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?”

“I’m fine, don’t worry about me!”(Watchers, we are not Saints)

“I’m okay.”
“I’ve got this.”
“Honestly, it’s fine, I promise.”
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are only a Watcher, and instead begin to think that we are (or should be) a “saint”.
This is what it looks like:

Watchers, we are not saints

Do you…

  • …. feel guilty all the time. I’m not a good Watcher. Not even passable. Why can’t I do anything right?
  • … gloss over your hardships and sacrifices. Oh I don’t do much, not at all. Yes I spent all day driving my loved one to appointments in the rain, but that doesn’t matter. It was nothing!
  • … never share your problems. I’m going fine. One’s got to do what they’ve got to do! Other people have it worse, after all.

Continue reading ““I’m fine, don’t worry about me!”(Watchers, we are not Saints)”

3 reasons it is good to be sad after a chronic illness diagnosis

I don’t like being sad. Do you?
Being sad means I no longer feel like laughing at someone’s joke or daydreaming in the sun.

Being sad can mean I get headaches from crying, or find it difficult to concentrate during lectures, sermons or long conversations.

And yet, the truth is, when tragedy strikes our loved ones, it can actually be helpful to be sad.

Here’s why.

3 reasons it’s good to be sad:

1. Sadness is reality

Let us not lose sight of the fact that when someone we love is suffering we ought to be sad.

It’s not merely ‘okay’ or ‘acceptable’ – but it is good.

If your heart does not break at the new distress of someone you love, something is not right.

Feeling sad means you’re human.

It means you have a living, breathing, sympathetic heart, and that is good. We were not created to be stone statues, but living people created in the likeness of a God who weeps as well as laughs.

Sadness is the right response to tragic reality. It means you see the world as it is. Life is not all happy games and hopes fulfilled. It is just as equally a dark valley and night time tears.

To see and feel sorrow when it is present is good.

Sadness is the right response to tragedy. It is part of being human – tweet!

Continue reading “3 reasons it is good to be sad after a chronic illness diagnosis”

The 3 dangers of being sad after a chronic illness diagnosis

Sadness after a chronic illness diagnosis, that’s valid, right? 

It’s a good thing… yes?

Well – sort of.

Sadness can be restrictive

Strange as it may seem, having mixed emotions can actually be a saving grace.

If we are sad over our Loved One’s suffering, but simultaneously frustrated at the doctors, angry at God or jealous of others, no one feeling has complete control.

After all, we’re only human, and cannot plumb the depths of ‘anger’ at the exact same time as we are reaching into the extent and intensity of ‘grief’.

With many emotions comes also many options for relief, more opportunities for someone to say ‘me too’.

Yet when we are simply sad, it can become all-consuming. We can easily develop ‘tunnel vision’, and our sadness may push aside every other happiness.

In one sense that’s okay. It’s not wrong to feel grief, and immense grief will be felt immensely.

But it can also be harmful, because we all need some measure of distance. Continue reading “The 3 dangers of being sad after a chronic illness diagnosis”

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”

How to cope with grief in a public place

What do we do when we find ourselves crying in church? – Is this a silly question? I don’t think it is.

I like practical answers.

If something uncomfortable has to happen, I want to know how I can fix it (or, preferably, avoid it).

What do I do when I find myself crying? Is this a question that needs to be answered?

I think it is.

Why?

Because weeping in public is not a common occurrence in Western culture. We generally try to avoid it – and so when we weep in public it is because we are overcome with grief. Tears take us by surprise; we are unprepared.

And personally, I’d rather not be. So let’s think about it now, before we find ourselves in that situation.

What should we do when we find ourselves overcome with emotion in public place?
Continue reading “How to cope with grief in a public place”

Why I think it’s okay to grieve in Public

Grieving in front of people is not something we’re particularly good at in my culture. Weeping often happens behind closed doors, or in the arms of a loved one.

Yet when a diagnosis of chronic illness enters our lives, or the lives of our family members, it’s impossible to avoid public places, and often just as impossible to avoid tears!

As Christians, church is a public sphere where we may find it hard to contain our grief. For this reason I’m going to use it as an example, but most of what is written below can apply to any public space.

Firstly: should we even be trying to contain our grief?

I don’t think so.

4 Reasons we grieve chronic illness in public

1. We grieve chronic illness in public because we care

Continue reading “Why I think it’s okay to grieve in Public”

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”

After a diagnosis: Why anger?

A chronic illness diagnosis is emotional. We may feel sad, guilty, overwhelmed… and we can feel angry. Sometimes this is short-lived, but mine wasn’t.

Why are we angry?

Coping with anger after a diagnosis is not simple

Chronic illness and suffering is a sensitive topic, so let me use another analogy.

Say I stub my toe. It hurts. It makes me angry.

Why?

Anger over chronic illness is a reaction to frustration

Continue reading “After a diagnosis: Why anger?”

Long distance Watching (Part 2)

It’s difficult to care as much about something when you’re not confronted with it every day.
We are often more distressed about our 3 year old’s tantrum than a war in a 3rd world country. What we see and experience affects us.

Watching from a distance feels less ‘real’

What we experience personally seems more real, not only because we are a firsthand witness but because it actually disrupts our life.

Thus, it is more difficult to Watch when we do not see our Loved One regularly. It is genuinely hard to place as much importance on their struggles.

Not because our love is less, but because it makes up less of our day.

What should we do?

Continue reading “Long distance Watching (Part 2)”