What does the world say about sickness (PART 1)?

In the last post in this category we looked at what the Bible says about sickness, and concluded that sickness and Christianity are not mutually exclusive.

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We saw that the Bible has some guidelines which can help us formulate an ‘answer’ to sickness.

But we can’t stop here.

I think it is important we look at the flipside.

We know what the Bible says about sickness, but what does the world say? Perhaps it can provide another answer. Even a better answer.

At the very least it will provide us with a comparison.

What do the people around you say about Chronic Illness?

Now, by ‘the world’, I mean secular not-specifically-Biblically-based thought.

I mean the individual-focused, 21st century, Western world in which I live. I mean the ‘natural’ whispers of my heart when it is not focussed on Jesus.

Wait! If at this point you have an objection, I am with you.

If your objection is: ‘We can unearth what the Bible says about sickness by reading it, but how can we discover what the World says? It’s too subjective. There’s no manual.’ then I’m with you also.

There is no book for the world. Many ideologies and sympathies are cultural. How on earth can we hope to pin down in one post the response of the entire world to chronic illness?

To even consider doing so seems pretentious on the largest scale.

An objection

It is true.

I don’t think we can possibly present the answer in all its nuances in one blog post. We certainly can’t hope to transverse all time and space to collect the thoughts on sickness from every nation and every era.

But we can try.

There are limitations. This post will deal with the subject from a Western frame of reference, because it is the only point of view I’ve got. It will also address the issue from a 21st century, generation-specific standpoint, because I was only born once, and that is now.

Yet I propose that because sickness is universal and transcendent of time and culture and geography, the answer to it is as well.

I suspect that as much as we want to claim that responses differ over time and over culture, the truth is, they do not differ as much as we would like to believe.

We are all human. We all have loves and fears, and often those loves and fears are the same. Our temptations and sins, our virtues and our heroisms coincide also. There is much to be said for diversity, but there’s also much to be said for universal kinship.

I believe there is a reason certain books or stories are repeated and enjoyed throughout the globe whatever the race or age of the participant. Many things change, but I suspect the hearts of men change less than we imagine.

A second objection

But, you might argue, there is another problem.

I just told you I am writing from a Western point of view. It is all very well to admit that, but we know the Western world was to a large extent influenced by the historical spread of Christianity.

How can I untangle secular from Christian? How can I know that what I say is secular is actually devoid of religion? Or the other way round – what if what I say is Christian is actually tainted by secularism?

Brilliant questions. Let’s begin.

Firstly, I acknowledge that sadly the mantle of what is ‘Christian’ can be and has been spread very wide (and very thin).

As a result, the perception of ‘Christian’ has become culture and era dependent. Thus, I don’t actually want to compare a ‘Christian’ and a ‘secular’ response. I want to compare a ‘Biblical’ VS. a ‘non-Biblical’ response.

The word ‘Christian’ may be subjective, but the text ‘Bible’ (as accepted by Christians throughout the ages) is not. Thus we can objectively divide the two. A response that is not in the Bible I will thus label as ‘secular’ and vice versa.

Still, be critical.

Test what I say.

Do the desires and thoughts and answers I write resonate with the murmurs of your heart? Are they accurate reflections of yourself, your culture, your beliefs? If so, why? If not, why not?

What the World says about Watching (some thoughts)

  • You are suffering as well as your Loved One, so it is alright if you accidentally hurt people. At the very least it is permissible, understandable and even acceptable because you are in pain. You cannot help it. VS
  • The people you hurt, however, have every right to complain about you. They will say that just because you are suffering it doesn’t give you a free license to hurt people.
  • It’s the mark of a strong character to lash out at other people’s hypocritical and patronizing attempts to speak into your situation. You shouldn’t just lie down and take it. That would be weak.
  • Because you are going through this hard time, you are strong and brave and beautiful and special. You deserve to be acknowledged, supported and admired.
  • This is the time when you find out who really cares about you, so if someone doesn’t respond in the way you would like or need them to, feel free to name, shame, complain and shun them.
  • No response to pain is correct or right, so you can say whatever you want and do whatever you want.
  • You do not deserve this. You deserve happiness.
  • Life is hard for you, so you are allowed to indulge in whatever makes you feel better. Don’t be ashamed, if any time you deserve it, it is now. VS
  • At the same time, if you indulge in what is ‘wrong’ or socially unacceptable you will be judged
  • Anger and bitterness are unhelpful, ‘let go of your pain and bitterness’ and find your ‘new self’. VS
  • You have a right to be angry and bitter, because after all, you do not deserve to suffer and carry a cross each day, you deserve the fulfillment of your dreams and happiness.

What the world says about sickness (some thoughts)

  • There is no rhyme or reason. Some people are just unlucky.
  • Sickness is wrong. People should not be sick. We must fight sickness and disease with all we have. VS
  • Sickness is natural. It’s part of the evolutionary chain, it is part of survival of the fittest.
  • Good people should have good things happen to them. Only bad people should be sick. VS
  • Everyone is good.
  • Sick people deserve special attention and consideration.
  • There’s no reason sickness exists. ‘Just ’cause’. VS
  • There is a scientific reason behind everything.
  • Quality of life trumps quantity. VS
  • Quantity of life trumps quality.
  • We must fight against death, it’s the one great enemy. VS
  • We have to accept death. We will all die.

Until next time

This is only Part 1, and for the most part it’s merely observations.

Now that might make it interesting to some of us, and frustrating to the rest of us, but I think it’s an important place to start.

Until next week, look deep into yourself, into your culture, into your values, into what your faith tells you.

// What presuppositions of life have you collected? What do you take for granted?
Are they accurate? Are they enough?

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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.