When battling illness, especially chronic diseases, considerable time and energy go into the daily struggle to get well. As suffering and pain increase, it’s easy to become discouraged or lose hope. It may be hard to treasure life.
The pressure of trying to keep up with regular responsibilities may exhaust a person’s strength; yet as a doctor told a busy pastor struggling to recover from with a serious disease, “All you really have to do right now is get well.”
Major life adjustments may be called for, giving the body optimum opportunity to heal with medical intervention and the power of The Great Physician.
In the midst of the struggle, it is important to focus on things that can add more hope, purpose and joy to life. There are at least 10 things people can do to treasure life and cherish each day as they battle illness:
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1. Rest in God.
Worry and fear rob us of the daily treasures God wants to open to us, even in our time of sickness and stress. Rather than becoming anxious and fearful, it’s far wiser to rest in God as we rest physically. He grants comfort and rest to our souls when we’re hurting, but we must come to Him and put our burden in His hands if we want to experience the blessing of rest (Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Peter 5:7).
We rest in the Lord when we wait patiently for Him (Psalm 37:7a). His peace—found in prayer and through gratitude—guards our hearts so we can rest in Him (Philippians 4:6-7). We rest in His holy purposes for our lives and His strength (Job 23:10; Isaiah 46:9-10; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
During these times of rest, play soothing or inspirational music.
Listen to encouraging podcasts.
Enjoy life-building books.
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2. Enjoy Creation’s Beauty.
God’s beautiful creation can soothe the soul. Observe His handiwork and learn to see His power and divine nature (Romans 1:20). All things were made by Him and His creation is complex and wondrous (John 1:3; Psalm 104:24).
When we’re ill, we tend to shut down our senses. We don’t want to suffer or feel pain. But we need to open our senses to the treasures of God’s creation around us. Gaze at the stars. Delight in the soft gray and pink of dawn or a blazing sunset. Enjoy an Earth-washing rain. Smell roses or honeysuckle. Listen to the birds. Handle rich black soil. Taste the fruit of the earth. Treat creation with respect and enjoy it at every opportunity.
And don’t miss God’s greatest masterpiece—people (Ephesians 2:10). Man wasn’t an afterthought. As we observe the uniqueness in people around us, we can smile—and sometimes laugh. (God has a great sense of humor!) Treasure all of God’s creation.
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3. Build Your Legacy.
The Bible has much to say about legacy (Deuteronomy 6:5-7; Proverbs 13:22a; Psalm 78:4). When a person is ill, especially terminally ill, the hope for legacy grows strong. Family often becomes dearer.
If strength allows, pour your heart into your family’s future growth. Consider the questions they might have about you, your history and your faith. Try to share information that will give them strength and comfort in the future, and especially, an understanding of how to be sure they’ll join you in heaven (Joshua 24:15b; 2 Peter 3:9; 3 John 1:4).
Again, if strength allows, take time to gather photos, write letters or even create a self-published book. Put certain legacy items—family memorabilia, heritage items, ancestry information, etc.—in a special place that will be meaningful to your family. Perhaps you can build a legacy website that family members can add to over the years. These are special ways to treasure your family.
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4. Give a Blessing.
One way to treasure your family as you treasure life is to consider giving a “blessing” to loved ones. A blessing can bring joy to the hearer. It can also motivate change. A father’s blessing was valued in the Old Testament, because these blessings encouraged, gave details about inheritance rights, and were often prophetic of how God would work in or through family members.
Isaac blessed Jacob over his brother, but Isaac also had a blessing for Esau (Genesis 27:28-29; 36-40). Later, Jacob blessed his 12 sons. These blessings are mentioned in a prophetic poem in Genesis 49:1-27when Jacob was about to die. Although Jacob wasn’t afraid to also mention some sons’ failings, and though those words don’t sound like “blessings” to us, Jacob spoke important words to each son—words “appropriate to him.”
Consider taking key family members on a trip or pulling them aside in a special place to share a blessing either verbally or in writing. It’s important to receive words of parental favor and consecration, and sharing from the heart is one way to treasure blessings.
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5. Focus on Friendships.
It’s been said that only two things continue into eternity: people and God’s Word. Relationships take on a higher level of importance than our “stuff,” projects, and things that will be left behind.
One of the ways to treasure life when battling illness is to treasure friendships. When we’re ill, it becomes apparent who our truest friends are—our reliable, loyal friends (Proverbs 18:24).
They pray for us.
They offer to help.
They care about our illness and want God to heal us.
We might have friends who laugh with us to soften the pain of our suffering (Proverbs 17:22a), friends who love us when we are most unlovely (Proverbs 17:17a), friends who listen and lift us up (Proverbs 27:9), and friends we can lean on in our worst moments (Proverbs 17:17b).
