Celebrating Life with Hope

We are continuing to celebrate life! Simeon’s lungs filled with oxygen 36 days ago. Yesterday Simeon’s head was covered with water and oil. He has always belonged to Christ, but yesterday he was officially welcomed into the Church by receiving the sacrament of baptism. He is officially a son of the covenant, heir of God’s Kingdom, full participant in the body of Christ as a member of His bride. Hallelujah! What hope! What a perfect thing to celebrate on the first Sunday of Advent, where we lit the candle of hope. Please rejoice with us and celebrate the life of Christ in our little son.

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For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off,
everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.
Acts 2:39

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them
 in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, to
 the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20

When My Heart Aches


Job 30:22
You lift me up on the wind; You make me ride on it,
    and You toss me about in the roar of the storm.

There are many types of suffering, and I understand that the sovereign Lord allots for each of us what He deigns best for us and greatest for His glory. I don’t always understand the nuts and bolts of it playing out “in real life” but I acknowledge it from my heart and from my mind. I understand He is that way, and He is the author of life, even when I can not explicitly understand the whys and the hows behind it all. He is God, and I am not.

I can not count the number of days (let alone hours or moments) when my heart has been in utter and complete anguish within me. And for the large part, in what the sovereign Lord has allotted for me personally, my anguish has been related to miscarriage and its many nuances. I’ve had the deepest anguish, suffering, pain, and grief from burying nine children. There are other reaches of this, though, where the pain seeps ~ basically any conversation about pregnancy, about morning sickness, about surprise pregnancies, about family size, about babies, about childrearing, about being pro-life, about stairstep children, about family vacations, about schooling, about siblings… some anguishes ooze into so many aspects of life that you lose count. And really, to be honest, you don’t want to keep count. That is too painful, too!

Psalm 55:4
My heart is in anguish within me

But one of the biggest blessings for me, both in the midst of the anguish and “on the other side” (to some extent…) of it, has been the giving and receiving of comfort through this journey.
I have been on the receiving end of so much comfort! Some of it has been well-done and some of it has been less-so, but all of it, I truly believe, has been heartfelt and genuine.
I have also been given the opportunity to be on the giving side of comfort through the years, both in various online communities & capacities and in real life (friends or friends-of-friends suddenly facing the grief of miscarriage themselves). I am sure that the comfort I have sought to give has been occasionally well-done and occasionally much less-so as well, but I can honestly say that the comfort I have extended has also been heartfelt and genuine.

Regardless of the years I have spent in the trenches of grief…
regardless too of the years I have spent in the trenches of lifting up others downtrodden in similar griefs…
I still feel thoroughly unequipped to offer much specific counsel or advice on how to come alongside someone who is suffering a miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage, other death, other infertility, other anguish of heart.

When I posted my open-ended question a couple days ago, I was so overjoyed and blessed to have some of you chime in on how you have been comforted when you needed comfort, and how you too seek to extend comfort to others in need of that blessing! Thank you for participating in the conversation! (and please do keep it coming!)

I am going to spend just the next few posts here at Joyful Domesticity sharing some thoughts and experiences I have had.
I’ll share some tangible things that have been a comfort to me from others, books that have blessed me, activities I have done myself that have brought comfort or healing to my own aches, as well as links to online communities & resources that have ministered to me and given me opportunities for ministry as well.
If you are looking for something specific, don’t be afraid to ask; I would love to have some prodding as I go back in my memory banks to some of the darkest days of my life. So many things have actually been blocked from my memory (PTSD style) that sometimes I need a prod to even recall certain days or events or seasons.

The upcoming posts may be redundant to many of you, especially those who have walked alongside me for years through my own miscarriages and sorrows. But whether this is old news or new news, I pray that it would be good news: that it would remind you of how the Lord has ministered to me and been faithful to me! I don’t forget His faithfulness through my anguish!! I don’t want you to forget either, simply because He has been so good to me, and He deserves to be continually praised for it. And I also pray that this would be good news to those of you who are suffering, or ministering to those who are suffering: to see what has blessed others, and to see if the Lord has equipped you to share any of these (or similar) things with those around you, or even to ask for these blessings yourself ~ or at least to extend some of these graces to yourself if you are the one in the trench of anguish.

And remember… if you leave me a comment… I am just a click away, and my heart is ready to step alongside yours wherever you are on this journey of grief… I will pray with you, email you, share resources with you, simply even be a listening ear.
You may have to endure suffering, but you certainly don’t have to do it alone.

More soon.
And in the meanwhile, peace be with you.

Isaiah 25:1-4
O Lord, You are my God;
I will exalt You; I will praise Your name,
for You have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
For You have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin;
the foreigners’ palace is a city no more;
it will never be rebuilt.
Therefore strong peoples will glorify You;
cities of ruthless nations will fear You.
For You have been a stronghold to the poor,
a stronghold to the needy in his distress,
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat;
for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall…

Litany for Christian Marriage

Last week after church, we were given a couple of articles to read as we in the Church face new-but-not-so-new battles against the institution of marriage. One of them included this article, where part of it is a litany for marriage which I have prayed a couple times in the last week. For my own marriage. For the marriages of people I love. For those in my church. For the marriages in the Church at large. Our marriages speak of the mystery of Christ and His Church ~ oh, what are we preaching these days?! May the Lord have mercy upon us.May He be glorified by our returning to Him as the Church, His bride, and may we seek to honor Him, one another, and our marriage vows because we belong to Him ~ and so does the institution of marriage.

A Litany for Marriage

We thank you, heavenly Father, for graciously creating us in your image, male and female, and for ordaining that a man and woman shall be joined as one flesh in the covenant of marriage.
We thank you, O Father.

We thank you for the gift and heritage of children and for placing them in homes which may be havens of blessing and peace.
We thank you, O Father.

We thank you for the love between fathers and mothers and sons and daughters that binds together the generations and undergirds our country’s social fabric.
We thank you, O Father.

Lord Jesus Christ, divine Bridegroom, we repent for all the situations in which we have dishonored the covenant of marriage through selfishness or unfaithfulness.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

We repent as a Church where we have failed to prepare our children for holy matrimony, or to care for those who are widowed, divorced or single.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

We repent where as citizens we have become complacent and neglected the defense of marriage in the public square.
Lord, have mercy upon us.

We pray you, Holy Spirit, to restore marriage to its due honor in our country and to revive our marriages and families as emblems of your love.
Deliver us by your grace and power.

We pray you to strengthen our bishops and other leaders as they join with faithful churches to make a strong God-honoring defense of your design for marriage.
Deliver us by your grace and power.

We pray you to have mercy on those who have promoted false teaching about marriage and on those who have been led astray and harmed by it.
Deliver us by your grace and power.

Grant us courage, O Triune God, to hold fast to the truth of your Word, and give grace to those who are counted worthy to suffer for the Name of Christ.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

A Prayer for Marriage Almighty God our heavenly Father, you have created us male and female in your image and have ordained that a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. Look down in mercy, we pray, on our families, our church and our nation. Knit together in constant affection those who, in Holy Matrimony, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, the hearts of the children to the parents, and the hearts of all to those who are single or alone. Finally, grant that your Church may steadfastly defend the unchangeable bond of marriage which embodies the mystery of Christ’s love for us; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and forever.

Suggested Hymns: “O God of Earth and Altar”; “God of Grace and God of Glory”

July 4th Meditation

Courtesy of our pastor-friend Toby Sumpter, be exhorted and encouraged on this July 4th.

…Here’s the deal: the peace of God was announced by an army of angels that came down and woke up a field full of shepherds at night. The peace of God filled an old man in a temple with a song and a prophecy about a sword that would divide and pierce. The peace of God calmed a fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee and then drove several thousand pigs into the same sea to drown and rot, while a man with self-inflicted cuts all over his body sat for the first time, clothed and in his right mind. The peace of God comes like this. The joy of God comes like this. Jesus’ own family thought He was out of His mind, thought He was insane. He was accused of drunkenness, being demon possessed, and He made rulers nervous and mad. But everywhere He went, He brought peace and healing and joy.

