Sometimes, when we’re very ill or our pain is overwhelming, we might get to the point where God seems to not exist actively in our lives. We might not be able to feel the comfort or peace we enjoy when God’s presence is palpable. We might even doubt that God is with us at all. Such times might be very scary, but they’re not unusual. Serious, ongoing illness can have a way of chipping at our resolve and exhausting us to the point of being depressed, or out of hope. But even if God seems far away, there are ways to know He is still with us, holding us, and giving us strength. One of those ways might seem counter-intuitive (but please bear with me) – it’s to imagine your life without God, and in doing so, discovering that God is not only present, He is acting active right with us!
God is the giver of life. We did not give ourselves life, God did. What’s more, as we live even now, God is ever-giving us life! We live – God is.
God is always available. Others might have walked away out of frustration at our ongoing health ups and downs. Maybe, even, some of our doctors have given up hope and said, “You don’t have to see me anymore.” But God does not close His heavenly office to us, nor does He ever walk away! Whenever we call upon Him – God is.
God is the worker of miracles. I’ve been so sick at times that doctors have used the “d” word (“death”). I’ve known others whose health conditions have no medical cure, yet they flourish, and still others who by all human accounts should not be able to go about their day as productively as they do – yet, they do! God gives us a faith that transcends human abilities – God is.
God is the rock. Life with chronic illness and pain is usually up and down, “good” and “bad,” unpredictable, and even sometimes very scary – a floor constantly shifting beneath our feet. Yet, God does not shift or change. God is our rock – God is.
Martyrs and missionaries make astounding sacrifices each day to bring the Gospel and God’s love to others. They commit themselves to monumental tasks, knowing that they are giving their lives over to serving and, sometimes, dying for others and the Lord. And when we look upon these heroic individuals and measure our own lives against their sacrifices, we might feel as if we are coming up severely short – not doing anywhere near enough as they do.
But, just as not everyone is called to be a priest, minister, doctor, or teacher, not everyone is called to leave home and travel far to engage in missionary work. Nor will every believer be called to die for his or her faith.
No, for some, heroic living that involves service, sacrifice, and sharing the Word means living at home, serving those close by, and reaching out, to paraphrase Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, in small ways with great love.
In short, it doesn’t take much to care. And, in fact, if we wait around for great things to do, we will be missing out on all the less visible ways we might be making a huge difference.
I applaud those who dedicate their lives to the Gospel, whether they leave behind all that is familiar to work “in the fields,” or remain close to their roots. Truly, where we live out God’s purpose is not as important as that we do live it out. Day by day. Person by person.
As we journey through our lives with chronic pain and illness, we undoubtedly will come across people who ask us “How are you?” Some are truly caring and want to be empathetic and/or reach out with help. Others are being polite, but might not be expecting details (especially not the gory ones). And others might have ulterior motives – they might be feasting on gossip or eager to use our status against us (say, in the workplace, where illness might be associated with inability or weakness).
I never like to lie when someone asks me how I’m doing. If it’s a bad day, I just can’t truthfully say, “Oh, I’m really doing well!” But, on the other hand, I try to work hard at discerning to whom I’m speaking and just how much information is necessary for a given conversation. And, on those very bad days, well, I’m not usually very communicative at all to the “outside” world (but my doctor and closest friends might get an earful!)
Two things help me in the discernment process – Who to tell what. First, I gauge how well I know the person to whom I’m speaking. How well do they understand illness in general and my situation in particular, for example. And I also assess the context of the conversation. Where are we? Is this a long conversation in which my health situation will play a role or be relevant to the topic of discussion?
Finally, I also try to figure out my reason for offering the information and how that will affect the manner in which I present it: If I’m frustrated at my joint im-mobility, my words might sound angrier than I’d like and it might cause push back during a conversation with someone who isn’t close to me, for example.
The better we know ourselves and the more we nurture those few, true relationships in our lives, the more freely and capably we’ll be able to communicate and participate in more satisfying conversations that go beyond “Ouch” and move on to “Oh…”
Joy and peace,
Like many of you, my days begin with much of the same routine, mostly involving health activity. Stretching, medications, setting up for the day ahead (sun protective clothing or not?) – it can feel as if each day begins with the same old thing. Which is why, every so often, I try to “mix it up” enough so that, even if I’m going to be homebound, there is enough variety to keep a spark of interest moving ahead into the hours to come.
Some of the things I try to do are:
Vary the sounds of the new day. Music, silence, and other additions can make a big difference!
Alter the order of things. If the left shoe always comes before the right shoe, try to reverse it next time.
Pray differently. My day always begins with prayer, but I don’t always pray the same words or in the same manner.
Cook up something different for breakfast. Even our tastebuds can get bored! So, I try to vary my diet sometimes, especially adding whatever fresh foods are in season.
There are other things that can freshen up our daily routine. And each time we do something new, we are making our day more interesting, which helps us look upon our lives in a very refreshing way!