Increasing Discomfort

Can you imagine the tree the above stump supported? The root system must have been mighty and wide spreading! When I remember myself as young woman I am amazed how strong and full of vitality I was. I tell young people I meet, “You have no idea how strong you are!”

It is difficult when living with chronic illness to discuss comfort and discomfort. My chronic pain disorder makes it rare that I can say I am comfortable. I have noticed lately that my discomfort is rising. Last few weeks, there is more pain than usual. Headaches harder to ignore. You know how they tell you not to take Tylenol long term? Yeah, well, I take it daily, usually 4 times a day. So until I can discuss this with my doc what to do?

Usually after I wallow a bit I turn to Scripture for help. This morning I was lead to listen to parts of Ephesians which our pastor quoted in his sermon on Sunday. Pastor did not read this, but here was the verse that rang out to me this morning.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 

Ephesians 6:10

Left to myself I cannot write this blog. Left to my own power I cannot walk out a life with chronic illness. Hand in hand with my Savior, I can do things through His mighty power. His power, not mine. Never for one moment do I think that my power sustains me. For a time in my life I SO disliked this verse in Corinthians.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

I did not think at that time I wanted the grace as much as I wanted my own strength. Young, foolish woman. I did not realize that my weakness would increase and increase as I aged. And my strength was not worthy to be compared with that grace which He promises would flourish in my weakness.

So here I am at the keyboard again to address some things that I have learned in living with Chronic illness. From my flood of ideas …

Fears can lose some power if you name them. So name them, even if it is difficult to use your hands right now. On the iPhone the notes app (looks like paper pad with yellow bar on top) the app has a microphone. You can dictate your list. The app will even create a numbered list. It takes courage to face these things, but you can do this! Better than wasting energy in dreading. Face this moment with courage. Then use your list as a

Much of my suffering has stemmed from realizing there is something I used to do and can no longer accomplish. Temporarily removed or permanently these things cause a very real form of grief. Grief needs to be felt and then let out. So I name it. Perhaps record all the things I loved about that activity. And then slowly take a step towards current reality. And look at the new circumstances squarely. What can I do even with limitations? How might that be tolerable? (Usually for me the first thing is to quit bitchin’ about distaste.) I had to learn that acceptance does not equal approval. Someone said,’Wishin’ comes easy. Change don’t.”

Acceptance ≠ Approval

What can I value about myself, right here and right now, regardless of current abilities? There is no shame allowed in illness. None of us sets out to be sick. No sane child says, “I want to be crippled with physical limitations when I grow up.” We do not plan for this and many of us kick against the change in fortune instead of learning how to accommodate our own needs. Be gentle with yourself.

We have all seen images of devastation on television be it from landslides, hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis or storms of wind, ice, snow, sand, torrential rain. Pick your image. When people ask, “How are you?” – and they will one thousand times – decide your answer. Few sincerely want to know. I have been tempted to say, “I’m okay except for my recent tsunami!” Being able to describe your experience with an image is helpful for yourself, though perhaps not others. Actually, it works nicely to say, “I am well.” Even if feeling like a train wreck physically, I am usually well in my center point with Christ. Looks are deceiving. Many are suffering all around you.

None of us is getting out of here alive, unless of course the Lord comes this week. It is just how we go that seems to matter at the end. Will you be kicking and screaming or slipping into the arms of Jesus and His holy angels with a smile on your face? Not a false face, but one of contentment.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

1 Timothy 6:6-7

Godliness with contentment, great gain. Acceptance ≠ Approval. There is a television show entitled “This is Us.” I pray that your version of the program will be filled with contentment, peace and acceptance of your life as it is now. Cling to hope.

The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides.

Barbara Kingsolver “Hope: An Owners Manual”

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