Are you living with chronic illness? Perhaps you are just trying to just survive through the day, every day.
Like me, you’ve probably had your fair share of crying, pleading with God, and wondering why you have to carry this mantle.
Frankly, it doesn’t seem fair to not only suffer in pain daily but also miss out on so many things that “normal” people take for granted like boundless energy, going places, and not worrying if your symptoms will rear its ugly head at the wrong time.
In this post, I am going to talk about what it is like living with chronic illness, and how to deal with it. More importantly, 10 tips to help you stay positive on the hard days.
I pray I can give you hope in the midst of your horrific pain and point you to God even when your suffering doesn’t make sense.
What Is Suffering?
Not too long ago, I looked up the word “suffering” on Pinterest. I was trying to find suggestions for a blog post on the subject. (Check out this post on suffering.)
Would you believe what came up in the suggestion box? “Crohn’s, “IBS,” and “colitis.” Those were the words related to “suffering.”
I laughed when I saw it and thought, “No wonder I understand suffering. I have been diagnosed with all three illnesses at one point or another. In fact, I have lived the very definition of suffering.”
I am not saying this to make you feel sorry for me, or that somehow living with my chronic illness is worse than yours. What I am saying is that I understand what it is like to endure pain.
I also understand the kind of pain that is deep, dark, and hideous. The kind that is relentless, unquenched, and, in fact, thirsty for more. The kind that makes you beg for death in your weakest moments.
While my suffering has been horrific, I can bet you have had your share too.
Truthfully, none of us escape life’s problems. Let’s face it, suffering is suffering no matter what form it takes. Health issues, loss of a child, financial problems, death of a loved one, job loss, permanent injury, divorce, family breakup, etc.
Frankly, it’s all hard to swallow.
Although I may not be able to relate to your particular suffering, I can help you learn how to endure your pain and suffer well.
Before I do that, let me tell you a little about my story.
The Impact of Chronic Disease on You and Family
I won’t go into graphic detail on the impact of living with chronic illness, specifically, Crohn’s disease Let’s just say that if you have had food poisoning, the stomach flu, or an ulcer…combine all three together and “presto,” you have Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease is a disease of slow starvation (literally) mixed with vile fits of uncontrolled purging from any and every orifice in your body that is available.
It is a cruel partner that continually dangles false hope with short stints of health, only to be pulled back into a pit of darkness that is encapsulated with both horrific pain and humiliation as your body turns on you in utter contempt without notice.
Furthermore, you have no control over stopping it. It knows no boundaries, nor does it care.
It is a vicious cycle of calm and chaos that happens over and over again for years until one day your body gives out leaving you empty, hopeless, and just desperate enough to want to give up.
The worst thing about living with a chronic illness is not knowing when it is going to end, if ever. The look of utter fear in my kid’s eyes as I wasted away to about 100 pounds still haunts me.
Sadly, I couldn’t give my kids an end date, so they lived in fear of losing their mother for quite a while.
I wish I could say that was the end of it. There was more. As the disease progressed, a life-altering surgery, that was irreversible, was highly suggested.
How Does Chronic Illness Affect a Person’s Life?
Chronic illness is not an easy pill to swallow.
You can’t imagine what it feels like when you are matter-of-factly told by a random nurse that you need to have your colon removed (This was in 2009.) She didn’t even act sad or sorry to tell me.
When she suggested the fix, it got worse. They wanted to do an ileostomy ( a bag in place of a colon).
I knew what I was facing. It was bad. It would not only have ramifications for me but also for my marriage, social situations, and the kids. Most of all, I couldn’t get over the fact that this was a permanent “solution.”
That’s when I turned to God and started making some life changes.
Some of those changes were hard. It included altering relationships, changing diet, exercise, emotional and spiritual healing, and over a year in counseling.
Actually, it took years to pull out of the mess. But the steps I took saved my colon among other things.
Here are ten things I have learned from living with chronic illness. In fact, I still go back to these same principles when new issues come up.
How Do You Stay Positive With Chronic Illness?