So this is my Fourth of July charge to you. Embrace this tension. Embrace this cross. Let your arms be stretched out like this, like the arms of your Savior. Sing a psalm louder than ever before. Laugh longer, have one more helping of potato salad, and give one more toast. Tickle your children, kiss your wife, invite another neighbor to the party, say an extra blessing of gratitude over it all, and send fifteen more fireworks into the sky tonight. Do it all with a profound and certain and unshakeable joy in your heart. Our Jesus reigns and all will be well.

Click here for his full meditation.

Seventh: Final Thoughts on Serving those with Chronic Needs


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Though you may feel that no one can understand
the depth of your despair,
our Savior, Jesus Christ, understands.

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As we come to the final thoughts on this discussion of serving those with chronic needs in our local bodies of Christ’s people, what should we come away with on our hearts? What new insights have you seen from those who are suffering for days, months, years on end with either their obvious or invisible manifestations? What about new perspectives from four church leaders from multiple places in the United States, different churches & varied denominations? What things did you see emphasized repeatedly from the women who chimed in with ideas on how they have seen their congregations serve the suffering, or ways they individually have sought to reach out?

What stood out to you?
What themes can be found repeated throughout this series?
What ways do you need served?
What ways do you need to serve?
How can you tailor your prayers?
Where can you offer your gifts or time?
How might the Lord be calling you to sacrifice of yourself?
In what areas do you see the Lord stretching your faith here?

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Above all, keep loving one another earnestly,
since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8

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I see a call toward tangible love toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.

~love your brethren with your prayers and your words but also your actions, no matter which side of the suffering coin you find yourself on personally ~ I see countless opportunities here for “one-anothering“~

I see a need for enormous grace on all sides.

~have grace with those in need ~ have grace toward those who serve ~ have grace on those who you don’t see either suffering or serving ~ none of us deserve grace (which is why it is classified as grace!), but all of us are called to bestow it liberally~

I see openings for each one of us to sacrifice more.

~there are very infrequent cases where someone may be already sacrificing to the fullest extent of what the Lord has called them to, but for most of us (especially in modern American culture), there are absolutely ways that we could deeper sacrifice for others in our finances, with our time, sharing our food or other physical possessions, praying more diligently, sending encouraging notes or making uplifting phone calls, spending an entire day per week or month simply living your life for someone else’s family~

I see opportunities for each one of us to humble ourselves and exalt others.

~as sinful humans, we are born with a grabby nature; but here we have been shown opportunities over and over again for how we can put others ahead & above ourselves and our own desires or needs ~ are you grabbing for assistance from others when maybe the Lord is asking you to simply endure your suffering for His sake with joy and peace? ~ are you grabbing at your own comforts or plans when maybe the Lord is giving you places to give up your comforts or plans for the sake of lifting the burdens of others? ~ in what ways can you (yes, you!) humble yourself and rather exalt someone else?~

I see the calling for each of us to be more like Christ.

~as Christians, we should continually be growing more and more into the image of Jesus Christ Himself, through our sanctification, so how can we open ourselves to more of His nature overcoming our selfish sinful humanity when we see people suffering around us? ~ how can we do that when we are suffering, bound to our house for endless months, or bound to a bed in home or hospital for days at a time? ~ how do you feel the growing pains of growing up into Christ your Brother, as you now look around you at the brethren who may be suffering, whether you currently know it or not?~

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Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will
entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

1 Peter 4:19

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So in closing, what are a few last reminders & highlights of how we can serve those in our churches who are suffering various chronic needs?

  • write notes of encouragement, whether a real card or an e-card or an e-mail
  • make a phone call to pray with someone or just check in
  • cook extra food & put it in your freezer so that you have something to share when you see a need
  • offer to make food for someone, asking if they have specific recipes that suit their dietary needs that you can use
  • ask someone if you can come to their house to cook with their ingredients in their kitchen: show up with joy, do the work, clean up even more than the mess you personally made, and bless the person not only with food in their freezer but with your cheerful presence
  • read books or browse blogs for creative ideas on blessing someone who has X physical or mental need
  • rather than ask “how are you?”, tailor the question for the person, “honestly, how have you seen Christ show up in your suffering this week?” or “I would love to hear the nitty-gritties on how your week has gone”
  • give specific offers for help ~ specific tasks you are equipped to do, and a time you know you could show up to get it done
  • give your phone number and emphasize that you will do what you can to drop what’s on your plate if something emergent comes up
  • sign up to clean homes for those who are physically unable to do it
  • sign up to fill a freezer at your church
  • rally others to work alongside you to care for someone’s yard or run their errands or babysit their child(ren)
  • drop off flowers for a random person just to brighten their day
  • leave plates of goodies on a front doorstep, leaving unannounced without making the recipient feel awkward or have the need to make small talk
  • pray diligently for people, and remind someone when you have actually prayed for them
  • don’t be afraid to make people laugh, but don’t be afraid to make people cry
  • put on a spirit of meekness & humility, and stop judging the actions or inactions of others
  • recognize that there is not a single one of us who is not needy in one way or another; but we are still called to bear one another’s burdens
  • use your time wisely and well ~ when you are serving your own family, and also when you serve someone else
  • buy a $30 gift card next time you are at the grocery store, and find someone to bless with it
  • buy things in bulk (think Costco or Winco), and then give away the excess portions (the second bottle of shampoo, the third pound of ground beef, the extra green beans you know will go bad before you eat them…) to someone in need
  • dig up perennials from your yard or garden beds, and put them in little pots to deliver to someone who can not be out in their own yard or have their own garden
  • share the extra produce from your vegetable garden or produce box with a neighbor
  • when someone asks for help, go above & beyond what they have humbled themselves to request ~ give richly and joyfully
  • if you absolutely cannot fill a need when you have been specifically asked, try to help them find someone else who can fill the need! ~ ask your spouse, ask your best friend, ask an older woman in your church, ask a church leader ~ don’t just say, “I’m so sorry I can not drive you tomorrow to your appointment” but go the extra mile and add, “but let’s go find someone together right now who is available” ~ sometimes we can not fill a need, but there are ways we can help the need be filled nonetheless
  • preach grace ~ from pulpits and from fingertips
  • take someone out to coffee just because, or bring their favorite drink to them if they are homebound
  • remind someone with physical limitations that they are invaluable, and help them find non-physically-demanding ways to serve (phone calls? prayer chain? offering to have Bible study or choir practice in their home?)
  • remind someone with mental limitations that they are invaluable, and help them find ways to serve (if you can’t leave your home, can we come to you? if being around people or noise is overwhelming, could you do some cooking for someone else? can you cook or clean for someone else, even in the midst of your own mental suffering? if you have no energy, no time, no mental capacity to do a physical thing for someone else and can honestly not even keep up with the demands of your own home & family, could you write about your suffering to teach the rest of us who can not begin to wrap our heads around the thorn in your side? can you lead online prayer chains?)
  • ask to be on a prayer list ~ offer to put someone else on a prayer list
  • try your best not to stick your foot in your mouth ~ silence or an understanding squeeze of the hand can be enough
  • if you don’t know what to say, say THAT without apology
  • ask for elders to come pray in your home or to bring communion to you ~ if you are the caretaker or spouse of someone who is bed-ridden or home-bound, be the voice & advocate of the suffering one, and request these specific things ~ even leaders of churches will need someone to graciously teach them and help peel scales from their eyes
  • don’t give up when the suffering has no end in sight
  • acknowledge that you don’t understand what the other is going through ~ either in their obvious suffering or in their lack of it
  • offer free babysitting, along with a Starbucks (or other date-type place) gift card
  • invite someone over, and ask how you can make it possible for them to be comfortable in your home (allergies, dietary restrictions, time constraints, a place to lie down, making it quiet enough by having your children watch a movie in an upstairs room or putting the barking dog far away)
  • sometimes people have to plan way ahead, so make the sacrifice of putting something on the schedule to really help & truly fellowship
  • sometimes people can not plan more than a few hours in advance, so learn how to be more flexible and invite someone over last-minute
  • take the caretaker/spouse of the suffering person out to eat, out to play frisbee, or to your home for a time of prayer
  • focus more on others than on yourself
  • before you donate items to a thrift shop (furniture, clothing, books, appliances), see if anyone in your church has need of your things ~ be willing to drop stuff off for others at their homes if they need your old washing machine, your used maternity clothing, other clothing (sometimes chronic illnesses or even the medications for physical or mental illnesses can cause unpredictable weight loss or weight gain, and it can be difficult to shuffle one’s wardrobe back & forth without emptying the pocketbook), the books you collected on depression & anxiety or autoimmune diseases, extra chairs for around their table, etc.
  • don’t be shy about asking your church leaders for assistance; whether food or prayer or home/yard chores or childcare or transportation or financial assistance… humble yourself and ask for blessings… who would give a stone when asked for bread?
  • give an extra check in your church offering for the benevolence fund
  • remind your friends that it is okay if their kids need to be watching more movies than seems preferable, during this season of suffering
  • try not to give unsolicited advice
  • pray ceaselessly for the suffering around you
  • be in it for the long haul with joy
  • share what you have, give what you can ~ just show up and be faithful with what you’ve been given
  • grace, grace, grace, grace, GRACE!!!

