One thing that I have noticed is that when you are a person of faith who also has a chronic illness people aren’t quite sure what to say to you.
First some people can’t reconcile the fact that you even have a chronic illness. This is not a new problem. There is a story in the Bible where the people who were closest to Jesus asked Him why a man had been blind since birth.
“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”
You’d think that in 2000 years, people would change. Nope. I definitely have had people ask me similar questions.
There are two other passages that people often use when they are trying to help people deal with difficult circumstances. I believe them both to be absolutely true but absolutely not what the person needs to hear when they are struggling.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
I know that any challenge that I experience in my life will ultimately serve a greater purpose. But that purpose may not be clear to me for many years, or I may never understand. That doesn’t provide much comfort in the midst of a challenge.
Other times people like to remind folks like me of probably the most misinterpreted verse in the Bible (seriously, how many letterman’s jackets did you see this on in high school?!)
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
There’s only one problem with the way this verse is used in this situation, and really in most of the other situations where people love to quote it. The guy who said it was actually talking about being content in every situation, not overcoming or changing his situation. This is the verse right before.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
At this point, I feel like I should offer advice about what a person of faith should say that would be helpful to someone dealing with a chronic condition. I really don’t have any.
The best thing you can do is listen and try to understand. View that person as a unique individual and ask them more about their personal experiences. I can guarantee you that the other person does not want to hear a perfect answer; they just want to be understood.
Am I the only one who has been subjected to unhelpful advice from well-meaning friends, or has anyone else experienced something similar?