Where is God in Chronic Illness?
Chronic illness is rampant today. So many of us are suffering with chronic symptoms that can leave us limited and in pain. And honestly, this has tested my faith in big ways. Because, where is God in chronic illness?
Where is God when we are faced with these unending and seemingly hopeless symptoms? Where is God when we find a diagnosis or an answer and then realize that the prognosis still isn’t total healing?
I want to share some of my story today in hopes that you can find encouragement. I hope that you can begin to see where God may be at work in the midst of your own chronic illness or unexplained symptoms.
I received my first diagnosis at 20 and went on to receive several more in the next few years. I’d been struggling with minor and yet unending chronic symptoms for as long as I remember. I’d been to several doctors who dismissed me as being “too stressed” or these symptoms being “all in my head.”
If you struggle with chronic illness, I’m almost positive you can relate. You can probably relate to the mad search for answers. And maybe you can relate to the hopeless feeling after you’ve found an answer and yet you're still not feeling well.
I want to start by saying that God is at work in your life right now, no matter where in this journey you are. He is with you and He wants you to find healing and hope.
But I want to address some of the tough questions that I asked on my own journey and that I’m guessing you may be asking as well.
Asking the Tough Questions: Why?
This little 3-letter question can permeate our souls and drive us far from the hope and intimacy with the Lord that God wants for us - especially when we are in the midst of suffering.
Why did this happen to me?
Why does God allow suffering?
Why doesn’t God heal me?
These can follow us through the painful and difficult days. And sometimes, they can leave us questioning our faith.
I don’t think asking these questions is wrong, but I do think that finding our hope in the answers to these questions is not what God calls us to. This isn’t where we will find true peace and joy.
I had once heard someone speak, someone who had gone through unspeakable tragedy, and he said that instead of asking why did this happen to me?, we should be asking how can God use me in this?
I typed up his exact quote and taped it to my wall for a time. Because all I wanted was to know why I was going through what I was going through. And I needed the constant reminder to change this mindset.
Because as much as God can reveal little moments of the why to us, I think that we need to be willing to rest in the unknown of trusting that God has a bigger plan. Even when we cannot see it.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:9
We must cling to these promises and truths, even as we ask the question of why. Because God is working for our good, even when we do not see. And God’s ways are so much bigger than our ways - even when we do not understand.
I believe that standing on these truths is the foundation to living with hope in the midst of chronic illness and it will ultimately lead to strength as we cope with our symptoms.
Coping with Limitations
So if we choose to trust God and choose to stand on these promises above, how do we cope with the fact that we have these limitations and these sufferings - possibly for life?
Honestly, this is one of the most difficult things for me.
My value was wrapped up in my expectations of achievement and wellness.
This kept me from peace in where I was at.
I don’t think that God’s will is for us to suffer. I believe that He wants us well. But sometimes, that is a process. And in that process, we have to understand where our value is.
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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:9-10
When I am weak, I more powerfully display Christ’s strength. I love the verse that says Christ’s power may rest on me. When I feel weak, I literally envision Christ’s power resting on me.
I have to be okay with being weak. And I think you will have to be okay with this too.
We live in a broken world. We will not meet every expectation that we place on ourselves, that our loved ones place on us and that society places on us. No matter how well we are.
Choosing to be content right where you are is going to be a game changer.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. -Philippians 4:12-13
We must cultivate a content heart wherever we are. This will lead to peace. This will lead to hope. This will lead to true surrender.
I’m not saying that you have to accept pain and suffering for the rest of your life. But I do believe that when we choose to be content and okay with where we are at the moment, that is when God can do powerful things in and through us.
What are the specific things or expectations that keep you from being content where you are? Is it your job, your family, your expectation of wellness that leads you to wishing things were different?
Take some time to pray through this and ask God to show you what keeps you from a content heart that can fully surrender to Him. And don’t be afraid to ask for healing in the process. This is a balance I believe we must strike as those who struggle with chronic illness.
His Glory Be Shown
As deeply as I want to be well, I also must adopt an eternal mindset in the midst of my suffering. My hope is not in this world. My hope is in Christ alone.
When I find myself angry or questioning God or feeling hopeless, I find that my expectations and hope have drifted onto things like comfort or success.
But as I shift my mindset to one of eternal hope, then I can find the strength to get through my days.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. -John 9:1-3
So many times in my asking why or in my hopelessness, I forget how my purpose here is to spread God’s love and glory. What a blessing it is when God’s magnificent glory is shown through me.
I cannot even express the humble gratitude and joy that I experience when I see God work through me to draw another closer to Him.
I used to say that if just one person could be helped by what I’ve gone through it would make it worth it. If one person could come to know Christ because of God’s work through me, it would be worth all the pain and suffering. This mindset gave me strength and purpose.
