I have a chronic illness: Is God calling me to sacrifice my health?

Dear Emily,

I have a chronic illness, and I’ve recently been challenged about what it looks like for me to serve, specifically in mission (whether domestic or overseas).

Today’s post is my thoughts in regards to a series of questions I was asked by Wendy.

Q1. Why does it seem noble to sacrifice personal comfort to serve God in a third world country, but not to sacrifice your energy (as someone who has chronic fatigue) to serve in my own country?

Firstly, I think you’re right when you say there’s a difference between giving up your health security in a general sense (moving to a 3rd world country) and specifically sacrificing it, knowing exactly what the consequences will be.

Both scenarios involve potential daily suffering, but they are different, and I think it’s very important to acknowledge that at the very beginning.

Continue reading “I have a chronic illness: Is God calling me to sacrifice my health?”

Friends, we are not doctors. (Is it wrong to want your chronically ill Loved One cured?)

When I was little I toyed with the idea of becoming a doctor. Not because I had an undying desire to see sick people healed, but because there was one ill person I wanted to cure. I longed to take away my mum’s pain with a single flick of a pen on a prescription pad.

While my career aspirations soon headed off down a different track, I think this desire is something we can all sympathise with. To some extent it never does away.

As care-givers and support-bearers and Watchers we would love to see our Loved Ones healed. Yet it can become dangerous when this simple desire begins to morph into something subtly different: a belief that it is our responsibility to cure them.
When this happens we swap our role as a Watcher for that of a “doctor”.

Watchers we are not… doctors

Do you ever feel the need to cure your chronically ill loved one?

Have you accidentally become a “doctor”? Do you ever:

  • Feel your goal in the relationship is to bring healing?
  • Spend time collecting remedies (via Google, word of mouth etc) and offering them to your Loved One?
  • Feel better when you can diagnose the cause of your Loved One’s distress that day. Does being able to rate it on a scale of 1-10 and use the appropriate words to describe and understand it, reassure you?
  • Feel like a failure when you are unable to reduce your Loved One’s suffering, or bring them relief?

“Watchers, we are not doctors. We have a higher calling.” Tweet @calledtowatch

Continue reading “Friends, we are not doctors. (Is it wrong to want your chronically ill Loved One cured?)”

What I learnt when I cried in church

I hesitate to share this. It’s personal. It’s ‘deep’… and this is in itself is normally an indicator that I shouldn’t post it on the World Wide Web.

We’ve looked at why it’s okay to cry in public and also how to respond. Now this is my story…

My story of public grief (and what it taught me about God and chronic illness)

I believe it’s important.

This experience was one of the times I have seen God teaching me ‘in the moment’. It was a valuable lesson – and so I share it, not for sympathy or scandal, but so you might also see the God I saw that day.

Continue reading “What I learnt when I cried in church”

3 things a stomach bug taught me about chronic illness

This week I was sick. Not chronically sick. Not even break-your-leg sick or appendicitis-need-operation sick. Merely stomach bug sick.

Uncomfortable, rather depressing, but half a week later and I was over it and back at work.
But something had changed.
While I was unwell I learned three very important truths about chronic illness – and I don’t want to ever forget them.

3 things I learnt about being chronically ill

1. Chronic illness means you are ill.

Don’t get me wrong, I never thought it was a walk in the park.

All my life my mum has battled various autoimmune diseases, and in the past few years I’ve watched my younger sister go through many similar struggles. I know personally how chronic illness can drain families, disrupt lives and sabotage futures.

But there’s nothing like being sick yourself to remember that the act of being sick in itself is awful.

It’s not just about the consequences or the collateral damage.

The minute-by-minute pains and nausea, the feelings of exhaustion, the frustration and the helplessness – it’s a horrible thing to experience.

I never want to forget that chronic illness means you are sick, and being sick is awful.

Continue reading “3 things a stomach bug taught me about chronic illness”

What to do when chronic illness makes you angry

Perhaps your father has been diagnosed with cancer, or your mother with Alzheimer’s, and you’re angry. Angry at everyone: the doctors, yourself, the people around you, the sick person, and most of all, God.

So what do we do?

Smash a few windows? Yell? Break down into tears? What’s the appropriate response?

Is there one?

How do you cope with anger after a chronic illness diagnosis?

What happens when we’re angry at a situation but don’t want to be?

Anger is harmful

I have no “5 Step Plan” to cope with the anger associated with chronic illness. I’m going to admit that up front. But I think it’s helpful to start by admitting that anger is not the best response.

There are more helpful emotions to feel.

I think we all know that. But is anger always wrong? Surely it’s okay to be indignant at injustice, or annoyed at pain.

There’s no simple answer here, no black and white. But we need to remember that righteous or otherwise, anger can hurt people. Anger can cause us to lash out, it can ruin relationships, it can tear apart community. If not addressed will linger and fester, and it will ultimately destroy us.

We should not cultivate anger.

Continue reading “What to do when chronic illness makes you angry”