Dear reader: I want to thank you so much for your faithful prayers for me and my beautiful and supportive wife, Karen. Your thoughts, the giving of your precious time to uplift us with your love and active encouragement, is a daily blessing of agape love we thank our Lord and you for.
Each day millions of people throughout our world face a daily struggle with pain whether in body, mind or spirit. They wage a war with themselves that taxes their energy and robs them at times of their joy for living. Even the most positive people on this planet are bombarded by pain, pain that takes a little more each day from its victims; it is a parasite that grows and multiplies in those who suffer its devastation to mind, body and spirit.
Pain — we all know about it fighting it ourselves or seeing those we deeply love suffer its ravaging damage. It’s something we don’t like to talk about. There would seem to be nothing uplifting for our spirit in discussing it. I disagree. We need to talk about it, because I truly believe in talking about the pain we experience and see in others as caregivers, friends, family and colleagues, we take that important step in reaching out to others who are suffering.
Those with chronic pain fight an injustice that the average person would find difficult to understand, especially if that pain is from a rare condition. We fight for the government to cover the cost of medications and treatments we need to improve the quality of our life. In that struggle we deal with a Darwinian philosophy that says we should just be left to die, because the weak perish before the strong. Although it is not publicly stated, the strong and persistent inference because less and less help is made available to those with chronic illness is that through being silent in their aid, these people who are such a drain on our economy will be given encouragement to give up and die.
It is one thing to be fiscally responsible; it is quite another and I think more challenging to be a compassionate society. Loving others when that need is constant and financially draining because of the medications and treatment their government doesn’t provide is difficult. Caring and supportive family and friends step in where possible to help with the ongoing need. Yet, even in the most loving and generous of hearts donor fatigue creeps in. Sadly, it is always the faithful few who rally and truly reach out and care with their prayers and the sharing of their financial blessings.
A close friend of mine at a Bible Study expressed what was on his heart and mine. In the Church and in community we are losing the importance of being a caring community. The majority are leaving it up to the small minority of people who put their love into action, who go beyond the illusion of caring to its reality. We need to start addressing that reality in sermons from the pulpit and out in community. If people are to claim they are members of a church or community group, they need to reach out to others in actions of support that goes beyond mere words. Love and community are intertwined. Without our community offering its outstretched arms of compassion then there is no true sense of community.
According to the Oxford Dictionary one meaning for community is:
“The people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities; society. ” Therefore, by definition being a true community involves the sharing of our values and collective societal responsibility to others.
People with chronic conditions and those with mental illness ask for us to care, to empathize with their struggle, to be their helping hands of hope. When every movement you make is done with great pain that surges through your entire body and in seeking help you get one closed door after the other slammed in your face, you begin to understand why so many in pain give up, throw in the towel, say enough is enough. They die not quickly, but slowly, painfully, hope ebbing away a little more with each breath they breathe.
We know the problem. We are aware of the false judgements of the character of those who suffer, who are doing their best and accused in snide remarks of being lazy, of not trying hard enough. Be a brave soldier. Battle on, press on even as your health declines. I know because I too have rare and chronic illness. Yes, I have prayed for healing until I’m all prayed out. Yes, I believe that Christ is the Great Physician; but for me there is a more difficult journey of not being healed and yet shining for my Lord.
Yes, I am a positive person. Those who truly know me will vouch for that. Yet, all of us no matter how upbeat we are at times need strong arms of support to come alongside and fight for us until we can fight for ourselves. When you battle with energy issues, you really need people to be your hope, to be your strength in your difficult times. I think if we were all open about it, we all need to know we are loved, that our life means something to others. We all need to know that when those tough times come others will be there for us.
My wife, Karen, loves me with a depth and passion that is a blessing to me. But she is human. When we have to keep struggling financially as we have month after month, year after year, because medication costs keep rising, because she sees me suffering more with pain from a mast cell condition that the doctors think is mastocytosis, that has no known medical cure, for which I have been intubated eight times, a debilitating condition that affects my breathing, energy and mobility, you begin to see one of those faces of suffering none of us likes to look at. Yet, those faces of unjust misery are there. We can seek to ignore them as much as we like, but they don’t go away.
I ask you to pray each day about what you can do for people with chronic illness. I offer these suggestions to guide you in how you can do this best with God’s help.
1)Pray for all those who are ill and please pray without ceasing. Establish prayer networks to pray for those in need, whatever the need.
2)Be obedient to your Lord about what He says to do to help those in need
3)Be willing to advocate so those who are ill get the medical support they need
4)Email and/or call your political representative(s) and say there needs to be legislation that gives more funding for the medical costs of those who can’t afford them
5)Call upon your government to improve vocational supports for those with chronic and rare conditions, not programs that lead to outdated qualifications
6)Offer to run errands for those dealing with energy issues because of illness
7)Prepare meals for those who are sick, taking turns in your congregation or help support the cost of meals on wheels delivery programs
8)Visit those who are ill. Those four walls of a hospital room or a nursing home can feel cold. The time passes by so slowly when people are hospitalized or left alone at home without anyone visiting them
9)Volunteer for any visiting program through your church or in community. There is training for those who feel called to visit the terminally ill
10) Be a friend to a person who is ill. Your love and concern can go a long way in improving their health
11)Bring your pet to visit an ill person who isn’t allergic to it. Studies have shown that pets can help lower an ill person’s high blood pressure and improve their overall health
12)Have community and church fundraisers to raise money for the needs of chronically ill people. You could get local musicians, actors and people with ability in business and charity management to offer their talents
13)Spend time with the caregivers of those who are ill. Get them out of their home to see something different, to refresh their weary spirits. Offer to buy them a meal out while having someone else care for the chronically ill person
14)Bring over comedy movies you think the caregiver and the ill person would enjoy
15)Never stop caring.
I pray this open letter has been helpful to you in understanding more of the struggles of those with chronic illness. Please pray about what the Lord says to your heart about the thoughts and suggestions on reaching out to the chronically ill I have shared.
I leave you with this quote to ponder.
“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.” -Sally Koch
May the Lord shower you with His richest blessings in every area of your life.