We cannot always control our health issues, but we can regain a proper perspective and sense of purpose in the midst of them.
Being faced with sudden illness is like waking up in an unfamiliar country that you never wanted to visit. Suddenly, you must become fluent in medical terminology that seems like a foreign language. Visits to various doctors and hospitals become the new landscape of your life. At times, you may feel isolated and afraid.
Those of us who live with chronic illness have simply made a visit to this new land of medical issues into an extended stay. We always seem to be looking for a roadmap back to the land of the healthy; we search the Internet, try different diets, and seek new doctors while praying for the healing that seems to evade us. These understandable attempts at healing lead us to focus much of our time and thoughts on ourselves, which can eventually sow seeds of self-pity and discouragement.
We cannot always control our health issues, but we can regain a proper perspective and sense of purpose in the midst of them!
Here are five things to remember in order to avoid the hidden traps and pitfalls illness can bring to our lives:
1. God has not abandoned you.
I have noticed that during my many health crises, my first reaction has generally been to have immeasurable faith in God. But as time goes on, the pain wears, the sleepless nights begin to take their toll, and I typically begin to question if God hears my prayers for healing or relief. In the midst of a frightening diagnosis or ongoing pain, it is easy to begin believing the lie that God does not hear our cries for help.
Not having our prayers answered the way we want and in the time frame we desire only means that we are not God! It does not mean that God does not love us or hear us. This is when faith is proved by action; we need to continue to proclaim and believe the truth of God’s word even when, in our limited comprehension, we do not understand why He allows our suffering. Illness is not a sign that God has abandoned you; it is a circumstance through which He will be glorified in your life!
Scripture: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV)
2. You have benefits to claim!
Those of us with a medical insurance provider make sure to claim the benefits our policy allows; to do otherwise would be foolish. Likewise, we must claim all the benefits given by God, our Provider, in order to fully appreciate them. During a health crisis it is crucial to remember the goodness of the Lord. Keep a list of His mercies, tell others the things He is doing to care for you, and thank Him for your blessings. When you continually remember that God is the Provider of good things, you begin to open your eyes to all the ways He provides them in your life. This practice makes it easier to rejoice in the Lord, even in the midst of the hardship of illness.
Rejoicing in the Lord is so important in a healthy spiritual life that it is mentioned multiple times in the book of Philippians, with Paul stating, “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you” (Philippians 3:1), and later on, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
When we have health issues, we do all we can to safeguard against further illness. Safeguard your mind and spirit against the hopelessness and despair that can sneak in alongside that illness by rejoicing in all the Lord has done for you. Remember that not even illness can take away the mercies and blessings you have in the Lord.
Scripture: “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits…” (Psalm 103:2 NIV)
3. You can get through this.
When I was diagnosed with a severe chronic pain disorder, I often thought, “I cannot live like this.” But now—two decades and many surgeries, cancer treatments, and hospitalizations later—I have learned I really CAN “do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). And you can, too. His “grace is sufficient for you, for his power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior have been given the Holy Spirit to help us, encourage us and strengthen us.
When others hear of the difficulties I have endured due to years of living with multiple illnesses, they often say they are amazed at my strength. I am quick to tell them this truth: I have very little strength, but I know where to go for strength that is unending and always available. If God has allowed illness in my life, He will equip me to live victoriously in spite of it. He will do the same for you.
Scripture: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)
4. You still have gifts to use!
Illness can devastate in many ways. For me, the most devastating effects of illness have been the isolation and lack of ability to bless others in the ways I had before illness struck. My gifts of teaching and encouraging were always used best in relationship with others, so becoming mostly homebound caused me to become creative in searching for new ways to find connection and purpose in my life. Like Paul, I decided that “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me” (Philippians 1:22).
It is not lost on me that Paul wrote this while he was in chains. Although the chains of illness may have bound us, we are still free to use our gifts to do the works that God prepared for us! Ask God what work He has for you today. Can you pray for someone? Perhaps you can speak a word of encouragement to a caretaker or helper today. You might even bring a devotional to leave in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.
Looking for ways to bless others in the midst of my illness has been lifechanging. It has truly turned the tables on illness! It is hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are focused on trying to bless the other patients and hospital staff around you. Since we know that “God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable,” (Romans 11:29) you still have gifts that illness cannot take away. Ask God how you can best use them during this season of life. There may be things you can do that you have not yet considered. You still have something to contribute!
Scripture: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
5. Illness is not an interruption to the life you were meant to lead.
It is almost certainly an interruption to the life you want to lead, but your illness is part of what God will use in your life to accomplish His purpose for you. Our loving and merciful God uses everything, even great suffering, to mold us and shape us into the people we are meant to be. Suffering and the testing of our faith produces perseverance, which “must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).
Your illness may have been a surprise to you, but it was not a surprise to God. It is all part of what He will use to bring about His best for you. There is a promise for those of us who love God and have been called according to His plan and purpose. It is this: God causes all things, including the illnesses and suffering that come as result of living in this fallen world, to work together for our good. (See Romans 8:28.)
Take heart. Your life is in the hands of a God who sees you, loves you, and will never leave or forsake you. Remember that there is no moment of the life God planned for you that illness can steal from you.
Scripture: “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16 NLT)
May these “Five Truths” be a starting point for renewed faith, strength and courage in the midst of your health issues. God’s Word is a weapon; be sure to use it daily in your fight against the devastation of illness.
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