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Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Colossians 3:12-17

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God our heavenly Father, please bless each of your children who have participated in this discussion over the last week. Please soften our hearts where we have been hardened, please humble us where we have been proud, please open our eyes where they were covered in scales, please unplug our ears where they were not listening. Teach us to love one another in word and in deed. Teach us to shower one another in grace upon grace upon grace. Make us more like Christ as we live together in local manifestations of His body.

We are Your chosen ones, O God ~ we are holy and we are beloved. Please teach us to treat one another as holy, beloved, chosen children of the Father. Please clothe us with compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience! Please enable us to bear with one another, and show us how to do this with the compassion, kindness, humble hearts, meek spirits, and patient diligence that would most glorify You. When we strive against one another, when we begrudge one another for any reason, please plant a root of forgiveness in our hearts that will grow and bloom and blossom and bear sweet fruit, just as the forgiveness You have so freely offered us through Christ our Lord bears fruit in our own lives.

But above all the rest of this, heavenly Father, clothe us with love. The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell! And this is the love that we need to imitate, that we must pray for, as we grow up as Your children into Your image. Grant us love beyond measure, so that we can be bound in perfect harmony by Your grace.

Fill our hearts with the peace of Christ, and rule us by that peace so that our homes and our relationships ooze nothing but peace. We were called to His peace in one body, and we ask You to fulfill that calling by filling our cups to overflowing with the peace of Christ. Make us thankful. Teach us to be content with where you have us, suffering and all, with thankful hearts. Put words on our lips that demonstrate thankful hearts.

Put within us the words of Christ so that His rich wisdom and understanding fills us and shapes our relationships with one another. Give us Scripture and holy words in our hearts and minds as we memorize and meditate on Your Word. Give us opportunities to teach, admonish, encourage, and exhort one another with wisdom ~ and increase our wisdom by Your grace more and more as the day of Christ’s return draws nearer. Help us grasp opportunities to sing together, to proclaim psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to one another and for one another. Fill our hearts and heads with music that glorifies You and teaches us all the more about You. Grant us thankfulness to You as we give and receive wise, godly counsel and song.

By the power of Your Spirit, O God our Father, enable us to do all things, in word and in deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus to whom we belong and in whose blood we ourselves are covered and granted forgiveness. Strengthen us to give thanks to You, Father God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, as we serve, as we suffer, as we live together in the body of Christ and as we pray for the furtherance of Your Kingdom here on earth in our own homes.

Thank You, God, for hearing our prayers and granting us grace in this conversation. To You be all glory, now and forever. Amen.

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~part of our series, Serving Those in The Church with Chronic Needs~

Consider the Suffering: Study the Scriptures


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Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly.
Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively.
But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion
or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.
~C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, p28~

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Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Romans 12:13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Ephesians 4:29 Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
1 John 3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
Matthew 25:35-39 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Proverbs 22:9 The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.
Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
John 15:12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Acts 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
1 Peter 4:10 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Galatians 5:13-14 …through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
2 Corinthians 8:3-5 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.
Numbers 11:11-14 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.
Deuteronomy 1:12 How can I alone bear your problems and your burdens and your complaints?
Romans 15:1-2 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.
Romans 15:5-7 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.
Galatians 6:2  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Acts 20:35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Proverbs 14:31 …he who is generous to the needy honors Him.
Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Mark 12:31 ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
2 Corinthians 9:12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.
Romans 12:10-11 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Romans 12:4-7 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching…
Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.
Proverbs 31:20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.

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I challenge each of us to search our hearts in reference to this load of Scriptures.
See where the Lord would encourage you.
See where He would exhort you.
See where He extends His grace to you & you can extend it to others.
Open your heart to the urging of the Spirit.
Open your hands to those around you who are suffering.
Open your life to the ones the Lord gave you ~ He gave you to them also.

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~part of our series, Serving Those in The Church with Chronic Needs~

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Sixth: Chronic Suffering, the Leader’s Perspective


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Make the decision to do
what Jesus Christ has asked you to do.
~M. Russell Ballard~

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  1. What kind of ministry(ies) does your church have for those who have chronic needs?
    We’re a new church plant of about 55 people where internal needs are voiced and people rally to serve. We regularly support a local ministry called Vision House that provides housing and programs to homeless women and children, and our church sponsors Creating Friends, a program that provides fellowship and learning to children and young adults with special needs. 
  1. What kind of specific things would you find it personally helpful for individuals in your church body to step up for, rather than waiting for an official ministry?
    People already do this (serve one another’s physical needs for meals, prayer, companionship, or other assistance) consistently. I’ve been blessed to see it over and over. At this point my exhortation is like Paul’s: keep it up. 
  1. What do you do, as church leaders and shepherds of a particular flock, specifically to minister to a person/family suffering chronically?
    Ask how people are doing, pray, visit, and do regular counseling, in addition to keeping focused on prayer and teaching. I do ask others to check in on people when I know I’m out of the loop.
  1. As leaders of a church body, how do/did you perceive the difference between needs & desires in a family who is chronically needy? And what process do/did you go through in order to maintain relationships with these people so that you can assess their needs, and use godly wisdom in discerning how to offer aid? How do you seek to fully bless those who need help of multiple sorts without depleting the congregation on a chronic basis?
    This is very organic at this point. No official process. I think the best foundational thing is to preach the gospel in such a way that shapes people to love one another, and ask the Lord to raise up leaders/deacons to assist as they did in Acts 7. Relationships are maintained because everyone comes to worship the Lord together.
  1. Are there lessons for us (or not) in serving the needy by expounding on the principles in 1 Timothy 5 about widows? Are there other more pertinent Scriptures to give wisdom here? How should people in need balance seeking aid from family members versus seeking aid from the church?
    Family members are a natural first source of help, but believers should also seek the body of Christ. Everyone in the body of Christ should be fundamentally a giver and provider, as Jesus’ example with the widow’s mite. She is portrayed as massively generous, not chronically needy.
    Widows funds can be good if a congregation has that demographic.

