Glorifying God Through Chronic Illness
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.