The friends we have cultivated before our illness are the friends we can turn to and focus on when we are ill. If we’ve failed to make friends before, this is the time to reach out, humbly admit needs and accept the gracious help of “new friends.”
Treasure every friendship—old and new.
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6. Clear Your Conscience.
It’s hard to treasure life when a dark cloud hangs over relationships; but getting a clear conscience can help redeem the past, re-settle the present, and reset the future. It’s especially wise to ask for and give forgiveness to have a "clean slate" in relationships before entering into eternity.
To avoid clearing their conscience, people try all kinds of substitutes for the process described in the Bible, but the voice of the Spirit still declares their guilt. A violated conscience is ultimately a sin against God (Romans 3:23; Genesis 39:9); and 1 John 1:9 tells the guilty how to have their conscience cleared. Then offenders can take steps to make things right with others (James 3:2; Psalm 139:23-24; Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-18; 1 John 1:7).
A clear conscience can help us enjoy the remainder of life, by helping us:
- live with integrity (Psalm 32:5),
- stay alert to making faith-based choices (1 Timothy 1:19),
- be bold in sharing our testimony (1 Peter 3:15-16),
- enjoy freedom to build friendships without conflicts (Acts 24:16; 2 Corinthians 1:12), and
- build our purity and faith (1 Timothy 1:5-6).
A clear conscience is valuable treasure!
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7. Use Your Gifts.
When battling illness, there may not be much strength to minister to others with our spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28); but this should be the goal of all Christians in a desire to practice the One Anothersof scripture. That may take some creativity when lying ill on a bed.
People who are suffering might consider how “outreach” might look different, but an outward focus can be a much-needed perspective change.
For example, a bedridden person with the gift of encouragement might still be able to make phone calls or write notes to fellow-sufferers.
A person with the gift of giving might send a love-gift to a favorite missionary.
A person with the gift of mercy might enter into deeper prayer for others’ needs.
If battling an ongoing illness, but still possessing some strength and vitality, a person might sign up for a short-term or one-time ministry opportunity. There are also many opportunities to use our spiritual gifts in the church to encourage other believers. Treasure these opportunities to shift focus and give.
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8. Simplify Your Life.
When I received my cancer diagnosis, I knew there would never be enough strength to continue all the things in my busy life. In an effort to simplify my life, I spent a weekend determining what was crucial, what was helpful, and what I could let go.
Ongoing illness requires us to eliminate the unnecessary so we can concentrate on the necessary. This might involve cutting back on events we attend, responsibilities we can delegate or leave to others, and activities we like to do but have no time or strength to continue.
It also means paring down our “stuff.” If we have the strength and ability, getting rid of things that clutter our lives is a good idea. After all, we can’t take it with us!
Knowing my years are numbered, I decided to start paring down household things so my grown children won't have to deal with it all after I die. This is difficult, but I’m finding joy in treasuring the new simplicity in my surroundings.
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9. Share Your Testimony.
When battling illness, this might be an opportune time to share a testimony of faith or to share the gospel. The Lord gave me new opportunities to share my testimony as neighbors found out about my cancer diagnosis.
People are watching to see how those who are ill respond to their circumstances. Those who respond to illness with humility, authenticity, grace, and a grateful heart gain an audience that can lead to greater opportunities to witness to God’s faithfulness.
Treasure the gospel message—not only for your salvation, but lived out in your testimony and conduct.
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10. Focus on Eternity.
Whether a Christian recovers from illness or goes home to heaven, times of sickness are ideal to remember we are all terminal, and to focus on our final destination. When I received my diagnosis and began cancer treatments, I started reading Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven. It made the reality of my ultimate destination clearer, and gave me a hunger for “home.” I felt like I had one foot on earth, and one in heaven; and I understood a bit of what Paul wrote: “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
When battling illness, especially terminal illness, it’s good to turn thoughts homeward and treasure the blessings God has in store. Whether reading books, listening to audio books or podcasts, or even having a loved one read precious scriptures, the realities of eternity with God can bring a sufferer great joy and peace.
Truly, great rewards await believers in heaven (2 Timothy 4:8; Matthew 10:41-42; Colossians 3:23-24; Hebrews 6:10; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 15:57-58). All of the good works done in Jesus’ name will arrive before the believer as “treasures in heaven”—and where our treasure is, that’s where our heart dwells (Matthew 6:19-21). It’s never too early to treasure our forever home!
Dawn Wilson and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, publishes Upgrade with Dawn, and writes for Crosswalk.com and Christianity.com. Dawn also travels with her husband in ministry with Pacesetter Global Outreach.
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Originally published Tuesday, 30 July 2019.