Talking about suffering: Why pure motives don’t always make things right

Why am I sick?
Will I ever get better?
What am I supposed to be doing with my life?
It can take courage to ask these questions. But sometimes, it can take even more courage to answer them.

Today’s post is the first in a series of articles called ‘Talking about Suffering’…

Talking about suffering is hard! (how do you know what to say?)

Figuring out the truths about illness, suffering and the big problems of life is difficult.

It’s a different sort of hard when you are not sick yourself. How often do you feel helpless in the face of such questions? How often do you feel ill-equipped to answer your sick friend’s frustrations?

Even if you ‘know’ the right response (whether that’s an answer, rebuke or piece of advice) you might not know ‘how’ to say it.

Is this you? It’s often me!
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Help! I’m jealous of their chronic illness!

Imagine this. Or perhaps you don’t have to…

Your Loved One has lived with their chronic illness for ten years. There’s been highs and lows, but you’re just beginning to understand what life looks like for them and also for you.

Then a close friend receives a diagnosis. They’re sick. Chronically sick… perhaps with the same illness as your loved One, perhaps a slightly different one.

Everyone is dismayed and shocked. They surround the newly-diagnosed one with gifts of love and support. Maybe they look at you, and assume you too will visit and offer your help. After all, you and your Loved One are ‘old hands’.

Perhaps someone nudges you and quips that maybe the past suffering of your Loved One was preparation for loving this person – that all that agony was raising you up for “such a time as this.”

You know you should help. You know you should love. But instead you feel… jealous.
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Twenty-Seventeen – your favourite posts

Only a few days left of twenty-seventeen! I hope you all had a lovely, rest-filled, Hope-filled Christmas.

For those of you who didn’t, I pray you were able to cling onto the hope that one day Christmas will conquer chronic illness.

It’s time for some stats! Out of the 54 posts published this year, let me share which ones you liked the most, and then I have a huge favour to ask you…

(These do not include the introductory – But what is Watching? and the About Me pages, both of which were very popular.)

So, without further ado –
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Why my blog will never go viral (reflecting on 2017 as a Watcher)

What I’ve learnt from blogging about chronic illness on Called to Watch

At the moment, even as I’m preparing to look forward to Christmas, 2018, and the future – I’m also looking back.

This is what I’ve learnt:

1. I have everything to gain and nothing to lose

Blogging over the past year has taught me that Watching is a ‘thing’. By this, I mean, loving someone with a chronic illness is a state of being worth talking about. It’s a relationship worth sharing.

It’s actually an important part of who I am – just as it’s a crucial element to who a lot of people are!
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The gift that wasn’t for her (LTCI #1)

As the shops get busier and my drive home after a late night shift becomes increasingly well-lit thanks to the current Christmas light epidemic, I’ve decided to introduce a new blog ‘series’.

Love in a Time of Chronic Illness (LTCI)

Many of my posts are either ‘answers’ or ‘explanations’ relating to the difficulties and loneliness-es of loving someone with a chronic illness.

I’ve never proposed to have the ‘only-exclusively-right’ answers to every situation of course. (Unless the Answer is Jesus, in which case I do!) But I write what I’ve learnt and I describe what’s encouraged me.

But for a while now I’ve been nursing a fear that perhaps these posts are portraying me unrealistically.

Eight hundred polished words are not the same as a polished life.
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Why we need to tell our chronically ill friend the truth (even if it hurts)

Have you ever been hurt by someone? I have.
When it happens there are two things I want to do. I want to tell them they were in the wrong… and I want to tell someone else what occurred.

But what happens when it’s my chronically ill family member or friend who has hurt me?

Am I allowed to rebuke them?

And is it right to tell other people?

Q1. Are we allowed to yell at someone who is sick?

Anger brings a delicious freedom.

It allows us to feel that we are “within our rights” (whatever that means!) to say exactly what we think.

It seems to give us license to bring up past issues, to tell someone exactly what we think about them, what they ought to do (or not do), and precisely how much they have inconvenienced us.

My friends, if that is the sort of rebuking we want to do to our chronically ill family member, then the answer is no.

No, we should not rebuke them – because we shouldn’t rebuke anyone like that! It’s not loving.

On the other hand, if by rebuking we mean simply telling them that we are hurt because of them – then the answer is ‘perhaps’.

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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.

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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.

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The problem with chronic illness and social media

Sharing about chronic illness on social media: It’s difficult.
Particularly when you are only watching someone else’s battle.

That I believe this might come as a surprise, due to the slight fact that this website is full of articles!

Not to mention, I have associated facebook pages, groups, pinterest, google plus and twitter accounts! That’s a lot of social media.

Yet each time I share about the place of chronic illness in my life (as someone who has sick family members, but is not ill myself), I struggle.

It’s a hard topic to think and talk about – let alone share online with everyone and anyone!

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

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.
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