Reflections On Faith Through Chronic Fatigue And Pain
Today marks 18 months of this Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. At least 18 months in this severe housebound state, we imagine I might have had it milder for at least 6 months before this. As a Christian, I find myself reflecting on the role of my faith through chronic illness.
I don't believe God made me ill or that He is testing me. I don't think God works like that. In my view, that would contradict His character of Love. Many people who suffer from long term illness and disability question God's love and wonder why they are so unwell. In this post I want to address those questions.
God Carries Our Burdens
A few years ago I took this photo of the sunrise and added the devotional message for the day.
Today I'm sharing it as I remember the beautiful image painted in the devotional of how God lifts us up by His strength. On wings like eagles.
So Why Am I Sick?
I know this world is broken, sickness and evil are a part of that brokenness. It's impossible to go through this life without inevitably running into it in some form or another. Whether I like it or not is irrelevant, how I choose to respond to it, though, that is up to me.
My Condition Defines Me, For Now
It's common in chronic illness circles to say "your condition doesn't define you", but with an illness like Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, that affects every single aspect of your life and the life of your loved ones as a result, it is hard to not be defined by the illness. At the very least your life is redirected by it.
Questioning God's Love
I know it is common for people to question God and His motives when they fall ill, but like I said, I don't believe He made me ill. I never wonder why this has happened to me or what the cause is, I only know that God can take it away in an instant if it's His will to do so (I've seen this done, so I know that I know that I know that He can), and I also know that not everybody is healed. And that's OK too.
My faith is completely in the will and timing of the Lord. And I know that this life is only a moment in the grander scheme of things.
I was told, by patients I found in a support group online during the very first hour after diagnosis, exactly what to expect and that some have this illness for life, cycling between remission and relapse or just never recovering at all.
I heard it, I accepted it, and I am OK with it. I know people who love me are praying for my complete healing, and I pray the Lord answer that prayer, but let it be His will to do so, not mine as I know that nothing in life is good if it is not in accordance to His plan. Nothing. I have enough experience of life with and without God to know this fully.
Focusing On The Positives
So I don't dwell in self pity or questions of why... I don't wallow or doubt Him, I don't get down or worried about my health. In all honesty I think I'm healthier now than I've ever been.
I'm back at a healthy weight, I'm eating clean most of the time, I'm getting up daily and moving, no matter how I feel, I do what I can. It might just be a walk to the loo, but on that day, for me, it might be the equivalent of a jog around the block.
I focus on what I can do and do my best to include something I love in every day. Focusing on positive things is not denial, it's a necessary coping technique which eliimnates stress and cultivates in it's place an attitude of gratitude and contentment. Positive mental health affects our physical body positively too, just like stress make our condition worse.
Living In His Joy And Peace Daily
There have been tears. A few times. And those closest to me have witnessed those episodes and seen how, through prayer in those moments, the Lord has instantly brought me peace. He is faithful. Constant.
Most of the time I feel a bubbling joy inside. It's hard to explain it, other than it doesn't come from outside circumstances, it comes from God.
I have peace and joy and excited anticipation for the future. Whether it be the next hour or next week or next year. I can't wait to see what comes.
Of course I don't just sit back and watch life happen. In my view, we are not useless, we should bloom wherever we are planted. So I plan ahead. I plan meticulously. Allowing rest before and after and during everything I do. And each thing I manage is celebrated. And each thing on the list I cannot do, I have learned to accept, it's OK.
It would have bothered my old self so much to have failed at completing things! And initially, when bedridden, I found it so hard to rest and 'do nothing' - now I know that recovery is a full time job and that it includes a lot of rest.
Learning Life Lessons From Illness
Adapting to life with longterm illness is not a walk in the park, there are many unpleasant truths we have to accept, but there are also many meaningful life lessons to learn from chronic illness.
I'm learning to let go, I'm learning to be less judgmental, I'm learning more patience and perseverance, I'm learning to trust God to provide, even to the smallest detail, for my needs.
I'm learning how people are, how they are afraid and uncomfortable with illness and things they cannot explain, and I'm learning just how many people out there care and how much power each of us has to impact and improve the lives of those around us in the most unusual and unexpected ways.
One thing I have learned completely is that there is always something to be grateful for.
I've Accepted That Less Is More
As I reach this stage in my ME/CFS journey, I have learned the importance of listening to my body, that resting is necessary, and that less is more.
The new motto as I head toward the 2 year mark is: Don't do your best, do less!
One might think this is a negative way to go through life, I certainly would have thought so before, until 2 weeks ago when I crashed and realised that pushing to do my best, in my condition, is not sustainable and does me harm. I cannot be consistent and I crash shortly after.
The ideal would be to stay below my best, well within the limits of my ability, so that I can consistently repeat that level of exertion, without payback, in order to build strength and stamina.
This is the hard work... Learning to sit when you feel good enough to walk, learning to say no when you want to say yes. Learning to rest when you really feel like you can manage doing something more. Don't do your best, do less.
So here's to the next chapter in this story... Thank you for walking through this with me.
Over To You
- Are you struggling with accepting your diagnosis?
- Is there anything I can be praying about for you?
- Do you need support from people who understand because they are struggling just like you are?
Please get in touch, I'd love to help if I can. Leave a comment below or contact me privately.