For this week’s hot-links, I wanted to share a blog that is specifically for those who are loving/supporting someone with chronic illness. Let’s look a great blog with many compassionate and helpful posts. https://calledtowatch.com/.
This next one is a typical list of new things you have to come to grips with when you have a chronic illness. It seems a little bleak, but the ending makes it worth it, reminding us that we are not our illness. https://thoughtcatalog.com/brittney-lindstrom/2017/12/7-things-no-one-tells-you-about-life-after-youre-diagnosed-with-a-chronic-illness/?utm_term=brittney-lindstrom&utm_content=buffer3eff4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
This will be a light week for hot-links. I read several other articles/posts but just didn’t find a lot worth passing on. This last one I share because it illustrates the dangers of making people feel like their faith is defective if they are not healed through a season of prayer. Obviously, that is not what this ministry emphasizes (healing in this life very well may not come, please see Should You Keep Praying For Healing? for my perspective). This post is a cautionary tale of how faith can become a casualty of the combination of chronic illness and bad theology. https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/122617868/posts/1228
Since we are light on links this week, I will leave my “devotional” thoughts from last night’s Broken and Mended support group meeting. In these thoughts, I try to articulate a way for faith not only to survive but to deepen and grow in the midst of chronic pain.
From Broken and Mended Meeting on 11/6/18
It is not a new occurrence that sometimes people give up their faith in the midst of pain or grief. Maybe they expected that believing in God would lead to an easier life. Maybe they were exposed to some version of faith that promised health and wealth as long as you believed enough. People who are exposed to such toxic theology, often feel abandoned by other believers and even God when suffering comes their way. Or maybe they blame themselves, with the help of others, for their suffering. If only I believed more…Maybe I’m being punished for not being good enough.
Of course, many people didn’t believe in God in the first place and suffering (personally and generally) is confirmation that there cannot be an all-powerful God and an all-loving God in this universe. Suffering is definitely a challenge to your faith. Or maybe we could say, “Suffering will show your faith for what it is.”
All people are welcome here, even people without faith. People of other faiths are welcome as well. The faith that this ministry embraces is faith in Jesus Christ, the one who suffered and died for us at the cross. It is strange that some many “Christian” expressions of faith are so disconnected with the Jesus who suffered and who called upon his people to “pick up your cross and follow me.” Jesus never promised a suffer-less experience. He only promised to be with us and was convinced that ultimately that would be enough.
Authentic faith doesn’t need to deny suffering or even misery. Authentic faith accepts reality. If we are hurting, then that is reality. But authentic faith doesn’t try to make the very existence of God dependent on living a life of ease! God is much bigger than all of us, even the whole human race collectively. He is intimately concerned about us, but he is also infinitely bigger than us. God doesn’t cease to be just because you ceased to believe in him. He wants you to believe in him because he really is there and can help you through your pain. He can even use the fires of your pain to forge you into a deeper and impactful person.
Allow me to share a passage that helped me to see my painful experiences as meaningful, as something formative. Rom. 5:1-5:
5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
I don’t mean to say that there are many days that I wished I just didn’t hurt. Longing for a pain-free existence is natural and helps us to anticipate a better world to come in God’s kingdom. But right now, I hurt. And so, the question is “does my pain mean anything or not?” If there is no god, then it is meaningless. It has no redemptive power. But if there is a God who loves me, who sent his Son to die for me, who is redeeming me, and who has given me a future, then my pain can even be useful in creating a heart for God and a heart for others. It gives me the power to say that what I am experiencing will not be wasted. We don’t often feel like glorying in our suffering, but we can in Christ. Not for suffering’s sake, but for what suffering produces, perseverance, character, and hope. Hope in God’s love that has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Not only does my suffering not cancel out my faith, but it informs, deepens, and shapes my faith. It makes me a better person, a person who sees the pain in each of you and feel the empathy we share as fellow pain warriors. Let God make your pain count. You are going to hurt either way; it is much better to hurt with God than without.