7 ways to use words to encourage someone with a chronic illness (without lying)

I sometimes find that ‘encouragement’ feels like lying, especially when it comes to chronic illness.

I want to cheer up my sick family member or struggling friend, but when I search through my “encouragement vocabulary” the gems I unearth are phrases such as:

‘It’s alright.’

‘It will get better.’

‘God will heal you.’

‘Good will come of this, just you wait.’

These comments sound nice and hopeful. They are genuinely designed to lift someone’s mood – but often I find they don’t ring true.

How can I tell my loved one ‘it’s alright’ – when it’s clearly, obviously, not?

How can I promise them ‘it will get better’ or ‘God will heal you’ or ‘good will come’ – when this might not be the case?

Continue reading “7 ways to use words to encourage someone with a chronic illness (without lying)”

When NOT to fight someone else’s battle (even if you want to)

Have you ever sailed into an argument or situation with all cannons blazing… only to realise later that you should have just let the matter drop?
Have you ever fought long and hard for someone else – and then wondered whether you’re actually doing the right thing?

I have to admit, I have a tendency to get caught up “in the moment”. With the adrenaline rushing through my veins, I find it only too easy to believe that my right is the only right and it needs to be defended at any cost.

Of course, this just gets more complicated when it’s not my own battle that I’m fighting.

As Watchers we are often called to fight on someone else’s behalf. But what if sometimes fighting is not the best course of action? What if sometimes the right thing is to step back and put down our arms?

How are we to know?

Continue reading “When NOT to fight someone else’s battle (even if you want to)”

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?

Continue reading “What to do when you are unable to serve your local community due to sickness”

Help! People keep asking after my chronically sick family member…

“… and there’s nothing left to say.”

Chronic illness is…well, chronic. For the most part, not only does it not end, but it remains the same.

Of course there are changes, developments, progressions – but these are generally subtle in nature and may vary between individuals.

Perhaps our Loved One is slowly but surely declining.

Or maybe their sickness fluctuates without rhyme or reason. Some days they are well, others they are not.

Or perhaps there is simply no visible change at all, just a long, monotonous pain.
Continue reading “Help! People keep asking after my chronically sick family member…”

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)”

Our role in someone else’s suffering is bigger than you think

In one sense our role in someone else’s chronic illness is quite small. We certainly can’t ‘redeem’ their suffering or even carry their burden for them! HOWEVER, I do believe that Watching someone going through a hard time and “being there” for them is the very best thing you can do.

Here’s why.

Our role in someone else’s suffering is bigger than we think because:

1: The people we Watch are precious

There’s a line in the Jewish Talmud which states:

‘To save one Jewish life is the same as saving the world entire.’

(immortalised in “Schindler’s List”).

That is an immense claim and it raises a lot of problematic questions (such as: does that mean everything is permissible if it saves one life? What if that person is a murderer? What does it actually mean to save a life?).

Rather than delving into the philosophy behind this quote, I want to focus on the fact that every life is infinitely important.

Each person is created by God, in the image of God, for a purpose and a reason.

God cares deeply about each and every life – and so should we.

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2: The people we Watch are immortal

C. S. Lewis touches on this when he describes us as having “immortal souls” (The Weight of Glory).

We are creatures of eternity.

As a result our lives are important. Not only our lives after death, but our lives before it too.

Every second that we live on this earth is one of cosmic significance. Not because we are great but because we are greatly loved.

Our Loved Ones have immortal souls.

There are beautiful things on this earth that only last a short while. Sunsets die away and flowers whither. Yet God did not create us to be sunsets or withering flowers. He gave us eternal souls and in doing so demonstrated that in His eyes we are more important than all the beauties of nature.

Not only so, but He sacrificed Himself to have a relationship with the human race despite the fact that we are undeserving of such love.

3: The people we Watch are not accidents or mistakes.

It is this careful creation and painstaking redemption that sanctifies every prosaic moment on earth. Every smile, every phone call, every scrubbed kitchen floor has eternal consequences.

Our role as Watchers is important because God has given it to us.

The huge sacrifices of time and money are important – and so are the tiny, speechless moments. The visible burdens are significant and so are the unseen ones.

If God has said that washing the dishes is important, who are we to argue otherwise?

Will you embrace your role and see it as important?