Check out these ten ways to stay positive when living with chronic illness.
These tips are the culmination of what I have learned over the last eleven years. In fact, these ideas can apply to any difficult situation you may be facing at the moment.
1. Reflect on God’s character. In times of suffering, it is easy to forget how powerful and loving God is. Instead, our emotions take over and scream that we have been betrayed by our Creator. In fact, you may even start to question your faith and fall into utter disbelief.
It is then you must make a choice to stand firm even when you cannot see. Knowing God’s true character is the only real bridge you can cross when you don’t understand His ways or feel Him present.
2. Remember what God has done in the past. Start a prayer journal and write down your requests to God. Over time, you will see how God has worked through your situation and answered your prayers. It is a real faith builder.
In fact, it is great encouragement when you feel God has abandoned you.
3. Give to others. Put things in perspective. Don’t diminish what you are going through, rather choose to get out of yourself and concentrate on others. It is easy to become self-absorbed when you are living with a chronic illness. Ask yourself what you have to give, no matter how small.
Even though I am living with a chronic illness, God has allowed me to do short-term mission trips. This has been one of the most healing things I have done to date.
4. Look at things through an eternal lens. What is God doing through your circumstance? Ask God to use the difficult things you’re experiencing to deepen your relationship with Him. Ask Him to show you how to glorify Him or even rejoice in the midst of your suffering.
Yes, I know this sounds counterproductive, but God’s economy is the opposite of the world’s economy.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
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5. Resolve an “even if” mentality. Daniel said, “But even if he [God] does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up” (Daniel 3:18 CSB).
I’m going to be honest here…I have been angry at God at times, but eventually, I have circled back to the mantra: “Even if God doesn’t rescue me, I will still serve Him.”
6. Worship Him through the storm. Many times I find relief when I put on some great worship music. (Leave Beyonce for another day.) Find something that puts all your focus on God and off of you. Leave your burdens with Him, and trust He will answer in His time.
“Give thanks in all [Yes, it says ALL] circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thes. 5:18).
7. Practice what you know is true despite what you feel. People are watching you, especially your family. They are looking to see if your faith is real even when things are bad.
My pastor’s son had cancer several years ago. I read everything my pastor wrote during that time. I wanted to see how he was going to behave through the trial. He was amazing. Watching him handle his situation grew my faith exponentially.
8. Remove stress. For me, it meant putting some relationships on the back burner, cutting out activities, saying “no” to friends, etc. until I could deal with the situation at hand.
I had to make some hard choices that weren’t popular. It wasn’t pretty by any means, but it worked.
9. Focus on scripture when afraid. Remember that God is in control of your life. He loves you more than you will ever know. Unfortunately, sometimes we forget this and give in to fear.
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10. Be wise about what you allow in your mind. Don’t allow garbage into your mind. Even too much news on television can depress a person. Instead, listen to uplifting podcasts, sermons, blogs, talk to friends, and family. Make an effort to stay connected in meaningful ways.
Do not discount the psychological effects of chronic illness. It is just as important to stay mentally healthy as it is to treat the illness itself.
“In peace, I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety” (Ps 4:8).
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Is Life Worth Living With Chronic Pain?
No matter how bad it gets, life is still worth living even if you are living with chronic illness.
In fact, the world needs you. You have no idea how important you are to those around you, especially those close to you
Frankly, the situation you are in right now is not all about you.
Looking back, I would say that suffering has made me the person I am today. Without it, I would have nothing to share with others. God has changed my life and healed me in so many different ways. Not just physically, but spiritually, and emotionally. (I’m currently in remission.)
I wouldn’t have a story to tell those of you who are hurting if I gave up, stayed stuck in self-pity, or walked away from my faith.
Is living with chronic illness something I would have chosen? Um, uh, probably not. Okay, no.
But now that it has happened, I understand the greater good.
It is the same for you. God is working even though you are living with chronic illness. In fact, He plans on using it for His glory if you let Him.
Are you living with chronic illness? What do you do? Comment below.
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