“Charity suffereth long, and is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4).
When you think of a chronically ill person, images of someone lying in a hospital bed or completely confined to a wheelchair often come to mind. But there is another level of chronically ill that makes up a great number in the world. These people are referred to as disabled or having a disability, and this is the category that our family deals with.
Eight years ago my husband was diagnosed with a very rare hereditary disease that affects the communication system from his brain and spine to his legs. Although it is not a life-threatening disease, it makes walking, standing, and even trying to keep his balance extremely difficult. Normal life for us as a healthy, very active couple and family has gradually come to a halt as this progressive disease has worsened over the years. My husband continues to pastor a very active church, and we have continued to fulfill our obligations to family and life. We haven’t “stopped doing life” because of the disease. That puts us and many others in a very challenging category.
Often when a person is diagnosed with a disease, especially with something like cancer, he or she takes significant time off work or school and puts aside all outside obligations to take care of their own needs. We have not done that; and since life with a disability takes longer and costs more money, life is very challenging. Even a simple trip to Walmart can be extremely taxing. Trying to find a “Handicap” parking space is often impossible. And it takes a humble spirit to not become disgruntled when you see people (who do have handicap parking stickers) quickly get out of their vehicles and walk easily into the store.
Over the last year, here are the things I have found most helpful. On a daily basis, spending time in God’s Word, praying, and asking for the grace and wisdom to think correctly when circumstances are not as we hoped is what helps me to continue serving God. We have prayed often for God’s healing, or at least for the disease not to worsen. God has said “no” to both of these requests. We often struggle with the question: “Do we have enough faith?” The Apostle Paul was probably the greatest faith-filled man that lived on this earth, and God told Paul “no” to his persistent and passionate plea for healing.
I’ve also followed the lives of great Christians who have lived with great disability for much of their lives. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, suffered an injury that confined her to bed for the last 20 years of her ministry. Joni Erickson Tada suffered a spinal injury while diving into a lake as a teenager. She has been a quadriplegic for more than 40 years. Both these women have showed incredible faithfulness to God through extreme physical pain and suffering, while also receiving “no” as an answer to their requests for healing. Like these women, I definitely believe God can heal any disability; but for reasons unknown to us, He chooses not to do so. In my opinion, accepting God’s “no” answer while faithfully choosing to serve God and others takes more faith and strength of character than being healed of the disease. Anyone can be thankful and faithful when God gives them what they want. It takes great faith to be faithful every day when no one sees your struggle, when things continue to deteriorate, when there is no relief in sight, and when people expect you to be a “Super Christian.”
Besides following the medical advice of your health professional (which at best is usually trial and error of what treatments might relieve symptoms), the best practical advice I can give is to do whatever is in your power to serve others. It can be as simple as sending cards to shut-ins or taking a meal to a family in need, but doing something for others helps shift our focus outward and up. When Jesus was enduring physical pain beyond comprehension on the Cross, He met the need of salvation for the man on the cross next to Him, as well as His mother’s need for physical and financial care after He returned to Heaven. Jesus is our example in suffering, in ministering to those who suffer, and—ultimately—in trusting our Father with the suffering He has allowed to enter our lives. It boils down to a matter of trust.
I will end with these two quotes that apply to everyone, but especially to those who are facing chronic illness or pain. “No one said it would be easy,” which I hear often from my 78-year-old dad when I start to get self-focused. Finally, a favorite quote by Joni Ericson Tada, “God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” Will you and I trust God to accomplish what He loves in us?
- Think of someone who is currently struggling, and take time to encourage them with a card, call, text, or email.
- Ask God to grant patience to you in your trials, and thank Him for allowing you to experience them, knowing that the trying of your faith works patience.
This chapter was written by Lynn Hassel, wife of Pastor Bob Hassel, Pastor of Faith Baptist Church, Champaign, IL. Check out their “Assist From Above Counseling Ministry”
The chapter was taken from The Extraordinary Wife