Today's post comes from a sweet soul who has been suffering from chronic and invisible illness for many years. April shares her journey and her trust in the Lord through her blog, Chronically Hopeful (don't you just love that!?). Thank you April for sharing your thoughts with us today on how we can best show love to friends suffering from serious illness(es).
Since the age of 12, I have lived with multiple chronic illnesses. Throughout my journey, I have been shown love in so many amazing ways. I cannot imagine dealing with the constant pain and symptoms without the support and love that has so graciously been shown to me.
Chronic illness is like a roller coaster. There are periods of time when our illnesses are controlled and others where are bodies completely turn on us. Most of the time our illnesses are invisible and we look 'healthy'. We have times where we are able to go to school, work, drive, and participate in normal activities (trying as much as possible to live despite our illnesses). Then there are other times that no matter how much we try, our bodies don't cooperate. Sometimes we can leave the house, but only with the help of assistive devices. Other times we can become house-bound and even bed-bound.
So when I think about how to show love to someone with chronic and invisible illnesses, I am reminded of the many things that people have done to encourage me. Not everyone is the same, but these are just a few of the things that have touched my heart throughout my 13 years of illness. Whatever you do doesn't have to be elaborate, even what seems like the smallest gesture can mean the most.
~Posting a note on Facebook, sending an email, or even a quick text may seem small, but it can be such a blessing. Just letting us know that you are thinking about us can mean so much more than you realize. Plus you never know, your message may just reach us when we need support the most.
~Be there to listen. When asked how we are doing, we often just say 'alright' or 'fine' (something we all do, sick or not). It's nice when someone genuinely wants to know how we really are and is willing to listen even when we aren't okay. We need to know that we have someone we can confide in, even if most of our conversations are medically related. Talk about what's going on in your life too. We may not actively have a career or be able to do things that you are, but we like to hear about your accomplishments and support you through your struggles too.
~Offer to visit, but don't be offended if we aren't up to company or have to cut our visit short. Especially when we can't leave the house, it's nice to have someone to chat with or even watch movies, but please understand that even that can wear us out. We often spend a lot of time alone, so even if we aren't up to a visit, a Skype date may be a good alternative.
~Other than those close to us, many people don't see our daily struggles or know how hard it is to do normal things, even on our 'good days'. We smile and do as much as we possibly can, making the most of those better moments. It can be encouraging when you take notice and acknowledge the effort it takes to push ourselves beyond our usual capabilities. Doing so makes us feel like you understand the meaning of 'invisible illness' and the pain and symptoms we constantly battle.
~Ask if there is anything that you can do to help. It's often hard for us to ask for favors beyond our normal support. Maybe suggest an errand you can do, like picking up prescriptions or even offering to drive us to an appointment. Our caregivers will be ever so grateful, as well. Even if there isn't anything that you can do to help, it means the world to us that you even asked.
~Care packages, flowers, home-made gifts; they no doubt bring a smile to our faces, but even just a card with a few thoughtful words within can be just as meaningful.
~Most of all, you can show love to someone struggling with chronic illness by praying for us! There is nothing better than knowing that someone is uplifting us in prayer when we are in pain, weak, and physically done. Please pray for our families as well, chronic illness does not only affect us, but our loved ones too.
I know days with pain are hard, and nights even harder. I know what it's like to watch my peers move on with their careers and families, questioning when it will be my turn. I know the many emotions that come with chronic illness...frustration, loneliness, and depression (just to name a few). But I also know that I serve a great God, who never fails me.
When I am at my lowest, He always seems to bring someone into my life to show me His amazing love for me...to show me His incredible grace...and to give me new Hope. It blows me away when I think of how many people that have become part of my story because of the love they have shown me. My hope is that I can be used in that same way, that God's love will clearly be seen in me, and that I can share that love with others. I pray that you too will be used in awesome ways and can be an encouragement to someone with chronic illness.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."
1 Thessalonians 5:11