What to do when you are unable to serve your local community due to sickness

There are seasons for all of us where we are not able to do all we want. When chronic illness enters the picture, these seasons can be long indeed. It can be especially difficult when we are unable to serve or help our local community.

For those of us who are part of a church, a neighbourhood, a sports club or a community group we know what it is to volunteer our time and energy. It is a worthwhile and often enjoyable experience.

It can be challenging and even draining, but there’s something about working as part of a team toiling towards a common goal that can be very uplifting.

If you are a Christian, it is also part of fulfilling Jesus’ command to “love your neighbour”.

Yet illness can get in the way of even our most passionate desires to serve. Being available for a Loved One struggling with their health can mean we are unable to give of our time or energy.

So what do we do?

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How to serve your local community when your family member is sick

What does it look like for us to love and serve other people besides our family member with a chronic illness? Is it possible? Is it necessary?

I’ve written previously about serving with a chronic illness, and serving overseas when someone you love has a chronic illness. But what about serving in your local church or community?

Should you serve your local community if your family member is sick?

If you are part of a local church or community, there are probably numerous opportunities to serve. Often during a Sunday morning worship service alone, you could potentially:

Play a musical instrument

Sing

Do a reading or announcement

Usher people in

Open up/lock up the building

Help in baby sit

Teach in Sunday school

Make coffee/tea

Clean up the kitchen/building

… and that’s all within the space of about two hours! Throughout the week there are often many other situations in which you can fulfil the Biblical commandment to serve and love one another.

Yet it’s not that easy, is it? Those of us who have a family member with a chronic illness can find all the opportunities to serve somewhat daunting. There is so much need… and yet perhaps we find ourselves ill-suited to fill it.

Continue reading “How to serve your local community when your family member is sick”

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?”

Is it really better to give than to receive?

“It is better to give than to receive.”

This is an oft-quoted-out-of-context verse, but raises an important question: What if you can’t give? Is receiving only second best?

What if you feel like you do all the receiving and none of the giving?
Not all of us are positioned to ‘give’ at all times, in all places. Or sometimes when we do give, our gifts end up being more a hindrance rather than a blessing.

What then?
Continue reading “Is it really better to give than to receive?”

What if they don’t understand? (Watchers we are not delegates!)

How often have you stood ‘in the place’ of your ill Loved One?
Maybe you’ve attended an event,
answered a question,
or formed a relationship,
which they simply could not.

Delegates are people who represent someone else to a community. They go forth in their place and explain the other person’s views, character and position.

Sometimes it’s easier to see ourselves, not as Watchers of our Loved One, but as their delegate to the outside world.
Continue reading “What if they don’t understand? (Watchers we are not delegates!)”

Talking about suffering: Why answering ‘That Question’ is so difficult

Are you a chatterbox? Bring up ‘Sherlock Holmes’, the latest book you’ve read, or something God’s been teaching you… and chances are, I won’t be closing my mouth for a while.

Although I’ve written before about thinking before talking, and even (on occasion!) not speaking at all, the truth is…

I rather like talking.

Yet there are other topics which are less guaranteed to set off an avalanche of words. I suspect it’s the same for you.

I also suspect that one of these might be: ‘why does God allow suffering?’
It’s an important question – so why do we find it so difficult to talk about?
Continue reading “Talking about suffering: Why answering ‘That Question’ is so difficult”

Talking about suffering: When NOT to answer The Question

Some questions should not be answered.
This is not because they are silly or childish (there’s no such thing as a stupid question, remember?)
Or because they are too difficult.
Or even because the answer is too scary.

No, the only reason you should not answer a question is when you have something to offer that is more important.

But what’s more important than an answer?

Talking about suffering: When not to answer the question

Let’s go back to my friend from the last post. She’s struggling from a mental illness which invades her days and eats away at her personality.

Upset and tired she asks me,
‘Why does God allow this?’

Now there is an answer I can give to this. It is a theologically sound answer.

It is correct in every sense of the word. And there’s nothing wrong with my motives – I love my friend, and want to see her comforted and at peace with God and herself.

All the boxes are ticked… and yet depending on the situation my answer could be extraordinarily hurtful to her. And yet, it might not be!

How do I know? Continue reading “Talking about suffering: When NOT to answer The Question”

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!
Continue reading “Talking about suffering: Why pure motives don’t always make things right”

LTCI #2: Am I my family’s keeper?

How’s your mum? How’s your sister?’

These are questions I get a lot. They’re great questions. They mean people are thinking about my sick family members, and it shows that the people around me understand that their illnesses are a rather large part of my life.

Most of the time I appreciate the time taken to ask a question like this, and the implied preparedness of the Asker to listen to a ‘deep’ response.

The other week though, I got asked this question twice, and each time it left me feeling guilty.

I bumped into my landlady as I was leaving my house, and she stopped me with a smile, and asked, ‘How is your mum going? And your sister’s health – how is it?’

I smiled in reply – and then froze.

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Why you should sympathise with first world problems (when your own are much bigger)

I stubbed my toe.
I can’t afford concert tickets.
There’s no chocolate in my house.
Who hasn’t heard such complaints? From friends, colleagues – perhaps from yourself.

We often label them “first world problems”.
And they can be annoying. Especially as Watchers.
Continue reading “Why you should sympathise with first world problems (when your own are much bigger)”