Thinking about chronic illness: Why I find it hard to think about sickness and Watching

Thinking about chronic illness is hard

Thinking about chronic illness is hard

It is hard to think about chronic illness. The reality is that while chronic illness can be difficult to talk about – it can also be difficult to even think about. This post is a follow-on from the previous post: “Why I find it hard to talk about Watching”.

Let me clarify: I don’t find thinking about chronic illness a chore or a burden. It is so much part of me and my reality that not to think about it would be a denial of the truth! I actually really enjoy pondering this part of my life because I want to understand how it fits into God’s plan for our world and how I can love and support my struggling friends.

Perhaps ‘hard’ is the wrong word. I don’t find thinking about Watching hard, but I think it can be… dangerous.

Thinking about chronic illness can be depressing

As I said above, I enjoy musing over what it means to love someone who is sick. It might make me a bit sad sometimes that such a reality exists (sickness is awful) and at times it gets frustrating (I want to do more than Watch them! I want to save my Loved One), but I do not tend to get depressed by it.

At the same time, if all I did was think about Watching, I would begin to feel a bit down. And with good reason. After all, nothing exists in isolation. There’s a whole world out there besides sickness and Watching – and sometimes that feels like a good thing, and other times like a bad thing. Either way, it’s the truth.

If we are to think about Watching a lot – and I propose, that if it directly impacts our life, and even if it does not, we should – we need to hold onto other truths. Not because we need those other truths to be happy (although that might be the case) or because I am upholding escapism or naivety, but because those other truths are reality.

Our God created good and evil. He laughs and weeps. He decrees both dancing and mourning – and so should we.

What other truths then, am I envisioning?

Firstly: basic theology – in Watching, and outside of it, there exists Salvation. Jesus dying for sinners. God’s plan to bring the Word to all races and nations. God’s commands to become more Christ-like. God’s desires that we defend those less fortunate than ourselves, that we have a heart for our neighbour, whatever situation they find themselves in. Yes, Watching is part of God’s plan, but it is not by itself, God’s plan. God’s plan is that He be shown to be the glorious Saviour and worshipped in the hearts of all men.

Secondly: basic reality – this might seem trite or silly, but I think it’s important when we’re devoting so much of our time and thought-space to Watching, that we remember the world. That we remember how the cool-heat of the sun feels on our cheeks as we watch it rise. That we remember the feeling of laughing so hard our stomach hurts. That we re-experience care-free socialising and also deep, musing conversations. That we remember that food tastes good, and mountains are beautiful. This world cannot offer us eternity, but what it can offer is also God-given.

Thinking about chronic illness and Watching can objectify pain

The truth is, we think about things in order to cope. Before we can assimilate a situation into our world-view we have to figure out how it fits.

When we ponder a situation we normalise it. It becomes more manageable because it becomes more acceptable.

The danger of course, is that in thinking about sickness a lot, it becomes a ‘cold hard fact’ rather than an agonising reality. You see, in our minds we deal with abstracts. In thinking about Watching I have to guard myself carefully in case I begin to deal only with abstract realities. I am afraid that one day my posts might become philosophical meanderings about a theorised person and their supposed reactions, instead of a holding out of the truth as I believe it. Of course there is a time and place for theory – but I want to propose that Watching isn’t such a place.

Watching involves other people. Thinking about Watching does not. You see, then, where we might go wrong.

Thinking about chronic illness – safeguards and tips

How then, do we prevent ourselves from falling into this trap?

  • We take every opportunity to interact with our Loved One.
  • We allow suffering and pain to enter into our hearts. We allow ourselves to be affected and torn apart, time and time again. It takes courage and great faith in God to do that. To not use our thoughts as a stronghold, a retreat from reality.
  • We let our thoughts lead us to prayer. All musings, all philosophical discussions should lead us out of ourselves, to God. That ought to be the natural reaction and response to pondering deep, life changing topics. It’s hard, it’s not natural, it takes discipline – but it’s right.
Chronic illness can impact the way we think about ourselves and others.
Chronic illness can impact the way we think about ourselves and others.

Thinking about sickness and Watching can take first place

Lastly, when we devote a lot of our time to thinking about Watching, there is the danger that we begin to see our thought as being supremely valuable. It’s very easy to think so. After all, whatever we spend time on we attach value to. And none of us find it very difficult to leap to the conclusion that our thoughts, our gifts, ourselves, are actually rather great.

And yet, nothing that you’ve thought once cannot be thought again. And if you don’t make a ‘break through’ or produce sublime work, someone else will.

Personal ambition and recognition only last a life time after all. The souls of those around us, however, last for all eternity.

Let us not forget what is most important. In God’s grand plan, loving our neighbour is always more important than thinking about how to do so. Let us not become so entwined with pondering our Loved Ones in the future that we forget to love those around us in the present. Embracing interruption and discouragement is hard – people are always easier to love theoretically.

And yet, if Jesus hadn’t interrupted his glorious reign in heaven to come down and love us, I don’t know where we’d be. We certainly wouldn’t be pondering how  sickness and Watching fits into the plan of God.

Thinking about sickness is important

And so, thinking about chronic illness and Watching carries complications. Let us be on our guard in case we forget the wider reality, forget how to love or forget what is most important.

Nevertheless, let us remember that what we value, we think about. And life is always lived better, and people are loved more deeply if we do so thoughtfully.

So, my friends, let us think about chronic illness. Let us ponder our Watching.

// Do you find it hard to think about Watching? Why is that? Should you?

Author: Emily J. M.

Hi, I'm Emily. Two of my closest family members struggle with chronic illness, and I watch them. That's hard, and so I write about life as a 'Watcher', what it looks like to support them and find Hope.

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