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A church full of servants
will have unity & growth.
~Pastor Rick Warren~

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  1. What kind of ministry(ies) does your church have for those who have chronic needs?
    Our church has a mercy ministry team, led by our deacons, that are in touch with both acute and chronic needs in our body and, to some extent, outside our body in broader community. These men, at times helped by ladies in our church, stay in touch with those with chronic needs, to learn the status of physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. These are discussed at deacon’s meetings and plans for intervention made. To a lesser extent, this may also be addressed through our small group ministry. As folks learn of/identify needs among others in their small group (consequences of illness, loss of spouse, etc), these folks, usually without prompting, reach out to the needy person/family. The key here is small group intimacy/sharing that should be fostered.
  2. What kind of specific things would you find it personally helpful for individuals in your church body to step up for, rather than waiting for an official ministry?
    Key here is being able to discern needs before they become large problems. For example, in two families in our church (both with a large number of children), they often teeter on the edge of financial problems. In one family the mother just had a major hospital stay/procedure and their primary vehicle just died. In the second family, two of their four vehicles were totaled in separate car accidents involving their teenagers (although neither accident was the fault of their teens) in the last two weeks. Recognizing these events among the body and their potential for financial disaster and acting quickly to help is important. Thankfully both of these families are among those being regularly cared for by our mercy ministry team.
  3. What do you do, as church leaders and shepherds of a particular flock, specifically to minister to a person/family suffering chronically?
    No one answer; needs vary widely and so many things are relevant. As elders we minister to people in whom public sharing of the situation is appropriate and needed, as well as other situations where the details cannot be shared publicly for a variety of reasons. This requires particular discernment on the part of church leaders. Important in this as leaders is being able to love and care for people personally – to take the time to sit with them, to hear their concerns, and to pray with them before Him who is able to truly change hearts, lives, perspectives. Sometimes this involves the hardship of understanding the spiritual realities of discipleship and also hard choices regarding how we live our lives.
    t times, it is hard to discern, communicate, and accept the realities of what we are all called to as disciples of Christ – specifically that suffering should be expected rather than living on “easy street.”  I am reminded often of Paul, who in 2 Cor 12:7, described his chronic thorn in the flesh that God chose not to take away despite his prayer, so that he might learn dependency on Christ. And in the chapter before (2 Cor 11:25, 26) he describes the suffering he endured in ministry. Countless places in the Psalms, we see David’s laments and fears, often followed by his realization that his hope is in the Lord, not in the circumstances around him. No one wants to suffer (me included) but we all need to understand that this is the life we are called to as disciples, including those with chronic needs.
    Also related is sometimes helping people understand that their suffering is not necessarily a specific “punishment” for some bad choice. Nor that grace only comes as a result of our doing something “right” or “good” for the Lord. Grace is not grace if it must be earned. Others struggle so hard to understand/discern God’s “plan for their life.” We, in our church, have been learning again and again that it’s not so much that God has a plan for His people, but rather that God has a people for His plan. It’s so much more about our relationship with our loving Father and the thanks/worship He merits.
    Our job as leaders is to help those in need (and frankly all of us) understand all of this. To be reminded that, in spite of the circumstances, we are still incredibly loved and cared for and that Christ experienced infinitely greater suffering (undeservedly) on our behalf. Further, our ultimate deliverance is fully paid for in Christ and that our citizenship is not here but rather with Christ in glory. In addition, this sometimes involves, as leaders, communicating advice that may be hard to receive – encouraging people to live within their means, to be satisfied with what God has provided, discern carefully who you should marry, and, where appropriate, to not expect handouts but to work hard (Genesis mandate; Ruth 2:3 – gleaning) for their daily bread. These are the harder and deeper issues that can only be communicated in the context of a loving relationship (speak the truth in love) with a person or family, and that are often very hard for them/us to receive. Sometimes this even results in people leaving the local body if they have trouble accepting the truth. Leaders should not be deterred from sharing the truth in love for fear of losing congregants.
  1. As leaders of a church body, how do/did you perceive the difference between needs & desires in a family who is chronically needy? And what process do/did you go through in order to maintain relationships with these people so that you can assess their needs, and use godly wisdom in discerning how to offer aid? How do you seek to fully bless those who need help of multiple sorts without depleting the congregation on a chronic basis?
    Being able to communicate with needy persons/families must be done in the context of loving relationships. This relationship comes by spending time with people as described above, which is the job of a shepherd. For those with multiple needs and being sensitive to not depleting the church, I think it appropriate to talk openly about all of the things above: spiritual perspective/understanding, choices and consequences, living within means, pursuing work, assessing resources and relationships from the individuals broader family and the extent to which they are committed to helping. At times, women in the church may be more able to discern needs and stay in touch with needy women, widows, etc. and then to communicate specific needs to the deacons or others in the church. We have several widows in our church and, while our deacons and other men are sometimes in touch with them, often there are one or two women in the church (known to the deacons) who specifically reach out and have the level of intimacy with the woman/widow that they can discern need and get permission to share specific needs with deacons/others. This is a very helpful and important ministry for several ladies in our body.
    I think there is biblical precedent for people to seek aid from family members for real needs (not wants). In addition, as shared above, there are many examples in Scriptures about caring for the poor and widows. From the church’s perspective I have always been struck with the description of the early church in Acts where they “had things in common” and “shared as each had needs.” The passage illustrates that this occurred in the context of close and intimate relationships within the body, living “life on life” together; viewing what God has provided to you with an “open hand.”  The church really needs to invest time and resources into building small group ministries where these type of relationships can be cultivated/fostered.  And this approach to material possessions, to our brothers and sisters in Christ, to understanding needs vs. wants, etc. needs to be taught from the Scriptures in sermons, Sunday School, small groups, recommended bible study materials, etc.

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I have thought about this much over the years, and one particular passage seems often to bridge the gap between “wants” and “needs”.

Matthew 6:31-34
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

 When many Christians consider verse 33 [But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you], they seem often to lament that though they have been singularly seeking the kingdom of God, not all the things they have expected have come their way. “I’ve been wholly dedicated to God, and yet I haven’t the money to send all my kids to college, and my husband has to work two jobs so that we can keep up… The kids so desperately need braces, and we haven’t had a family vacation in three years. Why would God keep from us ‘all these things’ that He promises when we are so faithful in petitioning Him?”
But, what is promised in this passage? Food, drink, clothing. Although there are, to be sure, many of our brothers and sisters around the world who truly are lacking much, those in our American churches certainly are not. Even the poorest parishioners in American churches are amongst the richest few percent of the world’s population.
Jesus nowhere promises health, wealth, and an upper middle class standard of living for everyone who goes to church. “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.” [Psalm 34:10] If God is true—and He is—then those that seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing. And, if godly Christians believe that their lives do lack certain good things that they believe the LORD has withheld from them, “let God be true but every man a liar.” [Romans 3:4] Either they are not seeking the Lord, or what they are presuming to be good things are not good things for them, from God’s perspective.
Is not a particular definition of envy, my desiring of things which others have and which God has denied to me? Is it not quite often the direct, predictable, and inexorable results of choices I make which have given me the lot which I now lament? Is it not also an ungodly envy which would covet those tangible blessings others might have who took a different path early on? While not downplaying the blessings of large families, children are predictably very expensive to raise in the fashion which our modern yearnings have accustomed us.
I do believe it is a blessing for brethren to help brethren where help is needed. However, egalitarianism within The Church is as great a cancer as it is the world. And, the expectation that all things being equal all things ought to be equal, all too often transgresses the tenth commandment.
This is a very challenging topic.

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Moving forward implies motion
when in all actuality it may be
simply standing still & seeing the salvation of the Lord.
~John Paul Warren~

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From a financial aspect, we have a second offering once a month for our Mercy Ministry efforts. This is what we use to help those in need (acute and chronic needs), both in the church and in the community. We’ve had a few repeat but not really chronic community needs. Not all needs are money related, but this is the pool of funds we use to meet those needs. For those in the church with chronic needs, we tend to limit the number of Deacons interacting with the individual. This is really only for communication about the needs being met. That way folks don’t have to repeat needs/stories and the couple of Deacons involved can build relationships better. This isn’t to keep others, including non-Deacons, from getting involved. We encourage that when appropriate, and it often is. It’s not like you have to be an ordained officer to serve someone. We have just found that familiar faces ease pride and embarrassment.

We try to encourage the generosity of the congregation. I know there are people helping people all the time that we as Deacons never even hear about. A lot of this comes from small groups helping each other. A lot also comes from the ladies in the church helping each other (i.e. childcare when sick or moving, rides, etc). Most of the larger financial needs go through the Deacons. I do know of some folks that have sponsored other men/women for retreats/conferences. This is frequently done without Deacon involvement, although our Mercy Ministry fund is occasionally used for this as well. We give a monthly update on the Mercy Ministry offering to the congregation to show how the funds are being used. We keep personal details private but give generalities. We often take that time to encourage service and mercy also. It also informs visitors and others that don’t know about what we do. It has just seemed odd to folks when we pass the plate a second time if you don’t consistently remind and inform what its purpose is.

