There are so many truths we can lose sight of in the midst of our struggles. With all the challenges grabbing our attention and all the pain wearing us down, sometimes we need to be reminded of hope and wrapped in tender encouragement and mercy. Sometimes we need someone to come along side us with a warm look of compassion and let us know how significant our struggles truly are. I hope that these five little truths will do just that. I pray that they will touch your heart and sit well with your soul.
1. You are not alone in your suffering.
“The Lord will not reject his people;
he will not abandon his special possession.” ~Psalm 94:1
One of the most heart-wrenching tragedies of chronic illness is the way it leaves patients feeling lonely and misunderstood. Opening up about the struggles of chronic pain is something very difficult, and sometimes even uncomfortable to do. It takes much courage and support to be so vulnerable, open, and transparent about the weight of the suffering. Many of us are blessed to have family members and friends that do their best to understand our suffering, but even with their beautiful love and encouragement, there are still many others around us that do not understand what it means to face chronic illness. This is not because your feelings are invalid, it’s simply because those who haven’t experienced this level of pain themselves can sometimes find it challenging to relate to our struggles. They may be able to imagine or sympathize with the idea of deep pain, but they rarely understand the way it touches our lives. Relationships can be so warm, uplifting, and rewarding, but they can also be exhausting and discouraging if the other person doesn’t understand your pain. It’s because of this that I want to remind you that despite the overwhelming pain of being misunderstood, you are not alone. There is a community of other sufferers out there who understand exactly what it means to feel the way you do. They know that you are not crazy, and they can understand even the most eclectic rambles you can spill out about pain. Christ’s love is the root of this community, because unity is one of His creations. He longs for us to live in unity and harmony with others who are aching. Not only are we blessed with relationships with other sufferers, we are blessed with relationship with God Himself. The miracle of Christ’s life is that He is living, breathing, and eternal empathy. Not only does He care that you are in pain, but He understands exactly what it means to feel that pain. He knows physical pain, He knows emotional pain, and He knows what it means to be rejected and misunderstood. He knows better than anyone what it feels like to carry this burden. He knows what it means to be left alone in time of need; He knows what it means to speak the truth and have people accuse Him of blasphemy; He understands what it means to suffer so deeply that it brought Him to death. And more than that, He knows what it means to conquer that. If there’s anyone who can relate to the struggles that you’re facing, it is Christ. Please take refuge in the fact that He is right beside you. He understands your struggles. He struggled long before you ever did and built an empathy and victory that is completely unshakable and unchangeable. He is with you, and He knows the hearts of His children. He can connect you with others. He can bring forth light in even the darkest of places. He loves you, and so do the rest of us battling beside you. You are not alone.
2. Your pain is significant.
He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. ~Revelation 21:3-6
Many of us have built such a pain tolerance through these trials that we often grin and bear it rather than stopping to tend our wounds and admit how deeply afflicted we truly are. We try to push through life and accomplish goals as if we were healthy, and we end up running ourselves right into the ground. We try to do things we know we are not well enough to do, and we suffer so greatly after trying. But the truth is, your pain matters. It matters that you’re hurting, and you don’t have to function as if it’s shameful to admit you are suffering. This pain is grueling and it’s okay to admit that. You were not left alone in your pain and God understands your grievance over it. He knows that pain is not right. It is not part of His design for His people and that is why He created a rescue plan for us. He is the God of redemption. He longs to bring us back to Himself where He can give us full healing. We may not know if we will feel healing this side of heaven or the next, but we know that it is coming. This pain is not something that you have to accept as if it were okay, because it isn’t. Yes, we try our best to make the very best of our circumstances and live our lives with positive attitudes, but it is okay to have moments, days, or even prolonged times where we need the empathy, encouragement, and care of God and those around us. Your pain matters, and you do not have to live in denial of it.
3. Your illness is not your fault.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”
“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” ~John 9:1-4
One of the most heartbreaking lies we can believe about our illnesses is that we are to blame for them. Whether you have blamed yourself or received blame from others, blame leaves very deep wounds. It grieves my heart terribly to know that many of you have felt guilt or responsibility over your illness. If you have believed that you are not healed because of a lack of faith, please know that you do not have to believe that any more. I offer you my deepest sorrow and wish I could give you my most caring hug. This illness is not a punishment from God. God absolutely cherishes you, and it deeply pains His heart to see you suffering in this fallen world. As I said before, suffering is not His will for mankind. A pastor I dearly respect once pointed out that illness itself may be a result of sin, but it is not a result of personal sin. In other words, illness exists because of the fallen nature of this world, not because you did something to deserve this burden. You are not being punished because of a defect in your faith. God is not withholding His healing touch because you don’t have “enough” faith. He is so full of mercy that He could never entertain such an evil thought. He told us the parable of the mustard seed in His teachings, and through that illustration we see how attentive He is to even the tiniest drops of faith. He knows you long to be healed, and He longs to bring that healing to you. Blame is completely opposite of the character of God. God is so genuine, gentle, caring, and kind. I know that it must break His heart to see us blaming ourselves for something that is completely out of our control. He has a rescue plan and you are a part of it. You are not left alone to battle this illness, and He will conquer it for you. Please do not believe that He wills for you to hurt; He cares more deeply than you can imagine. He loves you, and your illness is not your fault.
4. It’s okay to rest; it’s okay to need care.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. ~Matthew 11:28-29
Sometimes we feel guilty over resting. There are so many things we’d like to accomplish, so many things we need to take care of, and so many opportunities we’d love to explore. There are many things we need others to help us with that we wish could do for ourselves. With all of those things dancing around in our minds, we can find it hard to devote time simply to rest. But beyond our desire to do more is our need for healing. Our bodies are constantly burdened and strained under the weight of illness. We are carrying such heavy loads and sometimes, we need to take time to care for ourselves. It’s okay to accept help from your loved ones. It’s okay to need their support. It’s okay to need their care. It’s okay to need much longer periods of time to accomplish tasks than someone healthy. It’s okay to accept help. It’s okay that your life doesn’t look the same way as someone else your age. Your worth is not based upon your performance, but on your identity, and your identity is a dearly loved, precious son or daughter of God. It’s okay to rest in that truth.
5. Your hopes, your dreams, and your life still hold purpose, value, and meaning.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. ~Jeremiah 29:11-13
We have had to give up many things because of our illnesses. We have had to let go of many hopes and plans that we cherished. I am so sorry for your losses and your sorrows. I am so sorry for the days you have felt that your life has been stolen for you and that your dreams have been crushed. But the truth is, your hopes, your dreams, and your life still hold purpose, value, and meaning. Your dreams may not look exactly the way you had always pictured them to be, but that doesn’t mean they can’t exist. Sometimes we have to simplify, but that doesn’t mean we have to let go altogether. The truth is, many of our goals are external while what drives them is internal. You may be focused on a task, but that task comes from who you are as a person. As Holley Gerth said, “We have strengths and skills.” Strengths are the qualities that make you who you are, skills are what you do with those qualities. Who you are as a person is something very rare, beautiful, and special to this world. You can bring your gifts and talents out into the light and let them sparkle. They may not always look the way you thought they would, but you may be surprised at how much you have to offer the world. Who you are as a person has a vast sea of qualities and visions to pour out into the world in a way that has never been done before. Perhaps one of the greatest things we can do is see the root of our dreams and allow God to blossom them from there. We serve a God who is known for bringing hope, adventure, and redemption to unsuspecting places. It is His sheer delight to continue that in our lives today.