Watchers, we are not Experts in chronic illness

“Lights on, hours before dawn.

In pain someone rolls.

It’s not me, never me,

for whom the bell tolls.”

For me, there is something clarifying in forcing my emotions to submit to the demands of rhythm and rhyme.

Watchers, we are not experts... #caregiver #struggle #chronicillness #writer #hope #chronic #faith #watching #prayer

Happy Thursday!

Obviously it’s been a while since I posted. Lately my thoughts have not been ordered enough to sit down and blog, the reason for this being that new health problems have arisen in the lives of my Loved Ones (and hence in my life).

And so, I’ve spent some time grieving, some time trying to figure out my response, and even more time wondering what the future will look like. As of yet, I don’t have any answers, and I’m not sure when ones will be forthcoming – but this I know: my God goes on before me.

In an attempt to process this new upheaval I spent some time writing poetry. I offer this as an explanation as to why I haven’t been writing here, but also because I thought perhaps sharing some stanzas might also serve as an explanation, and even an encouragement. Is there anyone else who turns to poetry in order to order their thoughts?

“I know the grand leveller,

it’s Love, not Death,

for God overreaches

every born man’s breath.


I can trust His fell clutches,

not circumstance but plan,

It’s all I hold onto

since this unending hurt began.”

Above are last two stanzas. The first stanza of the poem is the one at the very top, and the poem itself goes on for 10 pages, so I thought I’d spare you that!

All of this serves as an introduction to today’s post which deals with the reality, that even as we gain knowledge, skills and tools, we never become ‘experts’ as Watchers. This is something which I’ve been brutally confronted with lately.

After we have lived with our chronically ill Loved One for a long period of time it is tempting to begin to relish our knowledge. We have learnt a lot and witnessed much, and sometimes we begin to forget that instead of Watchers, we are ‘experts’.

The reason we are never experts, even when we have ‘qualifications’:

Signs you are an expert

  • We may think we know all about our loved One’s disease or affliction and become insulted when people try and give us advice or suggestions
  • We may even stop listening to our loved ones, believing we know better what they should do and how they should respond

Why is it tempting?

  • We feel like we deserve to be respected for experiences. After all, we have been forced to learn much about our Loved One’s illness, and often our lessons have been painful.
  • We want to use our knowledge. It makes us feel efficient, and seems to bring some worth to our sufferings
  • We want to be in control. We think our knowledge gives us the right to advise, direct and take charge
  • We truly believe that we understand almost everything about our Loved One’s particular situation.

Why is it wrong?

  • It can be dangerous. When we feel as though we have nothing left to learn, we begin to ignore others or seek to control them.
  • It can corrupt us. It’s a heady feeling to believe we have knowledge others don’t
  • We can begin to see our knowledge as the ‘good’ which has come out of our negative experiences, and so give it a higher value than it deserves
  • Instead of trusting God we are trusting ourselves to redeem the situation
  • It can hurt our loved one – directly if directed at them, or indirectly if in our refusal to listen to others they miss out on new knowledge.
  • It can hurt others when we trample all over their offerings of advice

Some truths:

  • Knowledge is never complete. We can only grow in experience and wisdom as times go by – and for this to happen we need to stay teachable
  • The more we learn, the greater the temptation to see ourselves as an expert will become
  • Sometimes we genuinely will be the expert in a discussion or a situation, and we need to treat that path carefully with love
  • Most people who offer advice are doing it out of sincerity, and even if it is misguided, what right do we have to discard their words?
  • All diseases are different and all people are different so even with experience from our Loved One we ought not presume or assume that we can speak into the situations of others

What can we do?

  • Question our motives when we share knowledge
  • Pray that we will remain teachable and humble
  • Reflect on the reality that compared to God’s wisdom we know nothing.
  • Actively seek to learn from whoever we meet in every situation
  • Pray for trust – that we will know that God redeems everything in His timing
  • Rejoice that we are not experts! If we were it would be harder to sympathise and to listen properly.

My friends, it is humbling to be constantly reminded that our knowledge has gaps and we do not know everything, particularly when what we do know has been fought for and bought at such a cost.

And yet in order to love those around us, we need to hold onto the fact that we are Watchers, not Experts.

// Has there been a time in your life when you have been tempted to think of yourself as an expert of someone else’s life?

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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.

Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you, friend.