You can ask any member of my close family how many times I have said that I feel I am 80 in a 30-year-old body and they won’t even be able to count because it’s been so many!
There are days, when struggling with any form of chronic illness, that it’s so hard to even move when you wake up. I used to say, it’s like my body just crystallized overnight. Sometimes, I’d open my eyes in the morning and wish I could just go back to sleep so I didn’t have to feel the pain (or itchiness) and face the day all over again.
Time didn’t feel like my friend. It felt like the enemy I had to face every single day my body was fraught with inflammation.
The Hardest Things
Some of the hardest things about chronic illness is not knowing what the next day will bring (or even the night for that matter) and often feeling like there’s not a light at the end of the tunnel of feeling better and being healed.
Having been through the trenches of chronic illness, I understand on a very deep level the emotional disarray that comes with a disease that is relentless and can’t be solved with a quick fix.
Healing Your Soul
Consequently, there are many things I have learned over the years of my healing journey both in the physical processes and the spiritual processes of chronic illness.
While I usually focus my writing on the holistic, physical things you can do to take your life back and heal, today I’d like to focus on the spiritual aspects of navigating chronic illness and the perspective that can help you heal your soul.
The Value of Hurting
That sounds pretty counterintuitive, right? Believe it or not, during my recovery process and getting to the point of living symptom-free (except for occasional flares), God revealed many powerful truths to me that I just have to share with you.
Sometimes, even when we aren’t physically feeling better, we can hold on to the spiritual pearls that God has for us. Those become our light and what propels us to get out of bed each day in surrender ready to face what time brings.
I’d like to share five spiritual benefits you can experience even when you’re hurting.
The 5 Spiritual Benefits of Chronic Illness
1 | Compassion
I can always tell when I meet someone who hasn’t been through something chronic whether it be chronic grief, stress or illness. They usually have a black or white attitude and very short simple fixes for you to employ to get better. Or, even worse, they just shoot out Bible verses thinking that will be the perfect band-aid. They have the answers. Or, at least they think they do.
In contrast, it is very evident to me when I meet someone who has been through a severe and long-lasting trial that is chronic in nature. Compassion and empathy just oozes out of them. They are the type of people I just want to be around because they get it. They understand.
In 2 Corinthian 1:3-5 it says,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
When you are dealing with chronic illness, it can help you learn compassion for others who are in the same boat. Giving empathy and compassion is one of your purposes in going through what you are.
2 | Refining
This is one area I can tell you that I have told God – I don’t want to be refined anymore. I wish He listened to my wants. (not really)
I submit to the fact that, just like a loving father, He knows me better than I know myself and can anticipate my needs which results in a continual refining.
Isaiah 48:10 says,
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
There’s no doubt in my mind that when we go through trials like chronic illness, that the dross comes to the surface. Our weaknesses hit us like a two-by-four square in the face. It’s no fun really but the refining fire is well worth it because, as believers, according to Romans 12:1-2, we are a living and holy sacrifice for God. Through our refining, we can become more and more like Christ each day.
3 | Perseverance
I have always had a level of perseverance naturally within me but it wasn’t tested and grown until first, I went through losing my babies, second, I had to deal with terribly difficult marital problems (which God redeemed and restored) and third, when I was at my rock bottom with no fathomable way out of the deep, muddy pit of chronic illness.
Romans 5:3-5 says,
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
I can definitely say, that in the midst of all those things above, I wasn’t rejoicing outwardly or in my heart. I’m human and so are you! Instead, what I realized is that I could hope – in the end, and through the trial, that God would not waste the time. He would redeem the time I suffered because he was producing character, endurance and perseverance in me through the Holy Spirit.
4 | Growth
Even though I didn’t really realize it during the process, the ways in which I grew (and still grow) through chronic illness astound me. This is yet another way, God doesn’t waste what we go through.
James 1:2-4 says,
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James is not saying here that we need to walk around excited about the fact that we’re in pain, feel depressed and sometimes would rather stay in a dark room under the covers and hide out from the world. Instead, the word joy really means contentment. We can be content knowing that God is allowing our chronic illness to be what it is in our life right now because He is producing a faith and loyalty in Him and to Him that can’t be compared to anything else.
5 | Intimacy With God
There’s no doubt that when we suffer, we become closer to God (if we are willing.) During times of suffering, it seems like the things of this world that feel so important just fade away until all we are left with is God. The beauty in that is when we are with God and nothing else is stealing our time with Him, we develop a true relationship with Him that has deep roots and a strong foundation. We really get to know WHO He is.
Job 42:5 says (to God),
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you…
Now, we both know that Job suffered immensely. Every human’s worst fears, he experienced, yet He still praised God. Job was able to do that because He not only knew God’s character, but he trusted God’s purposes and plans.
As you struggle with your chronic illness, allow yourself to turn to God and meditate on His word with Him. Bring Him into your thoughts and cry out to Him as David did in the Psalms. He will hear your every cry and will meet you where you’re at. He will be your constant companion and source of comfort.
4 Practical Resources to Help You in Your Walk Through Chronic Illness
I am in the Word pretty much every day barring any unusual circumstances. It is what nourishes my soul and fills me up even when I am physically or emotionally hurting. During my deepest darkest days, my time in God’s Word became paramount for my healing. I wanted to share with you some powerful resources that I know will help you.
1 | Psalms
Although many books in the Bible are comforting and provide soul care, there is nothing like the book of Psalms to help you feel like you’re not alone. I read and reread Psalms many times over because the soothing and authentic words of King David were often times what sustained me and got me through my days.
Some of my favorites are:
- Psalm 22
- Psalm 6:4-9
- Psalm 13
- Psalm 102
- Psalm 23
2 | Writing the Word
As I mentioned, the Psalms were balm to my soul and I read them all the time (and still do). However, what I found to be even more profound for me was to actually write the Word. I decided to write the entire book of Psalms – all 150 chapters. It’s amazing how much it resonated with me when I had pen to paper which caused me to slow down, even more, to meditate on the words. This is the book I used to write the Psalms. I strongly recommend it because it has plenty of space to write the Word as well as spaces for your notes and comments. I also love that it’s hardbound to keep for a lifetime of reflection.
3 | Working Through Specific Struggles
Often with Chronic Illness, we struggle with a variety of things like Fear, our Identity, God’s promises, Unforgiveness and Healing which is why I created a powerful tool for you that will help you work through something specific you’re struggling with by writing purposefully chosen Scripture which will heal your soul and provide the comfort you so desperately need. It’s called QUEST (Quiet Unmatched Enjoyable Scripture WritingTime) and you can pick up a copy for yourself here.
4 | My Favorite Perspective Shift Book
One of the most consoling Psalms is none other than Psalm 23. However, I have never read it the same after reading this book from the perspective of an actual Shepherd. It changed me. You’ll love it. You can pick yourself up a copy here.
Even Though You May Feel 80 at Times
You can still find purpose in the season of life you are in because of WHO God is. I pray for you, my friend, that you will turn to Him, meditate on His word using the tools above and hold onto the perspective that there are benefits resulting from your chronic illness.