While Watching is not an answer to the ‘Problem of Pain’ that doesn’t mean we’re not important. If a spoon won’t cut my toast, it doesn’t mean the spoon is useless. It simply means it was created for something else.

Watching is not an antidote to suffering, but it may be a balm.

We may not be able to solve their problems or even lessen their pain. Our endeavours to soothe may be useless and our attempts to help may prove futile. But standing by one person and loving them is enough. Living the life of a Watcher because we have no choice is enough.

It is enough because people matter. Every one of us is precious, immortal and part of God’s plan. As a result our role in someone else’s suffering – even when it seems insignificant – it actually huge.

// Do you believe your everyday life is important? Do you live like it is?

Don’t be shy. Join the conversation and comment below!


The companion to this post is:

Your role in someone else’s suffering is smaller than you think


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Your role in someone else’s suffering is smaller than you think (and that’s okay)

If there was a list entitled ‘how to change the world’, Watching wouldn’t be on there.
That, my friends, is the difficult truth.

We cannot validate someone else’s suffering.

I think we all accept this on a surface level, because we know we can’t heal our loved ones. We know we can’t fix the situation. We understand this because we’ve tried.

On a deeper level though, we often still believe that our presence is adding significance to their health struggles. If you think this isn’t true, let me ask you a question:

Whose suffering has the greatest impact, the chronic illness sufferer who collates an inspiring instagram feed or the aged parent who can no longer speak?

Do you believe that ‘seen’ suffering trumps ‘unseen’ suffering?

To do so is dangerous. Here’s why –

Continue reading “Your role in someone else’s suffering is smaller than you think (and that’s okay)”

Why aren’t I allowed to say that chronic illness is not fair?

Perhaps you have been here:
A knock at the door.
You answer.
It’s a friend, a neighbour. She has just popped over for a chat.

She holds a covered dish:

‘Cooked a bit extra and thought you could do with a home cooked meal’.

She asks how we are, how our Loved One is.

She complains for a while about her work, and how tired she is from the high tea she went to on the weekend. She has another date with friends in a few days but unfortunately it coincides with the birthday of a family member:

‘It’s always the way isn’t it? Everything at once, so frustrating.’

She shifts on the door step:

‘Ah well, no rush to return the dish – we’ll be away for a few weeks.

Going on a cruise. Just a small one. I’m a bit worried actually, I’m terrified I’m coming down with a cold. There’s nothing worse than a sniffly nose!

Anyway, got to rush, I have a hair dressers appointment this afternoon. All the best!’

You juggle the still-warm meal and close the door, the hot smell of cheese and silver foil clouding the air.

After the door is firmly shut and the neighbour out of sight, you give the wood a short, hard kick.

It’s not fair!
Continue reading “Why aren’t I allowed to say that chronic illness is not fair?”

4 things to do when you run out of sympathy

As we know, chronic illness goes on and on and on.

There is no end, no use by date. This is a problem.

Because we are only human. We find it difficult to stretch out our emotions. A state of perpetual excitement, for example, is extremely difficult to maintain.

So is a state of sympathy.

Yet what happens when the tragedy has not passed (and may not pass) and our sympathetic feelings, our desire to be involved, our sadness in what is, has come to an end?

Do we simply give up?

Do we stop Watching?

First of all let us ask ourselves a probing question:

Why is lack of sympathy a problem?

Why is it a problem that we no longer feel interested in our Loved One’s suffering? Why is it an issue that we don’t wince as they wince any longer?

Is it really that wrong?

I suspect we want to instinctively answer ‘yes’. Yes, there is something wrong when we don’t care about suffering anymore.

That answer is right.

But it’s also wrong.

Everything becomes normal

Continue reading “4 things to do when you run out of sympathy”

7 Reasons Watching someone you love suffer is the WORST

Is there anything worse than seeing someone you love suffer? When my little sister was in hospital for three months, I thought many times it would be easier if it were me instead.

Me with a brain tumour.
Me shaking in pain.
Me screaming in agony.

But I wasn’t given the option to exchange lives. And you probably haven’t been either.

So in the name of honesty here are 7 reasons why watching someone you love suffer is the worst: are these reasons the same for you?

Continue reading “7 Reasons Watching someone you love suffer is the WORST”