I received the following very practical article from my daughter-in-law, Angie Wilhelm, the one who also suffers from chronic Lyme disease and I wanted to pass it on to you. A great deal of Biblical ministry consisted in “doing” – Jesus’ feeding the people through loaves and fishes, Elijah providing oil and flour for the widow and her house through the famine, Joseph having Pharaoh save crops during seven years of plenty to feed so many through the following seven years of want. Yes, we must pray for those in need, but we also need to “do.” I found it sweetly ironic that the author of this article is named Libby Joy.
HOW TO BE A COMFORT TO SOMEONE IN CHRONIC PAIN
This is what I’ve gathered over the past few years and I’m not hinting at or writing this so you’ll do these for me, I want to shed some light so you can help someone else who is chronically ill.
- Just show up (that’s actually the name of an awesome book). You don’t have to know what to say, because more likely than not neither does the person who is sick😜. It may be a little awkward and being ok with awkward is ok; it’s better than ignoring. When I was really sick last year, sometimes my brain didn’t connect all the dots. I could see someone talking but couldn’t connect the dots enough to make out what they were saying. Extreme brain fog. Talk about isolating and lonely.
This isn’t true for everyone but one of the best things someone offered to do that knew I couldn’t carry on conversations well is, on there own, they offered when ever we were together and my brain was off that day that she would absolutely love to just watch tv with me. Just her showing up and being ok with awkward and telling me it was ok meant so much to me. And when I wasn’t able to go to church she asked if she could come sit and watch the live stream with me. Just her thinking outside the box and understanding just her presence with me meant so much.
- Accepting help is extremely difficult. I’m pretty sure that’s true for everyone.
Instead of saying is there anything I can help with? If you really truly want to help instead say “I am” bringing you a meal on Wednesday, is that a good day and what can you have? If you say “let me know if there is anything you need” most likely they won’t ask. Ask someone with a similar illness what could be helpful for them. Like bringing me a meal would be more stress, because my diet was extremely restrictive. Something that was and is still helpful for me is walking my dog.
3. Offering medical advise or remedies is NOT helpful. I know you may mean well, but [that] usually isn’t helpful.
- Assuming someone is having a good day because they look great. Don’t.
I once took a picture a few minutes after puking my guts out from an antiviral that was killing stuff faster than [my] body could get rid of the toxins. I looked totally healthy like a vibrant 24 year old should. If I hadn’t just gone through that awful day, I probably wouldn’t of believed it either.
When I couldn’t get out much, the times I could, I wanted to feel pretty. This past year I’ve struggled with extreme anxiety caused by a brain impairment from Lyme and anytime I left my house I would almost have a panic attack (severe anxiety is no joke!) and doing my makeup and fixing my hair was a good distraction and relaxed me enough to be able to go.
- Just because they don’t text back doesn’t mean stop.
Unless you’ve had brain fog and are easily mentally fatigued, I really don’t know how to describe what just trying to write a text back feels like. I guess the closest thing is having a hangover 24/7 and trying to write a 3 page essay. It’s not that we don’t want to get together or reply to your sweet text, it’s just that mentally you can’t focus your scrambled brain enough, so be patient and give time to reply back and don’t take offense when it’s been a couple of days, or a week or two. Don’t stop.
- Even though you know they can’t make it, ask anyway. It’s nice to be remembered. Chronic illness is incredibly isolating and just being thought of means a lot.
- Little gifts mean a lot. Especially if it’s well thought out. Like a new blanket and pillow to curl up with because that’s practically where your chronically ill friend lives. Bed to couch – couch to bed. Ask a family member what would really make their day. I’ll just say my mom loves flowers but because of her condition, if she’s having a bad week, flowers could send her mast cell in a tizzy and may actually harm her and she would have to throw them away or give them away.
If you have a friend who is chronically ill, I would encourage you to step up and be a friend even if you don’t know how. Going through an incredibly difficult journey that may never end is probably the hardest thing your friend has ever gone through and feeling forgotten, well, is just awful.
