One of the hardest parts about a diagnosis of a serious, life-altering chronic illness is just that: it will alter your life. But often we focus on the word “alter” (or harsher pronouncements such as “mess up” or “destroy”) and forget that the word “life” abides. Yes, although we might have an illness that requires radical changes to how we live and how we feel, where we spend our money or even where we live, the important thing to remember is that we still have life. Perhaps not “the life” we thought we should have or used to have. But we have life. And that’s a mighty powerful thing to have to work with!
I believe that God gives each of us a purpose. Sometimes more than one. And sometimes it might be difficult to discern just what that purpose is. However, as long as we are alive, we do serve a purpose (my emphasis, on purpose, on serve). A life with a chronic illness is a very good opportunity to learn more about ourselves in our weakness and find ways that we can bring strength, light, and support to others in similar situations. It usually is peppered with time spent alone, and in this time, we can come closer to God. A life lived with grace despite illness shows others that we need not give up striving for good, for better, because of sickness. And our lives with frailty and need serve the purpose of showing others (and allowing them) to care.
This all might be hard to digest if you’ve just received a dire diagnosis. And it isn’t meant to sugar-coat the fact that illness is really, really hard on us and on our loved ones (and even our doctors, who deal with the sick each day for hours at a time). But as you start to take those first steps into your new life, remember that it is still a miraculous, wonderful life, and God loves you through it all. Let this knowledge be a comfort. Let it deepen within you as you see the days pass, your life unfold, and God work around and through you.
It’s a remarkable journey – and it’s only just beginning!