We must step back and recognize that our day-to-day is just a very small piece of a beautiful tapestry that God is weaving throughout the lives of many. It may look messy and painful up close, but as you back up and zoom out, you will see God’s beautiful masterpiece.
And what a blessing it is that He chose you.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33
We are going to face trouble, hardship and suffering. That is just a part of walking in a broken world. But as you surrender to God, placing your hope in Him and your trust in Him, you will see His magnificent glory displayed in you.
You will find peace and hope and my prayer is that you will find healing as you choose to stand in Him.
I would love to hear your story in the comments below. Let me know where you need prayer so that I can pray for you. Let us pray for one another and join together in eternal hope and in being vessels for God’s power and glory!
When u are living in a Facility due to ur chronic illnesses,u get treated with no respect,u are never right,they can call u names even though u get no assistance.To respect urself and put urself to more suffering to ensure that u are respected,and in return,because of ur circumstances,be subjected to anyone’s insults,is degrading,and I fail to see how I can “…take joy in insults “.
I’m so sorry for what you are experiencing, Nicole. We can “take joy in insults, hardships, etc” because we know we have the power and victory of Christ. We can cling to Him and trust that His plan is good. When we are at our weakest, we will see God’s strength the clearest. This thinking is SO opposite our natural inclination and suffering is not going to be joyful and easy. But cling to Christ in the midst of it and He will bring you hope, joy and will bring you through.
You folks can talk all about how chronic illness can teach you or help you understand or bring you closer to God .. if it does for you cool ….
I submit this . You get beaten enough or raped , mistreated . After a time it’s just human nature to no like the guy that inflicts pain upon you ( acts of god . Illness created and distributed by God . ) It’s just common sense . Why would you want to go around your dad if he hit you in the mouth every time you see him. If … IF God is using chronic illness to try to teach or get love or for you to get closer to Him …. I would suggest He goes back and rewrites or rereads lessons on basic human behavior . When you get tortured . Most often you don’t like the guy doing it and you damn sure don’t want him spending the night with you in your house
Hi Duncan, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I understand that dealing with some of these awful tragedies and experiences can make it hard to grasp God’s love, believe me, I’ve been there. What I have learned is that God did not create illness. He did not create pain. We live in a world where we have been given a choice to live as God intended or to choose our own way. And as many have chosen their own ways, this has resulted in pain, sin, evil and sickness. And unfortunately, this can affect you and me even as we try to choose what is right ourselves. God loves us, He loves you deeply, and has given up everything in order to reach out to you and me and to deliver you and me from this pain and heartbreak. But we still live in a world full of people who choose their own way. And until we reach heaven, we have to cling to God and trust that what He has for us is eternally better than this world. If you would be interested in discussing this more, I would love for you to reach out to me via email: email@example.com I have struggled with these very things for years and have found tremendous hope and healing, peace and true joy and I would love for you to find these things as well.
Hi Nicole, I have been praying with many tears for most of the morning. After opening & reading your email & post on your blog, I feel certain our Lord was talking to me. I needed to be reminded of the scriptures you referred to, and I needed to hear your words. We do live in such a broken world with so much pain & suffering. I feel so weak, sad and weary. And yet my strength in Him grows stronger. I know in my heart that He is working out His plan for my life. I feel as you in that if God uses me in any way to grow His Kingdom, bring glory to His Name, or plant the seeds of His message and promise to just one person, any suffering on my part will most certainly be worth it. My daughter (my only child) was diagnosed with a disease at 14 years that caused her to have chronic pain throughout her life. She is with our Lord now, and will never experience pain again. And my selfish sadness seams so minor compared to the glorious gift of eternal life she has in Christ, Our Savior.
Thank you Sweetheart for sharing the truth of His Word. You have encouraged me. I will be praying for you, and your ministry. And I will be praising God on this Thanksgiving Day for the many blessings He has given us through His precious Son, our Lord and Savior!
I have been suffering for 2 years with arthritic pain in my knee. It is possible to keep up with my schedule, but I’ve been limited in my strength and ability to do what I used to enjoy, hiking, gardening plus travel to see my grandchildren. It’s been a year since I’ve been confined to the house except for my front and back yard due to the pandemic and my asthma condition. I have my good days and then there are days of pain. God has been faithful to give me hope and a group of friends who I interact with weekly on Zoom meetings. He is giving me contentment despite my limitations. May the Lord continue to heal my knee, but in the meantime, I have time to pray, read the Word, and work on writing projects. God is good. Thank you for your insights.
This was really encouraging to read. I was diagnosed with my chronic illness at 21 and it’s been a battle ever since. However, if I hadn’t gone through that, I never would have created my blog, made a business for myself, or gotten to where I am 5 years later – so that’s a testament to His goodness even in the pain. Thanks for sharing this!
This is a beautiful post and such an important question to ask. God isn’t going to abandon us or make us suffer like this. There is a reason for everything that happens and we have to understand God’s meaning behind what is going on.