Second close-up of pictureSometimes, a life punctuated by chronic illness seems like a life out of control. Just when you finish a med or a symptom or flare recedes, wham! Something else happens, and you’re back in that dizzying cycle of doctor-to-pharmacy-to-doctor-to-home.

I know well how much of a chronic illness cannot be controlled because of my years of experience with lupus. Yet, there is also much that we can take charge of, even in the direst of circumstances.  Here are some of the things we can control:

How much we worry.  In my new book, Don’t Panic!: How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough, I devote an entire chapter to worry, that gnawing emotion that disturbs peace, sleep, our most precious of relationships with others, and even our connection with God. We often couch our worry in a phrase that begins, “What if…” and we finish that sentence with the most awful example of what could happen if things don’t go well. It try to always take control of that runaway worrying by changing “What if…” to “What is…” Stick to the facts and take the days as they come. Control the worry, and you invite greater peace of mind.

Our time in prayer. Perhaps we don’t have as much church time or “just sitting with God” time as we would like when we’re running from doctor to doctor or are too sick or in pain to go out. But we can pray wherever and whenever we are – and that’s one of the most beautiful parts of faith! We take our faith with us. We are earthen vessels, carrying Christ all the time, everywhere. So, we can pray whenever we want to. We control our prayer time. And the more we turn to God in that blessed conversation, the more peace and calm we will have.

What we eat. Yes, each of us has a particular budget, and food availability might be a problem if we don’t live near abundantly stocked stores with great variety. But what travels from our fork to our mouth is completely within our control. We can say “yes” to the cake or salad…and we can also say “no.” Yup. It’s that easy. And if cravings are taking over, we can tame those like we would an unruly pet – gently and lovingly, but very firmly.

Whether we encourage or discourage ourselves and others. So often, if we are negative inside we are that way outside, too. And when we turn our negativity toward ourselves and others, even in the slightest degree, we’re chipping away at the love and support we crave and could benefit from and give. Positive words, positive actions, kind thoughts – these and all other encouragments help build us up and are completely in our control. It might take awhile for these to feel more natural, if we’ve been submerged in the darker side of life with chronic illness. But here’s where we have control: Each time the effort seems too great, we can go back to prayer, Scripture, our faithful friends. And we can wrestle control away from the darkness and fill ourselves and our lives with light.



More from Beliefnet and our partners