Janelle Esker is no stranger to Gathering Around. She is a truly gifted writer and we are so blessed to have her share part of her story. Her website The Peaceful Haven is such a blessing to me and I just know that it would be to you as well.
I don’t like to talk about it.
I don’t want you to know about it.
I fear your judgment.
Chronic illness is an embarrassment to me and I try with varying success to hide it from you. Here's the thing though, we are called to share each other's burdens. I like it when I can serve others but when I am the one who needs help, my sinful pride rears its ugly head. I expect condemnation but instead, hear a sweet whisper from my precious Savior. “Share your pain”. “You are not alone”. “ I will never leave you or forsake you”.
I’ve had Autoimmune Disease all my life but I never knew it until my diagnosis of Celiac Disease and Lupus 10 years ago. I have been diagnosed with seven different Autoimmune Diseases. I jokingly refer to myself as “the queen” it feels good to laugh a little because deep down the truth is, I fear.
There have been times I am ashamed to say I did not want to go on. I felt like a burden, a disappointment, been depressed, experience to much pain, been anxious, and lost hope that I could live with this cruel disease. I longed for it to go into remission only to be told the hope of a cure was an impossibility. Learn to live with it…
Five years ago, I had a major flair. A flair is bigger and more awful than the normal symptoms you experience when living with Autoimmune disease. It's when your body gets confused more than it normally is and starts aggressively attacking itself and the results can be deadly. I had to give up everything in exchange for spending six painful months in bed resting, eating right, slowing down, praying.
It would be easy to think that my story ends there...
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
5 Loving Ways To Serve Someone With A Chronic Illness
Please understand that a person with a chronic illness can not do the same things or have the same activity level as typical people. They need to lead a slow, simple life. They would love to go to your event, party, Bible study, coffee date! Please don’t take it personally if they can’t make it. I can guarantee you, it grieves them to have to miss all the fun. They understand they are disappointing friends and family, yet they know that they must make hard choices every single day to accommodate what their body can and cannot handle.
Letting someone with a chronic illness know that you are praying for them means the world! They will feel loved, accepted, not alone and so very thankful that you remembered and took the time to pray for their health. Maybe go one step further and send them a card or text!
When you are sick and tired it is very, very difficult to cook healthy meals. Planning “special diet” meals and then cooking them takes a lot of energy and strength to accomplish. When you barely have enough energy to make it through the day a meal delivered to your front door or a gift card is an answer to prayer!
The gift of a clean home is an incredible blessing. Either the gift of a cleaning service or a group of church ladies willing to take turns cleaning would help prevent the spread of germs and illness within the home which is critical in maintaining good health as viruses can increase the chances of a flair.
Having a friend to hope and dream with you while you are suffering is precious. Focus on the hope we have in Jesus as believers. When diagnosed with illness there are many changes and decisions that need to be addressed. Encourage them that just because their life is different doesn’t mean it’s of any less value.
Five years later and my life looks totally different!
I still have seven autoimmune diseases. I am still not in remission. But would you be surprised to hear that I am happier and more fulfilled than ever before in my life? In the midst of my own pain and suffering, lying flat on my back for six months I listened to the beautiful things that God had to say to me. Jesus became my peaceful haven and slowly he began to heal my mind, body, and spirit. Things began to change for me.
You see, while I had to give up many things in order to increase my chances for a successful recovery, God had bigger plans, he meant this experience for good. While I was crying out to him in my pain he was refining my purpose and giving me a new mission. He gently revealed to me that I more to do for his Kingdom. In August 2014, I started a blog called The Peaceful Haven. It has continued to grow every single month since its inception and now includes readers from all around the globe. I assure you its success is not because of my great writing. It's because of my obedience to God's call on my life to encourage, equip and educate women from all backgrounds to wholeheartedly follow after Jesus Christ in every area of their lives. His plan is happening. God is on the move and he, in his gracious way, has allowed me to participate in his perfect plan which often includes suffering and sadness.
As you seek to lovingly serve someone with chronic illness remember this truth...
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthian 13:4-7