A little over a year ago, I had high hopes for healing from chronic illness.
I started seeing big changes in my health.
Better days meant I could actually do things normal people do. I could go out to eat or take a walk. I could make plans to attend functions and actually show up.
It felt great!
But it was another major life change. And if you’ve ever experienced extreme change, you may understand the potential difficulties.
After a year of doing the bare minimum in life (spending 90% of my time in bed), I felt like I could take on the world!
I was excited…oh so excited!
But then I began to face setbacks.
While my days were getting better, the occasional very bad day would feel that much worse. I’d grow scared I was backsliding and then question whether I was truly getting better.
While I would have liked to have been completely joyful during the initial season of healing, I can’t say I was. There was a constant flood of emotions that threatened to once again pull me into deep depression.
I wanted to get better but then ended up pushing myself too hard as a result. I’d over-exert myself for several days and then be forced to retreat to bed for the following week. While my health saw an upward progression, it was still a “two steps forward and one step back” kind of ride.
To be honest, I was a little naive. I thought once I started to heal from Lyme Disease and other chronic illnesses that I’d automatically be back to my “normal” self again. But healing can take time. And surprisingly to me, healing didn’t solve all my problems in the ways I (regretfully) thought it would.
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As God began to heal me, He also began revealing more of the idols that had taken up residence in my heart.
The sickness I was experiencing wasn’t just a physical sickness. Spiritually, I was dry and needed His presence more than ever before.
While I was debilitatingly ill with Lyme Disease, I believed that God was good – that He had a plan and a purpose in everything I was experiencing (Romans 8:28, Psalm 84:11). While I still had crazy emotions galore, I knew that glorifying Him was the only thing that truly mattered (1 Corinthians 10:31).
But as I started healing, I noticed the idols of health and self taking deeper root.
I began to put too much pressure on myself to “get my health under control.”
Seeing health as the golden ticket to success, I dreamt about the experiences I wanted to have once I was healthy. They were all good things, but were they even what God was leading me to do?
While I was sick, I had a deep sense of peace about writing and ministering to women. I still believe that’s where God is directing me.
But as I got better, my mind started to wander and dream about the cool things I could experience…which ended up leading me into a deep, dark place of discontentment. I wanted more, even though I knew more would never truly satisfy.
Now, I continually renew my mind in truth and remember to press into the Lord for guidance about the ways I should go.
While I can’t say I did things right when I began healing from chronic illness, there are a few things I’d like to share with the weary girl who’s in the process of healing.
How to cope with emotions when healing from chronic illness:
1. Be in the Word
This cannot be emphasized enough! Emotions can destroy you if you don’t look to the Word of God for truth. Don’t know where to start or what to do? Read through the Psalms. I turn there when I’m struggling. Memorize verses that directly speak of God’s goodness and faithfulness. You’ll be able to go back to them when emotions hit the hardest.
I continually return to Psalm 13. The beginning of the chapter is filled with questioning and wondering when God’s going to show up for the psalmist. Then verses 5-6, read,
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me. (NIV)
Even though there are times when God may feel far away as we’re dealing with tough stuff, he hasn’t actually moved from us. He’s still good. He knows. And He loves.
This John Piper article talks about reading the Bible to your anxiety.
Have you ever talked so much about your problems to other people that you’ve completely forgotten to pray about them? This girl right here is totally guilty of that! I LOVE to talk and can find myself discussing and analyzing my situation with everyone except for God…and that is not a good way to handle emotions.
In fact, prayer is not just about asking God to fix things. When we go to God, He gives us His presence.
Paul writes to the Philippians,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:6-7 ESV
3. Speak truth to yourself over and over again
You are not your health. You are not your emotions. Feelings can sometimes inform but they do not equate to truth. Remember this! In order to handle the roller coaster of emotions that may come while healing from chronic illness, you’ve gotta speak truth. This post about the things I refuse to tell myself explains more.
4. Limit negative influences in your life
Face it: We’ve got messaging coming at us from all angles in today’s world full of technology. Be careful about what you read and watch.
I’ve had to take major steps back from social media because it contributed to growing discontentment that wasn’t healthy. Evaluate where you’re spending your time and think about how it’s affecting your emotional health.
5. Celebrate wins but don’t get too upset over the down days
Be happy about the days you feel better! Rejoice! Praise God! But please keep perspective when rougher days come. Remember that healing is not always an upward trend without bumps in the road. Be grateful for the healing and remain calm when it’s not going as quickly as you’d like.
6. Extend grace to yourself and others
This is so important! Give yourself grace. Give others grace. We all know there are things we can do to help our situations, but we can’t do everything. As you’re healing, do what you can do and then breathe. Let God work out the rest. Be kind to yourself and the others around you.
Suffering from and healing from chronic illness can bring on a whirlwind of emotions. My prayer is that this post will be a resource for your journey.
Lots of love,