LIVING WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS
When you live with a chronic illness, you soon learn that it requires you to make a plethora of unending decisions. When you view the “d” section in your phone contacts, the list of doctors seems endless. Some of these doctors are even programmed into your speed dial. Maintaining a “baseline” is important. So, some tests and procedures have to be repeated year after year after year. You experience physical pain week after week after week. In addition, there are questions and emotions that you have to battle day after day after day and sometimes moment by moment by moment.
One of the most challenging things for me about living with spina bifida is how many areas of my body are affected, including my bladder, kidneys, bowels, legs, feet, nerves, and muscles. Recently it has begun to affect my neck and brain. I routinely see a neurologist, neurosurgeon, podiatrist, urologist, gastroenterologist, and physical therapist. On occasion, I’ll see a shunt specialist, hematologist, and orthopedic surgeon. If I’m bored, I’ll see my primary care doctor.
Let me assure you that I know how exhausting this is, especially when I stop to consider the fact that despite all of these appointments, there is no cure for my condition. Unless God decides in His infinite wisdom to heal my physical body, I will never “get better.” At most, I can attempt to maintain my current health for as long as possible.
HOPE IN COPING WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS
You see, God will use pain to develop you, but He never meant for it to define you. I have found that the days that I feel the most helpless about my health are the days that I let my suffering become my sole focus. My whole purpose in living becomes wrapped up in trying to cure it, maintain it, or dull it.
On these days, I have to take a step back and remind myself that God has created me to be so much more than that. I have to re-read passages in my Bible that fill me up with the hope that God is using all of this for something much bigger than I can understand.
One of the things that I love about Jesus’ life is how He specifically chose people suffering from physical disabilities to display to onlookers that He was the Messiah they had been waiting for. These broken lives mattered greatly to Him and they became the tools through which His glory and power shone brightly. If you’re hurting today, my prayer is that your pain brings you much hope and encouragement!
LIVING WITH CHRONIC HOPE
Not only does God promise to use your pain on a larger scale, but He also desires to use it in a very personal way. He wants it to become the tool with which He molds you into a person that reflects everything about His character.
What would that look like?
- It would look like a person who is thankful for doctors, patient with caregivers, loving toward family, and even joyful during a colonoscopy.
- It would look like a person who shows gratitude about the function they do have rather than grumbling about limitations.
- It would be a person who cries tears of deep pain while knowing peace is not based on the feelings contrived by reality but rather on the truth that God has laid out in the Bible.
- It’s the kind of person that I have begun to ask God to make me.
- It’s a person who’s coping with chronic illness by living with chronic hope.
In 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, Paul writes, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
First published in Just Between Us magazine. Published with permission.
Adriana is a freelance illustrator, professor, writer, and speaker who finds joy in helping others discover how God can bring “chronic hope” into their lives. She lives in Milwaukee, Wis., with her husband, Chris, and her three daughters. Photo courtesy of Robyn Vining Photography.
Called to Hope
Jesus is the enduring, timeless, and everlasting hope who came to seek, serve, call, forgive, rescue, redeem, and save.