The Storms of Chronic Illness
I lay in my double bed, the bed I had lived in for the past year and a half, and quietly watched the rain outside my bedroom window. For the last 24 hours, it had been pouring hard – so much rain, so many dark clouds. Usually the view outside my window is delightful, the circle driveway and open grass in the front of my family’s five-acre property, the neighbor’s yard separated from ours with a wire fence, scruffy Aussie gum-trees, beautiful in their own way, and the hills in the distance. Normally, it was lovely.
But this cold August day was wet and grey. As I lay watching the storm and listening to the rain, I thought about how chronic illness can feel like one long storm and how, when you’re in it, the rain can feel like it will forever. It reminded me, too, of how Jesus has become my Hiding Place.
Bed-Bound, Helpless, and Suffering
I had been bed-bound for a year and a half, and chronically ill for much longer. Diagnosed with CFS/ME, and Fibromyalgia, and later POTS, my life had dramatically changed. I went from being an enthusiastic and energetic young girl involved in many activities including ministry, to severe debilitation, helplessness, and suffering.
Most days, I was too weak and sick to get out of bed before mid or late morning when I would be helped to the bathroom by a family member and wheelchair, or crutch. On a better day, I would take a shower. Then I would fall back into bed utterly fatigued, ridiculously weak, and horribly sick, and stay there for the rest of the day. Meals were brought in to me. Most of the small activities I did were done from my bed. As my condition improved with family and medical help, the exertion I could manage slowly increased. This didn’t just last for days or weeks, but months.
It was two years before I was un-bedridden.
In the Midst of Suffering, We Need Jesus
Yet in the midst of all this suffering, there has been a place I run to, sure of finding warmth, comfort, and strength.
When we are hurting, we don’t primarily need truth – we need presence, the presence of a living Person, Jesus Christ. I have learned to know Jesus as my Hiding Place, where I can take refuge when the storms come. Whether the storms come in the form of external circumstances, spiritual attacks, or internal turmoil, His presence is my Hiding Place, where I run for comfort, strength, and peace. Jesus promises that in Him I will find everything I need. There is no judgment there. He doesn’t condemn me for struggling. He welcomes me as a Father welcomes His child and meets me where I’m at. He doesn’t leave me there, but lifts my head and restores with His love. He knows me perfectly and knows how to reach out and strengthen my heart better than anyone. He removes each doubt and fear, providing protection as a safe shelter and refuge. While He doesn’t always take away the pain, He does hold me while I hurt. And though He doesn’t always calm the storms around me, but He calms them in me.
David, the Psalms, and the Presence of God
David, author of many of the Psalms, knew the reality of life storms. He knew what it was to hide, in rocks and caves, and also in God. He wrote:
“In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.” Psalms 31:20
“You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah” Psalms 32:7
“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” Psalms 119:114
“Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.” Psalms 71:3 KJV
Do You Know Jesus as Your Hiding Place?
Do you know Him as your Hiding Place?
When you feel sad, run to Him. When you feel angry, run to Him. When you feel numb, run to Him.
Pour out your heart to Him. Tell Him how you feel.
Open His Word and breathe in His words of truth, love, goodness, and hope.
Wait on Him. Rest in the warmth and comfort of His presence.
When we’re hurting, it’s easy to run to other things for comfort – books, movies, technology, friends, etc. Those things can distract us from the pain for a while (and that’s not always a bad thing), but they cannot provide the comfort and healing that Jesus can.
Don’t Stay Out in the Cold
If you find yourself out in the storm, outside the comfort of God’s presence and love as we do from time to time, know that you can always come back home. Our Heavenly Father is always waiting to embrace us and welcome us back into His love.
Don’t stay out in the cold. Chronic illness is huge and awful, only the presence of Jesus can give us what us need to make it through.
Glimpses of Blue Sky and Sunshine
The day of the storm, I was so thankful to be inside my warm bed, not outside in the rain! As I lay there watching it fall, I caught a small glimpse of something blue – a reminder that there is clear sky beyond the rolling clouds. Each time the clouds peeled back, the sunshine beamed down for a bit before they gathered again, and I thought, “if the Lord didn’t send moments of sunshine – reminders of His love and care – in the midst of my storms, I don’t know if I could bear it sometimes.”
Remember that storms don’t last forever. One day you will see the blue sky again. Hide in Jesus’ love. Trust Him to carry you through.
Caitlin is an Australian New Zealander with a passion for writing, and is getting started as a freelance writer. She suffered with severe CFS/ME, Fibromyalgia, and POTS for four years and knows the daily struggle of life with chronic illness. But she also knows how to find strength in her relationship with Jesus and knows His grace in her life. She writes at At His Feet blog with heart to help young ladies know Jesus for themselves, and encourage them in hard seasons through relationships, perspective, and hope. When she’s not writing, Caitlin enjoys mentoring girls, reading, cuddling her mini lop bunnies, playing her Irish tin-whistles, and spending quality time with her 8 siblings and her friends. She lives to know Jesus Christ and to make Him known.
Have you ever wondered if you were meant for more? More than what the world wants to offer you? Even more than what you have planned for yourself? Have you ever wished to live with more faith? Encouragement to live a life of faith that honors God with a daily devotional. Each devotion is meant to remind you that walking your journey of faith may not always be easy, but it is always worth it. Jesus is always worth it.
S. G. Willoughby
Are you a teenager trying to navigate faith through chronic illness? I’m here to tell you, you are not alone. When sickness takes over your life, it’s a never-ending battle to make it through each day. How do you cope? How do you keep fighting? Most of all though, how do you find God in the midst of the suffering? Through my own journey of sickness, I’ve struggled with the same questions—questions we all think but are afraid to ask.
Cindee Snider Re
This 10-chapter study invites participants to experience radical hope and compassionate change in a life with chronic illness.
No matter how dark the days, how wild the storm, how deep the valley, or how long the winter, there is hope.
There is always hope.
The young adult years are filled with change. Chronic illness complicates all of it - independence, education, employment, social activities, dating, and relationships with family and friends. But it can also cultivate both strength and resilience as we learn to navigate pain, loss, suffering, and adversity, discovering what really matters.