Monday, April 26

Faith Lessons for Chronic Illness

Today, I am very pleased to bring you my guest poster Sue Ingebretson, author of FibroWHYalgia. Take it away, Sue…

Our Christian faith shapes all that we are and do. That’s a good thing, right?

But what if you’re in pain from an unknown condition? How do you seek medical attention, gain support from family and friends, and learn to cope with the stress caused by chronic illness? Where does faith fit in?

Fibromyalgia is the chronic condition that sidelined me many years ago. I spent years trying to define what didn’t “feel right” and why it happened to me. Because I’m a word person -- a writer -- I felt I should be able to articulate my feelings. With an unknown diagnosis, however, my future seemed an ambiguous muddle of pain and suffering.

That’s where the good and bad of my faith kicked in. The good is easy to describe. Knowing that my Heavenly Father lights my path (even when it seems there’s only darkness) brings immeasurable comfort. I knew He had a plan for me, but I had yet to figure it out.

The “bad” part of my faith came from my own interpretations of Bible lessons. If you’re anything like me, your religious background has provided you with many character-shaping lessons.

For example, Sunday School teachers taught me to sit quietly and to not interrupt. Pastors taught me to respect my elders, care for my neighbors, and turn the other cheek. Church organists taught me that they do indeed have eyes in the backs of their heads and can see fidgety children in the front pew (wait … that only proved true when the organist was my mom and the kid was me).

Standing up for our faith, and the lessons we’ve learned, comes easy, but what about standing up for our health? Think about the body language you exhibit as you sit on a doctor’s exam table in a paper dress. That dejected “posture” often predicts the success of your visit.

Many people – women in particular – live with illness and pain in silence. If the chronic pain stems from an accident, it’s considered an after-effect from the physical trauma. Therefore, if the pain is expected, it’s nothing to complain about, right? If pain comes on slowly, it’s tolerated to accommodate a busy woman’s life. The pain is relegated to the back burner.

Christians know how to suffer in silence!

It took a very long time for me to grasp the fact that chronic pain is never “normal.” Pain is the body’s way of getting attention, and that’s where I was at an impasse. How could I seek treatment for an unidentified condition?

I had to go back to my Bible and learn that assertiveness, inquisitiveness, and tenacity are all Biblically-sound principles. I was harboring a “meek will inherit the earth” attitude while trying to garner attention from overworked and distracted medical professionals.
Meekness does not always translate to wellness.

Here are a few other examples of this fact. Matthew 9:20-22 details the healing of a woman who’d been ill for a dozen years. Her chronic affliction was cured by simply touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. “Your faith has made you well,” Jesus said to her.

We’ve all heard this story and know it to be a great depiction of abiding faith. But, I’d like to point out something. Where was the woman? Was she home in bed? (She was sick, after all.) Propelled by her faith, she sought a solution for her condition. She took action.

In Mark 10:46, we hear the blind man, Bartimaeus, cry out for Jesus to restore his sight. Crying out doesn’t sound meek to me.

If you are in pain, then something is wrong. Please know that it’s good to do some self-detective work to find out why. Think about specifics of your pain such as, when did it begin? Does it ebb and flow? Does it ever go away? Can you relate activities or foods with increased pain? Document the answers to these questions in a “wellness notebook” and begin the search for your answers.

Remember the picture I painted earlier of a dejected patient in a doctor’s office? Imagine her instead, this way. She’s still wearing a paper dress but has also put on the armor of confidence and self-education. She brings her wellness notebook filled with details about her symptoms, specific facts that will guide them to a mutually agreeable treatment plan. She’s open to new ideas, new treatments, and, best of all, a future of hope and promise.

Asking for help, seeking out new ideas, putting faith in others outside your social circle is risky, but it’s also quite Biblical. When I speak to groups about healing from chronic illness, I’m always quick to point out how thankful I am for the lessons that fibromyalgia has taught me. I’m thankful that I learned how to depend on His guidance rather than my own limited understanding.

Looking back at the faith lessons I learned as a child, I can now see that tenacity was right there, hand-in-hand with meekness. It’s just a matter of balancing them in ways that keep me moving forward. Faith provides that balance for me, and for you, too.

~~Thanks so much, Sue, for being my guest today. If you’d like to visit Sue’s site, click here...Rebuilding Wellness. You can also purchase FibroWHYalgia there and through Amazon.

8 Responses
  1. Good morning, Lynn;

    Sue's experience and mine have many similarities. After visiting several doctors who would give me pills to suppress symptoms, but wouldn't admit they didn't understand the problem, I found the answer on the Arthritis Foundation web site while searching for something else. God protected me from well-meaning, but ignorant doctors, made it possible for me to identify my disease, and then He healed me. I haven't had fibro for nine years. And, yes, it did take assertive action and profound faith for me to be where I am, now.

    Thanks, Sue, for being a voice for so many people who are still lost in the fog of pain.

    Be blessed,


  2. Sue, honey... I am most definitely going to be purchasing your book. You made so many great points in just this one article! Since I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at such a young age (I was 9) I have been dealing with it my entire life; prior to being diagnosed with it, I dealt for 2 years with a bone tumor that was finally removed in 1992, just about a year before the fibromyalgia diagnosis... Pain has been a constant in my life and for the most part, I do suffer in silence. I stopped going to doctors and I've never taken medications. I am looking forward to reading your book :) Thanks for directing me to this article!

  3. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Kelly Says:

    Hi , i just visited here and love you blog !
    Here also you can read one another blog to one briliant and amazing woman she serve to LORD ,too!!
    She changed my life is a long story please visit her here
    Blessings from England !

    ~ KELLY~

  5. Lynn

    Thank you so much for this post. Both my wife and I read this post and drew strength from it.


  6. Smiley Says:

    Sue's comments are right on the mark. As one who has lived with FMS for over 20 years, I can attest to all she has to say. I often wonder how people who do not know Jesus as their Savior can ever cope with chronic pain without the certain hope that one day we'll have new (perfect) bodies in heaven.

    Thank you, Lynn, for interviewing Sue and sharing her comments with us.


  7. Lynn, what a beautiful site you have! And what an insightful guest you had in Sue. I do not have fibro but I do have osteoarthritis. I have daily pain, but I have to trust the Lord in this. I tore cartiledge in my knee walking down the stairs (!); I think something happend during the surgery that was to repair it because now I have knee problems that I never had before. Thank you for this hopeful post because she encourages me to keep pressing on, not with doctors but with the living God!

    Barbara--Christian Writers (Onthebay)

  8. lynnmosher Says:

    Thank you all so much for your comments. I was so honored to have Sue visit with us. Blessings to you all!