Sermons are online, and CDs of sermons can be made and delivered. Our elders will visit the sick at home. We have a public prayer list emailed and printed weekly in the bulletin. All public information is only given out with permission. We offer rides to church for those that need it. Elders counsel when needed or requested. Counseling is frequently done by the teaching elders (i.e. paid pastoral staff). This isn’t driven by the elders but many just feel that they have to go to a pastor for counseling, but all the elders too are shepherds and are qualified for this.

Needs versus desires are tricky. This is where building relationships helps. It is where needs can be discovered even if not expressed/requested. It’s also a place were special gifts from individuals can help. Approaching a few individuals for help getting a kid a bike is an example. Sure, a bike is a desire and not a need. But the joy of a bike for a kid and to the single mother that could not provide or felt awkward asking for aid for a non-essential item is great to see. We recently had a person in the church with construction skills. He donated skill and the church paid for a bathroom renovation for a wheelchair bound member. We would not have known about this need without the close friends hearing about the strain it was to bathe and toilet this individual. If funds are available for desires, then we try to accommodate. We just recently helped a family travel to see the wife’s brother. Others in the family were gathering and she could not afford to go. She hadn’t seen her brother in several years and her family did not have the means to help her. We were thankful that we had enough to do this. When multiple needs arise, especially a large or recurring need, we try to prioritize somewhat roughly as follows: members, regular attenders, outside community.

We refer back to Micah 6:8 frequently.
There is a good book as well that the Deacons studied together along with our senior pastor: Generous Justice by Timothy Keller. One of my favorite quotes is the following: “If we are never obliged to relieve others’ burdens but only when we can do it without burdening ourselves, then how do we bear our neighbor’s burdens, when we bear no burden at all?” The book also mentions Deuteronomy 24:14-19. “If we read this text closely, we see that part of the landowner’s harvest was “for” the immigrant and poor. That means that in God’s eyes, it was actually theirs. If the owner did not limit his profits and provide the poor with an opportunity to work for their own benefit in the fields, he did not simply deprive the poor of charity but of justice, of their right. Why? A lack of generosity refuses to acknowledge that your assets are not really yours, but God’s.

Here is a Jonathan Edwards sermon as well that we discussed at one point. It was a little tough to get through at times for me. And there was another book (Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace by Harvie Conn) that I enjoyed, although not as much as Keller’s.

It’s a hard battle with the idea that some people are not worth the effort or not deserving of help. It’s especially hard when the needs arise from repeated mistakes or mismanagement from the one in need. We must remember that there are no gradations in the image of God. All are our neighbors (even if not our brother/sister), and we are commanded to love our neighbors. From a spiritual standpoint, we were not made to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. If God provided for us when we didn’t deserve or earn it, we shouldn’t withhold mercy/justice.

As far as seeking aid from family vs the church, that’s a case by case basis. Many don’t have family that can help or are willing to help. Others are not in a relationship with their family that would allow or be beneficial for them to seek aid from their family.

A lot of this is generic and not specific to the chronic situations. The basics (at least as I understand) are love God and love others. No restrictions. No partiality. Mercy isn’t deserved and it isn’t earned. Relationships are important but they are also messy and complicated.

From Generous Justice, “Always try to err on the side of being generous, and always keep your policies flexible and open to cases that don’t fit your categories.”

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If we do not lay ourselves out for the service of mankind,
whom are we to serve?
~Abigail Adams~

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~part of our series, Serving Those in The Church with Chronic Needs~

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Fifth: Thoughts from those Who Serve the Suffering


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It’s a beautiful heart,
not a perfect body,
that leads to a beautiful life.
~Stephanie Nielson~

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We just started at a new church the beginning of this year and it has been overwhelming (in a good way) to see people truly and intentionally care for people in the body. Right now, we have no official ministries but I see the hands and the feet of Christ just so eager to move and be who Christ has called us to be. I am so encouraged by it. Our church is really great about announcing and praying every week from the front about ongoing needs by name and situation (with permission beforehand) which is incredibly helpful, so I have been able to reach out from that information given. I think meeting the basic needs of fellowship and friendship are really important, especially since these people often probably feel forgotten or alone. Making meals, cards and snacks come naturally for me, but I think it really ministers to people…

I know sometimes the church has changed the location of a Bible study or choir rehearsal to my parents’ house so she could be there, and that meant the world to her. Chronic illness is so hard. My mom has had MS for almost 30 years, and she doesn’t want people to pity her or look at her as a project or ignore her insights. Sometimes it can feel like people get impatient with the lingering nature of the disease and are frustrated when they can’t “fix” things or when years of accommodating these special needs continue and continue. Once Mom had a dear friend whom she had lost touch with visit. She was thrilled! And then said friend pushed her belief that drinking more fruit juice would help mom be cured of the MS. I mean, really. …how annoying for a friend to say this. So I think for people with chronic illnesses the trick is figuring out how to walk alongside them, valuing their personhood and expertise (not “let me do everything for you because you’re so disabled”), and know that you need to be in it for the long haul cheerfully. It is very hard.

Our church has a dedicated care task group who visit people, make meals, etc. I think having sermons online helps to feel a bit more connected to what is going on in the church if they can’t make it. People can find chronic conditions in others frustrating. Teaching from the front can help (e.g. about suffering, loving each other, practical tips) to help people know what to do and say (or not say!). Maybe interviewing people might help too – if they don’t want to go public someone could perhaps give their answers on their behalf. There are books that could be promoted: ‘How Long O Lord‘ by Don Carson might be a bit tough for some people (I needed a dictionary at hand) but excellent theology.

Online sermons. Communion delivered to shut-ins by an elder. Pastors and elders make themselves available to visit the home bound and address any spiritual needs.

I don’t think our church really has a formal ministry like this, and honestly probably doesn’t do a good job with this either.  Most of this type of thing is delegated down to small group leaders to organize for the immediate needs, however that means that someone needs to have signed up with one and be attending a group. One of the issues I see is that my church is generally good about wanting to respond to an immediate need, whether it’s meals or benevolence.  But if it’s an ongoing thing, people just forget. The second or third (or more) times someone is in the hospital, no one visits or brings a meal.  I think anything that communicates to the family that they are not forgotten and are not walking this alone is so beneficial.  It is very easy to feel alone when you are dealing with chronic illness – both the one with the illness and their caretaker.  For someone that can’t leave the house much, I think visits for prayer and communion are helpful, as well as online sermons or CDs/DVDs if they don’t have a computer to watch.  Hospital visits are nice if it’s an extended stay, or meal(s) for them when they come home and are recovering so they don’t have to worry about transitioning home and cooking.  I think it’s also good to be aware of any special needs when thinking of church events so that the person doesn’t feel like they automatically can’t go.

For me, just having someone show compassion (vs. pity) is such a boost. And, if my pride doesn’t get in the way—which it often does!!!—food is a blessing (cookies, casseroles, etc.).

I had the privilege of helping a dear sweet older lady suffering from Leukemia. I helped prepare her meals, did basic housework, kept her hummingbird feeders full, and spent time getting to know her and just doing any little thing that needed doing. I even did some accounting/bookkeeping spread sheets for her on her laptop so she could keep track of her medical miles. I could see that it was really hard for her to go from being independent to being bedridden with little to no strength. I think that is really a difficult thing for anyone who is used to being so independent to be able to ask for help and accept it too. I think it is also frustrating for those who are suffering to look around and see things that need to be done and have the mental capability but not the physical capability.
One thing that I learned early on is that it’s so important to try and do things how they would want them done or how they were used to doing them. I may wash dishes differently at home but that doesn’t matter because I’m there to serve her in her home.
Sometimes, she just needed someone there just to talk to and take her mind off her health & troubles. I remember my friend saying it really bothered her when well-meaning people would send her books on leukemia and offer dietary suggestions etc. My friend had already read all the books, done a lot of research and was already on a very healthy diet even before she was diagnosed. She’d already gotten all the opinions and advice from her doctors and was doing all she could. It became tiring for her to listen to yet another suggestion that wasn’t guaranteed to improve her health, or if it was something she already tried in the past two years.
I also told her that if she couldn’t find anyone else to take her into town for appointments or errands, to please call me and I would re-arrange my schedule if need be.

