If you have a Chronic illness, then you have experienced that Twilight Zone moment when your diagnosis was first given. A part of you is hearing what the doctor is saying. The other part is almost in shock — engulfed with disbelief. This is the start of an emotional, physical and often times spiritual roller-coaster. One that none of us asked to ride on. One that seems hopelessly out of our control. Or is it? I have heard the diagnosis of a Chronic illness, more than once. Multiples are not unusual. Millions of patients can attest to that. And I have asked, “Why me?” But I have also asked, “Why not me?” One of the most important things that any patient of a Chronic illness can do is embrace their condition. Those words are easier said than done. I know. Still, they beg the question: Have you accepted your diagnosis?
A Chronic illness is not the same as being terminally ill. Yet, there are five stages of grief involved: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The life you had is gone. This is your new normal. Many of the things that you once did are lost to an affliction that you didn’t ask for. And, if you are like most patients, you don’t feel that you deserve. It’s a lot to take in. It doesn’t seem fair. Why is this happening? You lament about what you could have done differently. Some seem to have done everything right and still they are diagnosed with a Chronic illness. It’s confusing, irritating and overwhelming. While you are trying to cope with medications, treatment, side-effects, lifestyle changes, symptoms and emotions … you may also be wrestling with your religious beliefs.
Faith is easy to have, when life is good. It becomes a different ballgame, in trying times. Some people question their faith, when life gets hard. They may even become angry with God — confused by the turmoil that has engulfed their comfort zone. Often times, adults drift away from church and faith. There isn’t a specific reason. It just happens. The diagnosis of a Chronic illness can bring them back. They now need the assurance, hope and peace that faith provided. The things they so easily took for granted, they want again. Yearn for it. For others, who have never had a religious belief system, difficulty can actually lead them to faith. It’s a very personal walk, down an often lonely path. If you are struggling with your faith, you may be asking, “Why did God let this happen to me?” And that’s a good question. We don’t always understand why, at the moment we are going through an ordeal. It may take months — even years — to know. But one day, we will understand (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Personally, I believe that God has a plan for each of us. To get us where He needs us, God uses every tool. He doesn’t create our suffering, but he allows good to flourish from it. He knows that in these difficult moments, we are gaining insight … growing as individuals … serving as examples … literally inspiring others. Good emerges. In Romans 8:28, we are told, “… God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
If you take a few moments to look through the Holy Bible, you’ll note that affliction and suffering are ever present. In fact, there are at least 14 words in Hebrew and Greek that translate to “affliction”. Think about that. Suffering is part of this earthly world. It always has been. None of us are immune. Chronic illnesses, i.e. Alcoholism, Mental illness, Atrophy, Leprosy, Epilepsy, Obesity, Glaucoma/Blindness, etc., were present in biblical times. What you are experiencing isn’t new. Such afflictions have been around for centuries.
Thanks to modern medicine, today, we have options that make living with Chronic illness much easier. Even modern society has changed — becoming more accepting of those who suffer from these diseases. Yes, there are still problems that need to be addressed. Awareness must go on to educate others. The more people understand, the better off that we become as a society. Healthier living. Preventative measures. Learning has its rewards. There will, unfortunately, always be individuals who are bigoted, who discriminate, who bully, who judge, etc. We cannot control human nature. But we can pray for them. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
If you have a Chronic illness, work towards accepting it. Stay optimistic. Take the necessary steps — changes — to manage your health. It will provide much needed stability to your life. Learn to live each and every day to the fullest. Appreciate what you can do. Maintain a clear perspective — set a few goals. Avoid additional stress. Count your blessings. Your life has changed before. Think about it. Perhaps, it was when you went off to college? Or when you entered military service? Or when you married? This isn’t the end of the world. This is a new journey. So embrace it, as I have. It isn’t the path that I would have chosen. Then again, in a weird sort of way, maybe it is. I have always enjoyed a challenge. But, at the end of the day, it is well with my soul. And that peace is priceless.
*Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash