

The staff protected the sheep from outside attacks of wild animals and from the sheep themselves wandering off a cliff or getting lost

and

The staff kept the sheep from getting stuck or giving up and lying down on their journey until they were safe in green pastures.

But, guess what that help and protection felt like to the sheep? A poke in their hind parts to keep them moving or a swift jerk around their necks when they began to wander too close to the edge.The shepherd did not use his staff to pet the sheep and it most definitely did not feel comfortable. And yet David writes, the Lord's rod and staff comfort him? What comfort is there in being poked, prodded and yanked? None, in the moment, The comfort David refers to is in the knowledge that the Shepherd does what is necessary to keep the sheep safe, secure and moving forward through suffering to greener pastures.

On our journey, we often seek for the Lord to make us comfortable in our pain, when in reality, what we need is to keep moving forward. The valley of the shadow of death is no place to camp out, get comfy, and hang curtains! Depression, resentment, cynicism and self loathing all lurk in that dark place, and our good Shepherd will poke us from behind when we try to get too comfortable in those places. 

When we are suffering, it is easy to lose our way. There is immense comfort in knowing the Lord will keep us from wandering away from Him into danger, though often when His Word or a close friend confront our wandering hearts it feels like being yanked. Sheep do not know which way to go to get out of the valley. Sheep left to their sheep-selves will try to find the easiest or closest path. (I'm so much like a sheep!) Thankfully the Shepherd knows. He knows just where to guide the sheep and how much farther they need to stretch to make it out of the dark valley and back into abundance, where our cup overflows.

On the other side of suffering, we can rejoice, knowing no matter how many times our journey leads us back through a valley, the Lord will be with us! He will keep us moving forward and keep us with Him. We will not be abandoned or lost or stuck. Because Jesus, the Good Shepherd, went before us in suffering at the Cross but also comes behind us to help as we suffer, we have hope even in the darkest of valleys. As the last verse of Psalm 23 says:

"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Posted by Debi Russell with

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