Keep updated prayer lists which sometimes reflect who is feeling up to having visitors.

Pastor/elder visits, communion drop-off, putting recorded messages on our website, etc. Pay for cleaning service (usually once a month or once every 2 weeks, depending on the need). Help pay for medical costs that insurance doesn’t cover (eg. hardware for the home that is necessary to keep person mobile and more independent). All church volunteers for when they needed help moving.

I know what my gifts are, I know what my resources are, and I have a heart that longs to serve and bless – so I seek out those who are suffering, and try to find ways to bless them without needing to be told by a committee what to do. That being said, I can write notes of encouragement, I can drop off goodies, I can fill a freezer with food, I can help run an occasional errand… due to my own limitations, I can’t relieve medical bills or pay for housecleaning services… I seek wisdom through prayer in how I can serve as an individual.

[In my particular needs] I didn’t need people to do anything time consuming or special but just being invited to join in what they are already doing and be a part of their family and their life makes all the difference. Words are not enough but the action doesn’t have to be big to make a big difference. It makes me think of who else is out there that is lonely and I can reach out to, and also that I need to be willing to reach out to people and be honest, accepting that I’m not a bother to them because they really do love me with the love of Holy Spirit.

Life groups (or small groups) is how members minister to members in our church. It is expected that as needs arrive within your life group, it is up to the other life group members to meet those needs (everything except financial, which we have a church wide Barnabas fund to meet members financial needs). If the need is greater than the life group can address, then the life group leader reaches out to other life groups for additional help. Examples of things that lifegroups help members with are: moving, temporary child care, transportation issues, home repairs, painting, meals, cards for encouragement, etc. Now, where people fall through the cracks in our church is if they chose not to join a life group. People would still be willing to help these members, but sometimes their needs go unnoticed. We also have a deep freeze with frozen meals.

I don’t have the gift of cooking but I would be happy to go clean homes for a member. It is more difficult for me to sign up to bring a meal to someone (although I try to do that anyway) because it is not my gift. I did offer to clean someone’s home for them when the wife had a lot of on-going issues but wasn’t taken up on the offer. Perhaps there is someone else in the congregation with other gifts like cleaning or household repair that is just waiting for an invitation to use them. If there was a formal ministry that included cleaning members’ homes I would sign up to help out a bit but I feel weird asking if someone needs me to come by and clean for them.

The men in our church sign up to be called for electrical, plumbing, washer/dryer repairs, yard work etc. The women sign up to be called to clean house, drive someone to appointments, cook, or whatever.  Just last month we each made casseroles, soups and stew—we spent a Saturday morning packaging and freezing meals.

I think, more than anything, the suffering need a listening ear. They need someone who genuinely cares about what they are going through even if we can’t fully understand the depths of that suffering. They need someone to rely on, who will be there for them and come to visit them on a regular basis. They can rest and relax so much easier if they know the basics are being taken care of: dishes, house cleaning, watering of plants/landscape, mowing of the grass, meal prep and so forth. My friend loved it when I brought her flowers or a jar of home-pressed apple juice or a little card I’d made. Even a phone call can be a blessing if you can’t physically be there. I would encourage everyone to reach out and see how you can help someone who is suffering: it was very eye opening to me in a lot of ways and helped me grow in compassion and empathy toward those who are chronically ill.

I am not on church leadership or any kinds of committees (nor do I plan to be at any point in the future), and my husband is no longer a deacon or in any official capacity either. But we are people who want (and believe it is our Christian privilege as well as duty) to serve, encourage, bless, and be active in the body of Christ. I have a vision of buying a stand-alone freezer for our church, and being in charge of filling it and using it as a freezer meal bank—but this is a future hope/goal, and not something the Lord has yet equipped my family to accomplish. I also write a few notes of encouragement to people each week, and pray diligently for them—I know the incalculable value of written encouragement and the unseen mysterious ministry of prayer, so I jump into those actions with as much gusto as I can.
~Melissa Joy~


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~part of our series, Serving Those in The Church with Chronic Needs~

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Fourth: Personal Testimonial Series


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Aren’t all these notes the senseless writhings of a man
who won’t accept the fact that there is
nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?
Who still thinks there is some device (if only he could find it)
which will make pain not to be pain.
It’s doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair
or let your hands lie in your lap.
The drill drills on.
~C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, p38~
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~today we will hear from the hearts of Sara, Abra, Alex~

Ladies, thank you for sharing these glimpses into your lives,
these windows into your hearts as we continue a difficult discussion.
Thank you for giving me personally an opportunity to see how you suffer,
to see where the Lord is working,
to see where my prayers can be directed & my hands may serve.
Thank you for suffering with grace, joy, endurance, and dignity.
Please know that you and your families
are also particularly in my prayers this week.

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1. What kind of ministry(ies) does your church have for those who have chronic needs?

Sara~ Ah, I don’t think we have a particular ministry. We regularly organize meals, but usually that’s up to the discretion of the community group. People also fill out prayer request cards that are prayed for during the long prayer, or people post updates/requests on the church’s Facebook page.

Abra~ We are currently in between churches since we moved, so I will answer as though I were still a part of my most recent and beloved church family. It has been relatively easy to access to pastors, mentors and councillors. I have in the past and it was often a blessing.

Alex~ I am fairly new to our church (in the last two years) and I think our church largely meets most needs—or at least relies on the congregation to surface those needs—through “community groups” or small groups.  I am unaware of any ongoing official ministry to those with chronic illness or chronic needs; however, that may just mean that it hasn’t been publicized or I haven’t asked for help in the right places.
At my church, community group leaders are responsible for setting up meals for critical needs, like after a baby is born or surgery, but there has never been a formal offering of help to me or a ministry mentioned in my struggle with chronic arthritis. I have had other married women and mothers from my community groups offer childcare to help me a few times, which has been humbling and beautiful, and I have taken them up on it many times. However, I often feel guilty—knowing they have families, jobs, and responsibilities of their own.

2. What kind of specific things would you find personally helpful for your church body to step up for?

Sara~ I’m not sure personally, but I know that my friends with long term health issues tend to struggle with the financial part.

Abra~ In the past, I definitely would have said financial aid with medical bills. During one of my hyperemetic pregnancies, the medication to sustain the pregnancy was costing $100 a week (this was after insurance paid the other $900 a week for it). Since that kind of cash wasn’t in our budget, our church stepped in and offered to cover the expense which made it possible for me to stay home for the duration of my pregnancy instead of being hospitalized.  At another church, friends helped set up a regular schedule in which church members helped us with cleaning, childcare and meals while I was on bedrest. It was an incredible gift for my whole family.
During my current struggle with mental health, I would welcome help with my children from time to time. Aside from frequent doctor visits during which babysitting would be appreciated, there are several days when I struggle to have the energy and focus required to be an involved mother for my kids. On those days, I feel horribly guilty for allowing them to watch a lot of tv and would love for them to be able to get out of the house and have some fun!

Alex~ My community group meets weekly, except for set breaks, and they would be responsible for praying for my health, asking about my needs, etc.  I cannot quite discern why I feel unsupported by them—this actually culminated recently when I sent out a detailed prayer request to the women of the group, a week prior to my starting the Enbrel treatment—asking desperately for their prayers that the medication would help, and sharing (quite vulnerably) about my physical pain, my fear and anxiety about the pain continuing indefinitely, and my other struggles. I received only a few responses to an email sent to almost 10 women: some responded a week or so later, and some never responded at all. I have cried many tears over this… and spent hours talking to my husband about it… and I do not want to judge them or become bitter in any way. I want God to search my heart to find any way in me that may be self-seeking or self-pitying and for Him to open my eyes to the ways others are suffering and perhaps unable to meet me where I am in my pain.
Childcare would occasionally be a huge help. I don’t have family in the area and I have many, many doctor appointments between my endocrinologist and rheumatologist. I would love childcare for the appointments, or for a date night (I hope that doesn’t sound selfish!), since we use up almost all of our babysitting money for appointments and childcare for our community group.  At $10 an hour, it is becoming financially unfeasible to pay for a babysitter.
Due to my specific dietary needs, meals are less helpful. However, cards, encouraging notes or even just an email or text message, a bouquet of flowers—some reminder that they are praying for me—these mean the world to me, and the fact that I haven’t had that support has made me feel so very alone. I believe, in part, it is because my illness is invisible. I’m not in a wheelchair at church services; I am still, Lord willing, able to sing in front of the congregation (even though I need to rest the whole afternoon afterwards), and I don’t have any obvious physical signs of suffering—so I do think that people who don’t know me well, and have only known me for two years period, forget.
House cleaning would also be a humbling, beautiful gift. Especially this past winter, without any family nearby, I felt so very alone and forgotten. My children had many illnesses, we all got a stomach virus, and I got the actual flu. There were afternoons when I was in bed just crying and crying and crying, asking God, “Where is the help? How will I be able to cook dinner for my children?” There were nights when they had slices of bread in front of the television because that is all I was able to manage.

