Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12 v 12)
Is it possible to have patience in the midst of affliction?
No matter the cause of that affliction, no one wants to stay in a state of pain or distress or turmoil. Our immediate response in any traumatic event is to want it over with and want it over with now!
It’s a natural response. Flight or fight.
We can either run from the issue, or we can stay and face it. Many afflictions are transient, and we have tangible evidence that bolsters our hope of a resolution and calmer days ahead.
When there is no end in sight
What if the affliction is permanent? What if there is no hope of a resolution and no clear road ahead?
Every morning I wake up thinking “Today will be a better day.”
Every day, for more months than I care to count, I finish the day feeling battle weary.
Every night I close my eyes clinging to the hope that sleep will bring renewal and I will wake up feeling better.
Every once in a while, not often, I allow myself to fall in a heap and cry and exclaim “I can’t do this anymore, I can’t take the pain. I can’t take my body constantly attacking me, beating me, crippling me, attempting to break me.”
I am so physically tired. The roller coaster of surgeries, disease flares, broken legs, toxic medication and little evidence of any signs of improvement or even any hope of improvement, is just plain exhausting.
My situation exhausts my medical team too. They want to fix it. It’s what they do. It’s why they became Doctors, and when they come across someone in my situation, it breaks them as much as it breaks me. I think I admire and respect them for that more than anything else they have done for me.
During my daily rest periods I often think, “It’s got to get better, hasn’t it?” I allow myself to look back on my active days. Recalling those days highlights the stark difference to how I am today and can sometimes cause the tears to flow. I then dare to dream of days when I see myself feeling better with stronger, healed legs and my Rare Bone Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis under control. What would the future look like if my health improves even a little? If things get worse, I wonder what further changes might be needed in terms of day-to-day living. I have moments when I worry about what will happen to me if anything happens to my husband.
Living in the between
So as a Christian, how do I live a joyful, hopeful and faithful life when my health limits everything I do?
How do I cope with waiting for a reprieve in symptoms when the reality is, no reprieve is coming?
I’m not going to say there are easy answers to these questions because there definitely are not. It’s hard. It can be overwhelming to wake up day after day only to discover that my leg is still broken. My fatigue and pain are just as bad, if not worse than it was when I fell asleep the night before. A pile of medication sits on my bedside table staring at me as I awake, alongside a glass of water. I reach for it the moment my eyes open seeking relief from the torment of my diseased bones.
I have however found that three things really help me live a fulfilled life despite uncertainty, pain, and disappointment.
Prayer, Patience, and Purpose
Romans 12:12 reminds us to be “faithful in prayer.” If we are seeking peace, comfort, guidance, and friendship, there is no greater place to start than bringing all our cares and concerns to the Lord in prayer. He knows our needs before we do. He hears our cries and groans before we can find words to express what they are about.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26)
As a result of seeking God’s guidance through my affliction, I have discovered a whole new level of patience over the past 7 years. Patience that has been a God-given gift as it’s not a natural attribute for me.
I love how God answers prayers with what he knows we need rather than what we think we need. I thought I needed my affliction removed. God felt I needed the skills and emotional fortitude to live with my affliction and use it to help others.
Patience came in many ways.
Patience with my body and with my Doctors and with people who struggle to understand what it’s like living with a chronic disease.
I have always been referred to as “instant Sam” by family and close friends. I like things to happen quickly. If I have a goal, I have always put 100% of my energy into achieving that goal as fast and as well as I possibly could.
I learned quickly, once my health deteriorated, that if I wanted to be involved in an activity I loved, slow and steady was the only way of doing it. If I rushed, I would physically fall in a heap. A lack of patience in the early days quickly taught me that wasn’t a smart way to live a new life.
I also learned that patience brings a wonderful sense of peace. As expectations are re-aligned, pressure is reduced. Giving myself permission to live at the pace my body allows is amazingly freeing.
When making significant changes in your life, I think it’s imperative to work out your new limits or boundaries and let others in your support circle know precisely what those limits are. My family and friends have a clear picture of what they need to do to support me live the best life possible with my chronic disease. Remember though to be patient while others adjust to the changes you are making. It’s all a process, and it all takes time to achieve. Keep in mind your change in health or other circumstances is a change for everyone around you.
Once I embraced a life of patience in affliction, I could then seek God’s guidance in terms of His purpose for my life.
Due to my disease and disabilities, I am pretty much housebound so I have needed to find purpose at home. Starting my blog two years ago was the beginning.
I didn’t just start it without prayerfully thinking it through. I first completed an online blogging course through the Australian Writers Centre. It was my initial step to what was going to open a whole new world to me. A world I really had no idea existed, and I had no idea how far it would develop.
I was nervous about opening myself up to others. I write about deeply personal things but I felt I needed to tell my story, and I hoped it would eventually reach others who were experiencing a similar journey. It didn’t matter how many blog followers I had. I would have been happy to reach one person. I started writing because I love writing. Previously (in my 20’s) I had studied freelance journalism and nonfiction writing, so it was a long time love. As a result of my affliction, I suddenly had time to explore this passion.
From my blog came an online support forum for people with chronic and complex diseases. My purpose was expanding. The more I focused on God’s will for my life in the midst of my affliction, the more I not only became patient but I also found true joy in hope.
God has given me amazing hope for my future. Not necessarily a future where I am physically healed but a future where I have a growing purpose.
A future where I can still serve him, faithfully and with joy, from the confines of my home.
I have found hope and patience in affliction, and I thank God for his marvelous love to me through it all.
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. (Isaiah 49:13)