How to Thrive with a Chronic Illness
Getting diagnosed with a chronic illness turns your whole world upside down. Suddenly you can’t do many of the daily activities most people never think twice about. Fear becomes a constant nag in the corner of your mind, and you lose confidence in your future.
I know this because it happened to me. Getting diagnosed with POTS and IBS was one of the hardest, yet most rewarding trials I have faced so far.
I’ve learned patience, compassion, perseverance, and most importantly, dependence on God.
I truly believe my faith and the prayers of those who love me have brought me this far in my healing journey. Although I’m not cured (yet) of these issues, I’m in a much better place than I was years ago.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to make friends with others who struggle with illness. Though I hope for their healing, I’m so glad God uses us to shine a light for each other. I’m often asked how I do it. How do I manage my life when sometimes just standing makes me dizzy or weak?
Well, here you are lovely ones. My insider pro-tips on thriving with a chronic illness.
1. Set Daily Goals
Having a chronic illness can force you out of your usual routine and school/work life. Suddenly you are dependent on others, and you feel helpless.
Although it may feel this way at first, it’s actually a hidden blessing. Why? Because we are all helpless on our own.
Every human being is one tragedy away from losing everything. The only thing that can’t be taken away is our relationship with Christ. When our dependence is on Jesus, we can learn to walk with humble confidence.
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My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26 NIV)
Having this confidence in God is crucial in order to be fruitful and set a daily goal. A good challenge is to write down one goal you want to accomplish everyday.
Maybe your goal is to clean the house or get an assignment done. Perhaps it’s showering or a doctor’s appointment. It doesn’t matter if it’s big or small. Just give it all you’ve got and lean on the Lord for confidence.
There are days when I still don’t feel productive. I get wiped out easily and fall asleep randomly from chronic fatigue. Not everything gets checked off on my list, but at least one thing does, and that’s good enough.
2. Make Time for Rest and Renewal
While goal crushing is fun, it’s important to balance work with rest. All bodies require rest, but in our fast-paced American culture, we hardly get the rest we need. Healing takes place when we listen to our bodies and just slow down.
It’s awesome to get things done, but don’t forget to take time to do something relaxing. Maybe this is taking a nap or warm bath. Perhaps a good book or listening to music is your thing. Find whatever it is that relaxes you and do it everyday.
The greatest rest we find is in Jesus, who renews us daily. The only way I got through five years of college with an illness is by God’s renewing strength.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NIV)
If we don’t abide in Jesus, we have nothing. If we seek Him constantly, we find physical healing, as well as spiritual renewal. Abiding in Jesus helps us bear fruit far richer than any worldly pursuit can give us.
3. Don’t Isolate Yourself in Illness
When you feel bad, it’s only natural to isolate yourself. However, constantly shutting the world out will only make things worse.
Yes, we all need time alone to rest and recharge, but surrounding ourselves with loved ones uplifts us and even improves our symptoms.
I know that when I hang out with my friends and family, I can’t do everything they can. Although I may need accommodations, I still have plenty of fun with my loved ones.
There will always be those who don’t understand or who get annoyed by you. These people will either learn to adjust, or you’ll find their friendship isn’t as deep as you thought it was.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24 ESV)
Don’t let your limitations discourage you. You are more than your abilities. Our worth comes from the inside–the soul Jesus died to save. No illness can stop your awesome self from truly shining.
Although living with a chronic illness is life changing, God can still use it for good. He is still a miracle worker and healer. As we wait on God’s healing, we can live for Him in faith, hope, and love.
Thanks for reading! If you or a loved one struggle with an illness, please feel free to comment below so I can pray for you.
(Photography by rawpixel and Saksham Gangwar)
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