3. What do you wish your church leaders knew about chronic need? In what specific ways would you be particularly blessed by your church leadership?

Sara~ I think our church leaders are pretty in tune with chronic needs as our pastor has chronic health issues. I would say that our church is really good at making sermons available and having live streaming and doing prayer requests. Our church is also really Facebook active so people post prayer requests on there regularly if they want. I feel like there’s a lot of people in our church with health issues so there’s a lot of empathy going on, but people I think feel too overwhelmed to do much more. 

Abra~ I do appreciate listening to sermons online several times a week that encourage my spirit and keep me focused on Christ. Personally, I wish church leaders were more able to demonstrate compassionate towards those with illnesses they don’t understand. It can be quite frustrating to see how quickly the church (rightly) responds to physical illness when they seem so hesitant to even acknowledge mental illness. I am, however, thankful to have many friends who pray for and with me even when they can’t relate to what I am going through.

Alex~ My church offers online access to the sermons, which was especially helpful in the winter when I was unable to get to the physical church building.
My desire would be for church leaders to be aware, perhaps, of those in different life-stages who might be willing to help in some way—older mothers who would be willing to watch two additional children, or those who might be able to clean. Most of my contacts in this new hometown of ours are young mothers with children who have very little margin of time to help others.
Thankfully, the Lord has put a grandmother-aged woman from my Bible study in my life as an emotional support to me.  She is not a member of my church but another in the area, and she has prayed for me and I see it as the beginning of a mutually beneficial friendship.
I think one of the weaknesses of relying on community groups is that everyone in our particular group is a young mother, busy with their own children. The beauty of my new older friend is that she has many open hours that she would love to devote to prayer, so a ministry of people who love to pray and have space for it already in their hearts, would be wonderful.
When I had acute needs during an extremely high-risk pregnancy, my home church at the time had a prayer ministry pray for my pregnancy, and several members of the congregation sent me cards to encourage my heart. I can’t tell you how much those cards lifted my spirits and quite literally pushed back the darkness and fear I felt—I still have them today. I would love to know that someone was praying for me and would love to receive an encouraging card or note, even though my illness now is chronic rather than acute.
Another thing that would help would be financial assistance. I am crying as I’m writing this, knowing this has been a huge fear and worry for me lately, given the cost of my medication on an ongoing monthly basis. As of right now, I will be on this medication the rest of my life—It is not a short-term course in any way, and it is (to put it lightly) very expensive. I am thankful to God for it and I know He will provide for my needs. He has in the past and He will continue to do so.
The cost of my dairy- and gluten-free diet and the monthly cost of all of my medications in total has been challenging to us. I am not buying any new clothes, we are not going on a vacation we planned…I know these are small sacrifices—VERY SMALL. But any assistance, even a grocery store gift card, would mean the world to me.
Again, I am crying thinking of the gratitude of being seen in that way by the Body of Christ.

4. What do you wish your friends and fellow congregants knew about asking how you are, praying for you, helping with practical needs, etc?

Sara~ Hmmm, not sure. I think letting my community group know my needs would be the first step. Also asking for prayer on Facebook is one of the most common ways of letting the church know about health issues.

Abra~ I am relatively public about my condition but tend to reserve the private details. Unlike having a broken arm or a bad hip, mental illness is more nuanced and tends to invite (often hurtful) skepticism. Unless a friend is heavily involved in my life, someone asking how I am doing can feel overwhelming and intrusive. If I simplify my response, I feel as though I were lying or complaining. Alternatively, to explain would be difficult and time-consuming. I am thankful when my brothers and sisters in Christ remind me that I am in their prayers, without asking for details. I sincerely appreciate it when they offer to help without asking me if I need help. I feel much shame and guilt over my struggles, and talking about it with someone I don’t know very well makes me feel vulnerable and unsafe. All that said, my closest friends and family members check in with me regularly to see how I am doing which is incredibly encouraging.

Alex~ Please ask, and please offer—not generally, but specifically. Instead of asking something general, like, “how are you?” or (my least-favorite question/statement) “are you feeling better?/I hope you’re feeling better”—asking something specific, like “how is your medication working for you lately?” or “has it been a good pain week or bad pain week?” allows me to share God’s victories and also my moments of sadness.  It seems that most people simply always want to hear that I’m feeling “better”—but the truth is that a life of chronic illness is really just about ups and downs, good days and bad days, and I would like to share all of that. I would also much rather share about my spiritual health than just the nitty gritty of doctor appointments and medication changes. A wonderful question would be, “how is your relationship with God given all the pain you suffer?”  or “how has your illness impacted your faith lately?”
As for offers for help, again I would plead with people to be specific. I have heard from a few people, “you could drop off the kids if you ever need help or need to rest,” but there is little follow up or discussion of when that would work in their schedule. Something as specific as, “I have Tuesday afternoons free, and would love to babysit. Would some Tuesday work for you this month?” would be such a blessing.
Just share what you have, and do what you are able to do. When we all had a rotavirus on top of my arthritis this past winter, and I was desperate, I reached out to a neighbor to ask her to bring me some Pedialyte for the children. She also brought me a candle, some flowers, and a few roll-on bottles of essential oils. She didn’t ask me if I “needed” those things; she just generously brought them, knowing they would lighten my load and bring beauty into my sadness. Months later, I am still thanking God for her and for that gift.
Being able to write about this is a blessing in itself, because I think one of my greatest emotional pains in this whole journey is how alone I have felt, and in particular, how unsupported I have felt both from my community group (a couples’ small group) and from the church at large. It honestly is not from lack of sharing about my disease—which I talk about almost weekly—or accepting help when people offer. I have wrestled a lot internally and with God on this issue—is it the invisible nature of my illness, is it that I am still striving so hard to “look perfect” when I go out or have people over that they think I couldn’t possibly need any assistance…? I often ask myself, do I need to be more honest?  Do I need to ask for things specifically? I am searching my heart on these issues, but I am in tears just thinking about how more support from my church would lift both my physical burdens and my spirits.

Suffering is nothing by itself.
But suffering shared with the passion of Christ
is a wonderful gift,
the most beautiful gift,
a token of love.
~Mother Theresa~
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~next time, in our fifth focused entry in the discussion of serving those in our churches with chronic suffering (chronic physical illness, chronic mental illness, chronic pain, and so many other various manifestations of suffering…), we will hear from a large smattering of church members from all types of varied church bodies… some of the input will be from the perspective of those who are suffering, some of the input will be from those who are serving the suffering, and of course sometimes that overlaps… so stay tuned, and be prepared to comment as a way of joining the conversation~

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In the meantime, let us continue in our prayers
for the Lord to be at work in our own hearts
and in our own churches.
Pray for your own eyes to be opened to the suffering around you
so that your prayers can be tuned specifically,
your hands can labor to bless others,
your family can find unique ways to come alongside those in your church
who would be blessed by whatever gifts you have been equipped to share.
Pray for your own heart to be softened, also,
if you are suffering in any way.
Pray that you would have immense grace in your heart
toward those around you,
both those who are obviously serving you
and those who you don’t feel or see reaching out.
Pray that each of us would be open to the leading of Christ
in whatever way we particularly need grown, strengthened, challenged~
so that our spirits would be nourished,
our anxieties would be put to rest,
our burdens would be lifted,
our bodies resigned to where the Lord has called us.

