Why I Cringe When Others Tell Me They’re Praying for My Healing

Shortly after my diabetes diagnosis, family and friends flooded me with words of encouragement, prayers and gifts of comfort. Among the many stuffed animals and cards that I received was a CD series given to me by a well-meaning family member. The CDs included sermons by a prominent pastor along with a note stating that if I prayed relentlessly, recited scripture, and sought God diligently, healing would be mine. Now, at the age of 15, I identified as a radical believer. I had not yet experienced the seasons of doubt and philosophical questions that beset many teens and young adults. Instead, I religiously invited friends to Bible studies and services and dedicated myself to serving in various church ministries. Despite the faith I exuded, I was still taken aback by this religious gift and the notion that if I believed God hard enough, I would be healed of my diabetes.

My dismay did not come from a lack of belief, but instead from my family member’s subtle suggestion that the only answer to my diabetes diagnosis was divine intervention. I was frustrated by her sentiment that meaningful support meant suggesting I pray a little harder and exhibit more radical faith. Although it would be great to wake up with a well-functioning pancreas and though I wouldn’t mind God’s healing touch, that has not been my reality. I am a type 1 diabetic. Because of some genetic and/or environmental trigger, my immune system attacked my pancreas. My beta cells no longer produce insulin. And instead, I now rely on an external source for insulin and utilize a pump to shuttle glucose to various cells in my body.

Despite this major inconvenience, I’ve never viewed myself as someone in need of healing. Yes, diabetes is a chronic condition that bears the possibility of devastating complications. However, due to increasing knowledge and technological advancement, diabetics can live just as long as their non-diabetic counterparts. Telling loved ones that healing is near or encouraging them not to claim their disease does not support them in living well with their condition. In fact, I think these spiritual suggestions can dissuade diabetics from doing the practical and difficult, day-to-day work of managing their condition. Furthermore, these suggestions can lead to crises of doubt for those who are disappointed when healing does not come. It can also result in an unpleasant and devastating reminder that something is wrong with them.

For those looking to support me, who feel that prayer is their most effective display of support, don’t just pray for my healing. Pray for my discipline, pray that I’ll be strong enough to make healthy food choices and commit to staying active even when I don’t feel like it. Pray that I remain diligent in my glucose testing and in the taking of my medications. Pray for my peace, especially on days when unruly blood sugars and the possibility of complications have me consumed by anxiety. Pray for my motivation, so that when I wake up sick because of too high or too low blood sugar, or am plagued by management woes despite my best efforts, I find the strength to carry on. Pray that when I don’t feel like dealing with diabetes and am tempted to ignore my health, I choose otherwise. Pray that I am bold, so if I have questions or concerns I maintain the courage to ask my doctor or educator and/or do research on my own. Pray that I am honest, with myself and loved ones, so I can verbalize the type of support I need and also recognize when there’s room for improvement.

And pray for yourself. Pray that in dealing with me you are sensitive to my emotions and feelings regarding diabetes. Pray that you have the right words and exhibit the patience to address me lovingly when diabetes leaves me frustrated and overwhelmed, or even when severe glucose swings leave me irritable. Pray that when you have questions and/or concerns and want to support me but don’t know how, you have the courage to ask. Pray that if I allow your support, you won’t just nag me about numbers (A1Cs or blood sugars). Pray that you thirst for knowledge, so that you will also be motivated to learn about my type of diabetes and my management plan. Pray that when I feel defeated and am not having a good day, you stay clear of empty clichés. Genuinely encourage me.

And pray that your prayers have the power to propel action — action from me and action from you.

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