Is a fulfilled life possible with chronic disease?
It’s not nice to be sick. To be sick for the rest of you life, well, that’s not nice at all. But that’s what a chronic disease is. It’s an incurable condition, often painful or uncomfortable, that can only be controlled and maintained, often by medications that have nasty side effects…for the rest of your life… Phew! There goes joy! There goes living life to the full! There goes all your dreams! Say hello to depression, self pity and doubt.
It’s natural to feel sorry for yourself. According to statistics, sufferers of chronic disease are two times more likely to suffer from depression. The real challenge is to still live your life to the full in spite of your condition. Is that even possible?
At the blooming age of twenty five I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I have just started a career in teaching and had a head full of dreams. The diagnosis left me devastated, angry and scared. But I have learned a lot of things over the fifteen years following that first, scary visit to the Rheumatologist. I have taken up the challenge of living life to the full against all statistics and I would like to share what I have learned with you:
Stop asking: “Why me?”
Humans want to know why. That’s part of what we are. So of course this question will pop up in your head. But this question is also the root of self pity, depression and doubt. Does God not love me? Did He forget me? Am I being punished? How can a loving God allow this? Why me, God? Why me…
Honestly, this has been my biggest struggle. I have read tons of books on the subject and eventually came to this conclusion: There is no straight answer. If you read the book of Job in the Bible, you will see that God did not give him a straight answer. Instead, he was scolded for doubting God’s justice. We can not even start to try and understand God’s ways (Is 55:8-9, Rom 9:20) we can only trust Him. The devil will use your chronic disease to cause spiritual calamity in your life. Don’t allow it! As long as we live in this imperfect world there will be imperfect health. How many people do you know that are completely without any health problems?
The real question to ask is: “Why not me?” Fourty one out of a hundred thousand people are diagnosed with RA every year. So, why not me? Do not lose your faith. Do not leave God behind. You need Him in this journey. (Ex 33:15)
Live the best life possible
Instead of asking “why me?” rather ask yourself “what could have caused this disease?” There are recorded cases of people who have been cured of seemingly incurable diseases because they were able to trace back their behavior and circumstances leading up to the disease and reverse the effects. An interesting book to read is, Healing begins with sanctification of the heart, (click to download) by Dr M.K Strydom. Also read the testimony of Johan Jacobs, the author of Go Natural, here
But sometimes it is not possible to reverse the effects or find the cause of your disease. In that case you must find a way to live the best life possible with your condition. This usually involve huge lifestyle changes. Maybe you will have to make a career change, quit smoking, move to a different environment or change your diet. You probably have to take chronic medication and make expensive trips to specialists on a regular basis. To change a lifestyle is not easy. Not only is it difficult for you, but it is also hard on the people around you. In my case, I had to cut out gluten and dairy in my diet to prevent inflammation and flare ups. Gluten and dairy free products are hard to find and expensive and people often think you are just being difficult. But, they are not the ones who will suffer the consequences afterward. So, I had to develop self discipline and a thick skin. As a result, I can live a healthy, good life. You will quickly realize that those people who embrace and support your lifestyle changes are the ones who really care. They love you enough to want the best you around.
Follow your calling
A few years ago, our pastor told me that I must stop focusing on this disease because the devil is using it to distract me from spiritual growth.
Whenever I prayed, I prayed for healing. Whenever I read my Bible I mostly looked for scriptures on healing. In my heart I knew about my calling, but I kept on pushing it to the background for until my miraculous healing takes place. You see, my first priority was not God’s kingdom, but healing. I never allowed the Holy Spirit to teach and equip me for the job He wanted me to do (1 John 2:27, Phil 2:13, 1 Thess 5:19). Without knowing it, I’ve allowed the devil to keep me from living my life to the full and following my calling. This revelation changed my life. I still pray for healing, but now I am seeking the Kingdom of God first (Matt 6:33).
As Christians, we all have the same calling on our lives and that is to go and make disciples of all people (Matt 28:19-20,). But, God has given you a unique gift to use as a tool in this mission (1 Tim 4:14, 1 Pet 4:10, Eph 4:1, Col 3:23). If you do not follow this calling with the gifts God gave you, your life will not be fulfilled.
I’m not saying that I have the perfect, fulfilled life. Any one with chronic disease will know that it’s an ongoing struggle. I’m also well aware of the fact that there are chronic diseases worse than RA. What I’m trying to do here is share some of the ways that has made the struggle more bearable for me and with this I hope to help you in your struggle. If there is one good thing that came out of this disease for me, it is that I have developed a sincere compassion for human suffering. Suffering was never part of God’s plan for us.
Will God heal you? I absolutely believe in miracles. I’ve seen and experienced a lot of miracles in my life. God revealed one of His names to the Israelites as Yahweh Rapha, meaning “God the healer” (Ex 15:26). God will heal, that’s who He is. There are many verses in the Bible that reveal God as healer, a few of my favourites are: 1 Peter 2:24, Is 53:5, James 5: 14-16, Jer 17:14, Ps 49:15 and Ps 103:2-3.
My prayer for you is Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”