How My Faith Gives Me Comfort and Companionship With Chronic Illness
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I remember one winter morning, about a year ago, I was reading my Bible in my tiny apartment. Presently, I don’t recall which part I was reading. At that time, I had an extensive routine: get up at 4 a.m., make coffee, do Kristin Neff’s awesome self-compassion meditations, then read my Bible for five minutes. Suddenly, I was seized by grief before my hour-long commute at 5 a.m. down to the other side of the city. My body shook, and I found myself screaming a prayer. Quite literally. I hadn’t slept in three months and I was in tremendous pain from nausea and vomiting. I was at the feet of whatever “sky being” authored this book, asking and praying for an escape, some relief, and I wasn’t getting it.
I sobbed and yelled at the heavens, “God, I know you give refuge to the hurting, peace to the downtrodden and some kind of healing, but what does that even mean? Who are you? I can’t feel you!” I cleaned myself up and went to work to be fired after seven days on the job at a sleazy car lot for spending too much time in the bathroom vomiting.
Throughout my life, I admit I question and doubt God. I never say He doesn’t exist, but I sometimes question His goodness and intentions. Not all the time, but some of the time. But I acknowledge when I’m in a horrible pain flare, when my marriage is under the gun, it’s not helpful to. When life gets scary and I know it’s temporary, I know it’s best practice to assume the universe is good and God is good (whether I’m leaning New Age, Christian or New Age Christian) because this means I am good, and I can take refuge in reading the Gospels.
Believing in the Gospel allows me to do something very simple when I’m lying in bed from pain, needing someone to relate to on a very real level when none of my friends seem to. I start with the Gospel of John, then backtrack to Matthew and begin all over again to end up back in John. I reflect on Jesus’ life, how He was so mistreated, yet was so kind. How He suffered for everyone, yet no one understood, despite Him telling his friends. Jesus tried so hard to be his authentic self, and it was denied by misunderstanding. I often read the Gospels aloud to myself and end up in tears at the resonance of these meanings, as they ever multiply.
A few months after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and lupus, I talked to a teaching pastor at the church my husband goes to. He told me part of the Gospel means we serve a disabled God, because Jesus rose from the dead off the cross wounded, and spent the last part of his time on Earth in pain from the holes in this flesh Thomas doubted.
I believe in Jesus because I can relate to Him, and in my pain, I can find perfection in His. When the Bible says He suffered everything anyone could suffer, He did. So on those days when I feel like screaming at the heavens, or calling someone to complain, I open my Bible to find a friend. This is part of how my faith helps me cope with chronic illness.
Unsplash image by Aaron Burden