What do we really think about chronic illness? In the depths of our hearts, in the stillness of our bedrooms… are we really as kind as we think?
Here’s my thoughts on what society is perhaps “really” saying (or thinking!) about chronic illness and care-giving.
If some of these observations seem a bit too harsh, let me reiterate my definitions of “society”:
ONE: secular, not-specifically-Bible-based, thought.
TWO: individual-focused, 21st century, Western culture (because that’s where I live)
THREE: the ‘natural’ whispers of my heart when it is not focused on Jesus.
You see? If this post is harsh, it is harsh towards myself. If this post is judgemental, I am sitting in the dock as well as on the jury.
Let’s examine ourselves together, and not be afraid of what we might uncover.
This is Part 2 of “What does society say about sickness?”
What society says about prayer
Prayer is a helpful crutch
- If prayer makes you feel better, go right ahead. Just don’t expect it to work.
- Prayer is about you, and your healing should be the sole motive behind your prayer.
- Anyone can pray. You don’t have to believe in God.
What society says about Jesus
Jesus is nice and all, but…
- Jesus was a good man, but sort of ineffectual. After all, he only healed the few people he saw while he lived.
- If Jesus was God, his life doesn’t apply to us. We don’t have super hero powers.
What society says about those caring for someone with a chronic illness
kudos to you, you’re doing the right thing
- You are a superhero! This is going above and beyond
- Family and friends are all we have. You must stick with them thick or thin.
Take care of yourself above all else
- Good on you for being so caring. Make sure you keep a strict control on your time so the relationship doesn’t eat into your ‘me time’, or disadvantage you too much.
- Keep re-evaluating. Perhaps it is time to step away. Give yourself a breather. You’ve done a lot, and it’s hard work. You deserve a break, and besides, surely it’s someone else’s turn by now. No one will fault you if you throw in the towel. In fact, doing so might just show everyone else your strength of character.
Don’t be taken advantage of
- Make sure, above all else, that no one is ‘using’ you. No one or no relationship is worth giving up your independence for. Pursue your dreams at all costs.
- They have to help themselves. If they don’t and you see no change in either their attitude or outlook, you should leave because it is pointless. You can’t help them and therefore there is no point trying.
What society says (thinks?) about those with chronic illness
They’re not the only ones suffering
- I can’t believe the sick person is acting in this way. Don’t they understand what I’ve sacrificed to come see them? I was going to go out to coffee this afternoon and I’ve had to postpone that until tomorrow. And now they don’t even seem very pleased to see me!
- My life is hard too, and I don’t get the luxury of staying at home or lying around. Some of us have jobs to do – after all, someone has to contribute to society! I will only offer them sympathy if and when they seem genuinely sick, and of course, I’m the best judge of that.
I can’t let them interfere with my life too much
- It’s too hard to talk to them. We have nothing in common, and there’s always these long pauses when we converse. Perhaps it’s best to avoid them. After all, the last thing I want to do is add to their discomfort. And mine.
- Oh no, there’s their Watcher. Well, I can’t afford to have my mood dampened today, I’ve had such a hard week. I’ll ask them how they are going another day.
Are they really sick?
- I wonder if their sickness is really as bad as they describe? After all, I saw them at the shops the other week, and they looked fine to me.
What society says about heaven
heaven is an amazing crutch
Of course heaven exists! Everyone will be at peace after death, in a better place. They don’t deserve anything less.
Always be optimistic when you are with the sick and suffering. For them, heaven always exists. There are always greener pastures, and beautiful daisies.
Who needs heaven when you have oblivion?
No, heaven doesn’t exist. But at least with death comes an end – finally – to all the suffering and hardship they were forced to endure on earth. There’s no redemption, but at least there is a conclusion.
Looking at the evidence
If you want to discuss this, I’d love to hear from you – but I believe society’s response can be summed up thus:
There is actually no response.
The world upholds contradictory values and beliefs. It gives us contrary messages. Sometimes simultaneously.
It tells us both to let go of our bitterness, and to embrace it.
It tells us to sacrifice and to protect ourselves at all costs.
My heart’s response
I started this series by proposing an in depth look into the question of whether Sickness and Christianity could co-exist. Whether God can be real if sickness is. But…
… Perhaps we should ask whether society and sickness can co-exist.
If society has no uniform response to sickness… what use is it? What use are we?
Yet as I wrote above, I am part of society. Society’s contradictions dwell in me. I didn’t go out and interview half of the world’s population to find out whether society has a good response to sickness… I merely looked into my own heart.
Intellectually, very few of us would profess to believe what I’ve written above. Yet don’t our actions often demonstrate that on a deeper level we actually do?
We say that all sickness is wrong – yet we act as if some people deserve it more than others.
We say that we ought to love selflessly – and yet we find ourselves retreating into a protective shell.
If I believe these things about chronic illness, what does that say about me?
we really only care about one thing
Society offers a contradictory response to sickness because deep down, we often don’t really care about the philosophy behind sickness. What we care about is ourselves.
Our happiness, our safety, our comfort.
And so truths change depending on what makes us feel good in each circumstance, whether that is altruism or egotism, self sacrifice or self protection.
This is a carefully hidden secret
We all try and convince ourselves that we care about our family, our friends, others around us. And we do. But, perhaps, only so much as their happiness makes us happy too.
“Happiness at all times and in all moments is your right.”
This belief is ingrained on our hearts. The “pursuit of happiness” at all costs. Why? Because we believe we deserve it.
what do we deserve?
Not according to the Bible.
No, according to the Bible we deserve hell, like all who have rebelled against their Creator.
Does that mean suffering and unhappiness is a direct judgement of God?
In most cases, no, but it does mean that we do not actually deserve, nor can we expect, a perfect life. The world is fallen. The Bible makes it clear that suffering and sickness is not only normal, but it should be expected.
It is only a Western myth which says something is wrong with us if we are suffering.
Go over to developing countries and tell them that.
That is not to say suffering is good. It’s not. But neither is it a strange or abnormal experience. It is merely indicative of a world gone wrong.
So what is the answer? Does society or Christianity have the ‘right’ response to chronic illness?
Is society’s response to sickness adequate? Is it right? Is it logical?
That is up to you to decide.
Look into the evidence. Examine your heart. Double guess, triple question everything.
Don’t be duped.
If you come to the conclusion that society’s response is not enough for you, where will you look?
By God’s grace I looked to Jesus and it has changed my life.
For the better, and for good.
// What sort of response to suffering do you see in the world and culture around you? What about inside your own heart? Is it adequate? Why/why not?
This is a contentious issue. What are your thoughts?
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