I’ll never forget the moment the doctor diagnosed my husband with a chronic illness. We knew our lives would be forever changed because this disease—Type 1 Diabetes—had no cure.
My husband’s radiant blue eyes filled with tears as he, now strapped to an ICU hospital bed with wires and monitors attached to nearly every part of his strong, young body, absorbed the harsh, sudden reality about his future:
- Finger pricks several times a day
- Insulin injections every few hours (or the need to wear a pump)
- Constant blood sugar highs and lows
- Recording (and adjusting insulin levels for) every single thing he put in his mouth
- Constant access to medical devices and medicines
And of course there was the biggest adjustment of all (the one that someone with an incurable disease must face each day): Finding peace when you know the side effects and prognosis ahead.
Maybe you can relate to my husband’s story because you (or someone you love) also face the daily heartbreaking reality of knowing that a cure is not possible for your condition either.
If so, I want you to know something. Something that no one else but a fellow chronic illness sufferer could say: Hope, joy, and peace are possible… even when there is no cure.
Why Chronic Illness Sufferers Need More than Christian Platitudes
I know that a statement like “hope, joy, and peace is possible” can seem laughable when facing a trial of this magnitude.
Because, as you probably already know too well, life for those with an incurable illness can be physically and emotionally excruciating. Hardly grounds for hope, joy, and peace, right?
There’s the physical pain, of course. That’s challenging enough.
But, honestly, when you or someone you love deals with an incurable disease, the greatest torment can come from the million-dollar question: Why? Why did God allow this to happen to me?
Perhaps well-intentioned friends and family members have tried to encourage you with James’ admonition in James 1:2-8 to “count it all joy” during the trial of incurable illness.
Or maybe other Christians have simply said, “Just cling to God through this.”
While both of those statements are solid biblical advice, they can feel like empty and worthless Christian platitudes when you’re the one dealing with the harsh realities of chronic illness.
I get it, and friend, I’m not here to offer you more of that.
I want to dive into what it really means to grow spiritually despite chronic illness, especially in those moments when you are at your wits’ end and just want it all to stop.
6 Truths to Discover Hope and Purpose When Battling an Incurable Disease
1. Don’t be afraid to mourn the losses of incurable disease.
Incurable illness may have stolen specific dreams that you had for yourself or a loved one. That’s tragic and heart-wrenching to process, but be honest with yourself about what you’ve lost.
We must be honest about those emotions and work through them, even if it takes professional counseling.
2. Cry out regularly and often to God about what you’re experiencing.
I highly encourage you to spend time alone with God every single day.
Pour your heart out to him as you read verses about finding joy through chronic illness.
Read biblical stories of those who found courage during tough circumstances.
Read stories of others who have had to trust God through this journey (here’s an inspiring book).
And most of all, be authentic with Him! He wants you to come to Him broken so that He can provide you with His supernatural strength.
God is found in the waiting, in the hoping, and in the daily reliance on Him.
3. Don’t be afraid to share the daily realities of chronic illness with others.
I know you understand the challenging physical burdens of an incurable disease. And you may get tired of talking about it to other people because, quite frankly, they can be sympathetic, but you think, “What can they really do about it?”
I’d encourage you to find at least two friends in whom you can confide your deepest struggles. You need a place to let out your hurts.
And then, as God provides spiritual growth and blessings as a result of this trial, share about it with others. The world needs more people who have learned how to discover God’s beauty from ashes!
4. If you’re married, decide to tackle incurable illness together.
Chronic illness in marriage can be especially difficult.
If you’re married to someone with an incurable, daily illness like I am, my best advice to you is to do whatever it takes to embrace the disease together. Here are some ideas:
- Be there to listen (even for the hundredth time) about the annoyances and pains.
- Pray continually that God would work through you to be a beacon of hope and light to your spouse.
- Get involved by offering to pick up medicines, giving a back rub for sore muscles, getting up at night when worry and insomnia sets in—whatever your spouse must deal with.
- Pray, pray, pray for your spouse to have God’s encouragement and strength.
- Listen to your spouse’s cues for how you can best love them through this.
5. Adopt this mantra: One moment—one pain—at a time.
When we consider a difficult trial like chronic illness, it’s so easy to become absorbed by future worries. What will tomorrow bring? What will be our reality six months from now?
But we can’t allow our thoughts to live in the future.
Someone once explained to me that “worry is going into the future without God.” Such a powerful—and biblically-based—sentiment.
Here’s the truth: We don’t know what the next five minutes will be like. And Jesus says that it’s not our job to be consumed by that (Matthew 6:25-34).
Take each moment and each aspect of this trial one bit at a time.
6. Celebrate today—this very moment—as priceless treasure.
Having a husband with an ongoing illness continually reminds me to savor the little moments of life.
Whether or not we’re dealing with incurable illness, we are not promised tomorrow. That’s why we must learn to let go of life’s little issues and choose to focus on all there is to celebrate!
I promise that there is always, always something to treasure about your current circumstances. Look for it and choose to make it the center of your thoughts.
Write down a list daily of what you can savor. This simple exercise changes my outlook and gives room for God to show me His great love.
I pray that these truths can help you start the journey towards authentic hope, joy, and peace despite dealing with chronic illness! Remember that God will not leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6); he holds you in the palm of His hand.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Ridofranz