What No One Will Tell You About Chronic Illness
You've seen all the movies, you know, the ones where someone dies and the family has to pick up the pieces. Think: Sleepless In Seattle, We Bought A Zoo, Steel Magnolias, etc... But no one talks about the truth of living with chronic illness forever.
In the movies, you feel compassion for the family trying to move forward after a traumatic event. You see them grow, struggle, heal, and move forward. But many people and families live with chronic disease day in and day out, and their grief is real, tangible, and doesn't go away. Day after day, there is a real, grinding grief that can swallow you whole if you let it.
Sure, you learn to deal with it. When people ask, "How are you today?" You automatically smile, and respond, "I'm just fine." even if you feel like your are can't cope with what life has thrown your way. You see your family struggling, and it breaks your heart.
It can feel like you are being punished over and over again for a crime you didn't admit. A life sentence with no parole.
You also learn who really loves you. Many people don't stick around when you face a long-term, chronic battle. You battle your symptoms and pain every single day, but they don't understand. They get impatient, uninterested, or just plain annoyed that you can't be what they want. They may even accuse you of not wanting to get well. This is especially true if you "look fine".
But, then, like finding a diamond in the rough, you learn who really loves you.
You see, your true friends, the ones that really love you, walk the path with you. When they ask "How are you?" they really want to know. They look for ways to share the load and lighten the burden. They look for the good in a difficult situation. They value what you can bring to the table, and they love you right where you're at. They let you contribute into their lives with reasonable expectations, and hold you up when you feel like you can't move forward anymore.
King Solomon said, "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." There are people who stick closer than a brother, and there is the One who created you. In the Bible, God says, "Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you."
Maybe like me, every moment of every day on this earth is a battle with a chronic disease. Maybe your chronic battle is loneliness, or financial strain, or a wayward child. Life isn't like the movies. Our real-life drama will not be wrapped up in two hours with a happy ending. But we get something better- we get the true happy ending. While we cannot always choose our circumstances, we can choose our response to them. Will we believe that we are not alone? Will we believe there are people, and a God who cares about you right where you are?
In the real happy ending, even if you can't control your situation, you can choose to be strong and courageous. If you know God is going before you, you know that he is mapping the journey. Honestly, when I'm laying on the bathroom floor sick as a dog from a tick bite I received some time in my distant past, it's hard to see the benefit there. But when I pick myself up, I acknowledge that I can better love, serve, and bring joy to people who are struggling. I understand pain. I understand not knowing why.
You see, in the end, I know the answer. This pain is making me better. It's refining me. It's giving me courage that I can share with others in their darkest hour. It's showing me that grace is better than bitterness.
In the end, I WILL NOT LET THE PAIN HAVE THE FINAL WORD IN MY LIFE! And what's more courageous than that?
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