Contentment in Chronic Illness


Perhaps the title sounds like an oxymoron to you? To me, this has become a reality. But contentment was not always a familiar place in which I resided.

During my mid-twenties, I was a young wife and mother and had it become quite apparent to me that something was clearly wrong with my physical health. I was in constant physical pain and had chronic fatigue, among other confusing symptoms such as memory loss, migraines, and insomnia (just to name a few). Finally, after almost 5 years of personal research, countless doctor’s visits, and a plethora of prayers, I was officially diagnosed.

The main offender was recognized as Fibromyalgia, along with a myriad of co-existing conditions which accompany this syndrome. As you may conclude, I went through a grief process, for I had permanently lost my good health at a young age. That being said, I do believe that if and when God chose to heal me that He indeed could do so. I was quite familiar with the fact that Paul did not have the thorn of his affliction removed even after he asked God three times (2nd Corinthians 12:1-10). Not to mention, God’s own son — who was perfect in every way — suffered not only physically, but emotionally as well (1st Peter 4:1-19). Therefore, if I was a follower of Christ, should I expect anything different than this?

I suppose before I go on, I should let you know the definition of contentment in which I subscribe. This is from the Holman Bible Dictionary:

contentment — an internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances

Okay, sounds like a goal in which a good Christian should aspire to, right? However, how does one attain such a lofty goal?

As mentioned earlier I did go through the stages of grief as I mourned my physical health, future goals, and ideas of what the perfect mom and wife should look like. The first stage is Denial. I must admit I did not spend much time here, due to the fact that I had a few years to mentally prepare myself before my official diagnosis came. In fact, strangely enough, it was a relief and validation that I was not losing my mind. Indeed, something was amiss with my health. Moreover, one of my favorite verses has always been Proverbs 3:5,6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; and in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

I knew whatever was happening to me was no surprise to God and He would always be there for me!

The second stage of grief is Anger. This is not an emotion that I personally feel comfortable with, especially in light of trying to represent Christ. I know anger in and of itself is not sinful, yet one can sin due to anger. Thinking back, I believe a more precise way to describe this phase of grief for me would be disappointment. I found the medical community to have very little information at the time about this relatively unstudied syndrome called “Fibromyalgia”. Also, at that time treatment for Fibromyalgia consisted solely of dosing with pharmaceuticals. This was contrary to my personal beliefs of achieving a healthier body. I looked to God again, knowing that He had the answer if any improvement was to be had. I let go of any unreasonable hope I may have placed on the medical community. This helped me to move onto the next stage.

Bargaining is said to be the third stage of the grief process. I found this to be a non-issue, for as I stated above, I was trusting God’s plan even if it was not mine, uncomfortable, or even downright painful. If you find yourself stuck in the chains of bargaining you will not know the beautiful freedom Christ has given you. Christ paid the unfathomable price of His precious life so you would no longer have to find yourself trying to work for (or bargain) your way into better circumstances. I recommend reading 1 Peter 4 as one way to have a proper perspective. There are many more scriptures on suffering; just take a look in your concordance.

Now before you think I have just breezed through all of the stages like some super-saint, here comes the cold, ugly truth of my personal struggle: Depression. This is the 4th stage in the process of grieving. This has been my Achille’s heel since I was a young child. Now, this is a common symptom for anyone who has a chronic illness or is in chronic pain. That being said, God has a way to free us from this as well.

I have found the books of Psalms and Philippians to be a soothing balm for this condition. If you want to free yourself of this sad state — start praising and thanking God for His goodness as soon as your eyes open in the morning. Repeat this process throughout the day and pray away any negative thoughts from the enemy as soon as one enters your mind.

I would like to say that this step was a once and done process for me, but unfortunately I have moments, (sometimes seasons), where I struggle. For example, my husband was a youth pastor for about 7 years and during these years I was unable to actively participate in various events. One such event was a mission’s trip to Kentucky. Our own teenagers were going on, and I really had wanted to go with the group. Unfortunately, due to the  nature of the trip and lodging I would not be able to physically withstand the conditions. Did I feel like throwing a pity party? You bet!

However, I knew that was not the attitude or actions God wanted me to have concerning this trip. No, instead He humbled me and showed me that I still could be a vital part of this mission’s effort. I remained at home with only God and became a prayer warrior for our youth group’s missions trip. The trip went well and the now-young adults still talk about the life changing events that occurred on this trip. God is good!

Now we come to the last stage of the stage of grief: Acceptance.  Much like depression, I have my moments or seasons where I question if my condition actually is Fibromyalgia and not another condition such as Lupus or Lyme’s Disease. I do accept I have a medical condition — I am just uncertain about the actual diagnosis. I suppose in reality it may not matter much what one calls this condition — rather that we trust the One who is sovereign. Jeremiah 29:11 says:

“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

May you and those you know struggling hold on to our only true hope.

While this brings us to an end on the stages of grief, it does not necessarily bring us to the next stage of our Christian life. That is becoming what God has planned (in spite of what may seem like impossible circumstances). Yes, we have hope eternal in Him and He has given us gifts and opportunities no matter the challenge. If He wants us to do something we have our strength through Him! (Philippians 4:10-20)

One of the ways He has me dying to my flesh is looking beyond my suffering to help others in need. I find this distraction from self to be beneficial. Try it and you will see how He fills you with special joy, comfort, and peace. If I can encourage you in any way or answer any questions, please leave me a message below. May God bless you!


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