By Libby Joy
MY OWN PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS
If you can afford it, or if you and your responsible children would like to do it yourselves, ask your chronically ill friend if you can come over monthly or bi-weekly and clean her house for her. Doesn’t a clean house cheer you up?🙂
I’ve started the practice of buying and frying one pound packages of ground beef all ready for my daughter-in-law. I put them in ziploc bags and freeze them. Then they’re all ready for her to start a meal.
Many grocery stores have call-in orders for their customers. My daughter-in-law and I use the same grocery store. She calls in her order and it is all ready for us to pick up immediately after we have shopped for our own. We can then deliver it to her house, unload it and help her put it away. It really only takes us another 30 minutes or so and it’s done.
When you go to the grocery store, be sensitive to people who use the scooters or use canes. People in scooters can usually reach the shelves that are waist-high, but they have to get off their scooters to get things off the top shelves. That makes things more dangerous for them. I’ve also noticed that all the freezer items that are behind doors are very awkward for “scooter people” to access. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to hold a freezer door open with one hand, get the items I want and safely get them into my shopping cart🙂 How much harder for them! Ask the Lord to give you “Good Samaritan” vision when you’re shopping or in parking lots. My family loves hearing stories of the “Walmart – Harris-Teeter” ministry my normally quiet husband has as he treats the cashiers like “real people” and brightens their days. He’s become a legend in our local stores. People can be chronically ill with loneliness and sadness too. When you reach out to people in a loving manner, it is amazing how much they will trust you with their personal lives and allow you to share Jesus’ love and joy with them.
My daughter has the tenderest plague in her living room – In a world where you can be anything, be kind. To as many as you can.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 New Living Translation (NLT)
God Offers Comfort to All
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
‘“DANCE IN THE RAIN”
Now may I reintroduce you to an incredible woman, Vaneetha Rendall Risner. (If you’ve been following the blog, you already met her when you read about the dandelion.) She is a woman who suffers physically with post-polio syndrome, the pain of being divorced, depression, etc. yet lives a life rich in the love of Jesus. She, too, has first-hand knowledge of what she writes:
Suffering comes in many forms. These suggestions are meant for friends suffering from losses such as the death of a loved one, divorce, serious illness or disease, depression or job loss. We don’t need to fix everything for our friends. Actually we can’t. We can help them, but only the Lord can heal them. And as we walk beside them, here are some things we can do:
A Personal Observation:
You’ve been introduced to many people throughout this lengthy series, almost all of them in deep pain of one sort or another. I’ve noticed an interesting trait they share: they all have great compassion towards others and a tenderness to the Father’s will. I think that fruit of the Spirit is the off-shoot of their trials and pain. After all isn’t long-suffering listed as one of the fruits in Galatians 5:22? Didn’t we learn that Gethsemane was the place of the oil press, the place of pressure to exact the precious oil for anointing and ministry? Isn’t this the whole process of what is spoken of in Hebrews 12: 11 Amplified version:
For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness—in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God].
This has been a long journey accompanied by many intimate details not just by myself but a number of others. At the end of it I hope you have seen what a fellowship we have in suffering not only with each other but primarily with Jesus. It was His love that motivated His suffering just as our love for Him motivates our love for each other.
POSTSCRIPTS FOR TWO HUSBANDS
A study on the sweetness the Lord allows to emerge from suffering would not be concluded unless we shared with you our most recent celebrations. Two weeks ago, Tracy’s Wes had a pacemaker put in and is doing famously. What was so remarkable about that was it was only four days before my husband, John, had his open heart surgery. On March 18 that aortic aneurysm became a thing of his past when his cardiac surgeon not only replaced the damaged part of his aorta and his aortic valve but also gave him a single bypass. The word his surgeon used when he met with our family following surgery was, “Uneventful”–a word we have now decided is one of our favorites. Our home now has two members of the “Mended Heart Club” and we have no doubt the Lord will continue to use the testimony of these two men to tell of the goodness of God in the land of the living. (Psalm 27) Our God is simply too marvelous for words, is He not?!
If any of these many posts have been a comfort to you or given you greater Biblical insight into the reasons and benefits of trials, I would be blessed with your comments. Just address them to:
Holdinghiswordhigher.com. The Lord be with you all.
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