May Christ be glorified in us and through us.

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There is a purpose of suffering,
and if faced rightly it can drive us like a nail
deep into the love of God
and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.
~Timothy Keller~

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~part of our series, Serving Those in The Church with Chronic Needs~

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Third: Personal Testimonial Series


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When we,
any of us who have been transformed by Christ,
tell our own stories,
we’re telling the story of who God is.

~Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, p238~
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~today we will hear from the hearts of Louise, Carolina, Rachel~

Ladies, thank you for sharing these glimpses into your lives,
these windows into your hearts.
Thank you for giving me personally an opportunity to see where you suffer,
to see where the Lord is working,
to see where my prayers can be directed & my hands may serve.
Thank you for suffering with grace, joy, endurance, and dignity.
Please know that you and your families
are particularly in my prayers this week.


1. What kind of ministry(ies) does your church have for those who have chronic needs?

Louise~ Our church supplies meals more than any church I have ever been a part of – it is amazing. They never ask questions like, “shouldn’t you be done needing this by now?” It is phenomenal. Praise the Lord for this. I couldn’t be more thankful.

Carolina~ We are blessed with a church that preaches and teaches the truth of scripture week in and week out without a worry, but they have no idea how to help families with chronic needs—and it isn’t because we haven’t asked.
Our church does not have a ministry set up for chronic needs; although they have tried, it hasn’t worked yet. They have said they will jump in a crisis like if one of us were in the hospital, had lots of nights in the ER, so on and so forth. They are amazing at jumping in when there is something acute like that, but what they don’t realize is that I’m pretty much in a crisis every other day. If I have a long doctor’s appointment I’m usually down and out for a few days and very sick that night, so it would be nice for my husband to have some freezer meals on nights like that. We have a church of 500 people and I know they don’t want people to get burnt out with making meals each week, but it’s not sinking in that my husband is hanging by a string being both mom and dad, and it grieves me to see him so exhausted! I know this could be the issue anywhere we go, but as a chronically ill mommy, I’m seeing a huge gap in people having no clue how to help—it makes me want to jump in and teach.
I have heard it said that chronic needs become a normal part of a person’s life which needs to be figured out by those individuals in order not to burn out those in the church who are helping. However I don’t believe this is biblical and this is probably an area where our individualistic culture in America has bled into the American church and told us that people are to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and not expect handouts or freebies, and expecting such means you are lazy rather than hard working. Paul tells us why not rather be defrauded and to bear one another’s burdens—and Christ tells us when someone asks for something, to give more. The early church in Jerusalem had a system set up where everyone brought their resources together and it was distributed back out to the brethren according to their needs. It would be naive and too American to believe this just refers to critical sudden needs that are not ongoing.
I have poured my heart out of my need for help—with my kids, meals, groceries, and my longing for an older Titus 2 type woman or pastor’s wife to check on me weekly (even if it was just a call or prayer over the phone for emotional & spiritual support). When I was asked about freezer meals, I said two a week would be amazing but even one would be a huge blessing; but we were told this was too much to ask for the church to do indefinitely. We are thankful for a very few women who have sacrificed their time, and even asked my forgiveness for not realizing we are in true need sooner! We are thankful for these families that have given of themselves.
The Church seems to want to help spiritually but they don’t know how at times and give up. Helping people with chronic needs is messy, painful, and takes great sacrifice. I’m sure we can find many Scriptures that teach us just that.  Romans 12:1-2 comes to my mind, because our pastor preached about using our bodies as sacrifices to others, in serving the weaker brother.

Rachel~ Nothing specific is set up. A few times someone has given me a meal, one of which was recently when I was dealing with something that would fall under “critical illness/need.”


2. What kind of specific things would you find personally helpful for your church body to step up for?

Louise~ Our church has offered us anything we need. I think of how in a time of great need, our church supplied ladies to come and stay with us for extended periods of time. Praise the Lord for this! It was so beautiful.

Carolina~ So many specific things would be extremely helpful while keeping in mind the family with these needs should have an individualized plan that is approved by the family in order to implement it in a way that is helpful rather than more stressful. One thing we find difficult is that many times the same few people who want to help have many needs of their own and are the only ones helping—they are getting burnt out while those with no needs are getting fat on life. One of our pastors said we cannot use busyness as an excuse—God will not take that excuse on judgement day. Many of us waste time on Facebook, watching stupid television shows (many of which we would be too embarrassed to invite Jesus over to watch with us), or doing too many things that are good in and of themselves but we are using them to avoid obedience to Romans chapter 12 verses 1 through 2.  This mentality must be defeated through direct preaching, good examples set by those who help, and much prayer. I think people are amazing if someone is dying: they just give and give until that person dies, and the same way if someone has cancer and gets better. But as someone that has multiple chronic diseases that I will most likely have forever on this side of heaven—people have no clue!

Rachel~ I had two people just recently ask if I needed housecleaning or meals set up through Helping Hands (where people can sign up to give a meal – used for critical needs). But I was caught off guard and didn’t voice my thoughts that with my current dietary restrictions it felt too complicated, awkward, and inconvenient to have people give me meals. Alternatively, I’d love to have help prepping a bunch of meals to stock my freezer. That way I could figure out the recipes that fit my current dietary restrictions.
If we weren’t getting our house cleaned already, I would have taken that offer! When we had someone start cleaning our house weekly, I gained back the 3-4 days per week that I used to spend in bed recovering from cleaning the bathroom and vacuuming! That time regained helps alleviate some of the practical, emotional and relational challenges.
I am so thankful that I have found a doctor closer than my previous one, and that my husband is able to drive me. If that were not the case, I’d be in trouble, because sometimes I cannot safely drive.
Housecleaning, meals in some form, and transportation can be very important.
One creative way a friend blessed me was saying she had something for me and asked if she could stop by after she put the kids to bed. She showed up with cheerful gerbera daisies, a yard and home magazine, fancy cheese and crackers, and a chocolate bar. Then she stayed a bit and we talked about decorating and books. It was super fun, super sweet, and definitely something I remember fondly.
This spring I am once again reminded of another church families’ special, creative kindness to us. A gal and her daughter came over to our rental house and together they planted tulip and daffodil bulbs in the beds around our yard. Each spring I drink in the pink and yellow blooms. Their color and beauty brighten, refresh and enliven my world, helping make my home feel like a sanctuary.


3. What do you wish your church leaders knew about chronic need? In what specific ways would you be particularly blessed by your church leadership?

Louise~ I need to hear more of a message of hope and the power of the resurrection for vibrant living. Having a chronic illness makes me low emotionally, so I need to hear about my identity in Christ from the pulpit. I hear about my sin, my weaknesses, my shortcomings, but I need to hear about the victorious life I have in Christ—even if I am to live disabled for life and cannot accomplish 1/10th of what I think I should or want to. This would minister to me more than any physical thing. I need my self esteem to be built up so my eyes are put back on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith—but in a positive light. I know that hard teaching creates soft hearts, but sometimes when life is hard day in & day out and our bodies waste away, I need to hear more good news from the pulpit. No holds bar—just the power of life in Christ—that it can be just victorious.

Carolina~ It should be a church burden not just an individual burden.
Prayer during the service would be good, and could be a continual reminder that there is a brother or sister that is prevented from being there with them every week.
A small study that is simple with little homework in the home of the sick person would be helpful: this should be with a few people that are completely trusted by the sick person. Also, don’t forget the caregivers (spouses), as they have very unique particular needs as well—It would be good for them to have a confidant.
Elders coming to lay hands and pray for healing, read Scripture, and try to strengthen the sick person’s face without lecturing, finger pointing, or being theologically nitpicky about the sick person’s words.
If you don’t know what to say, it’s okay: say you’re sorry, you just don’t know what to say. That lets the sick person know you recognize the gravity of their situation. It’s okay to be silent and just mourn. Job’s comforters were not considered miserable comforters while they were silent and wept for 7 days, but rather when they opened their mouths in response to Job’s painful expressions of grief.
It would be good for elders to read on chronic illnesses and for presentations to be given on suffering families’ needs and limitations so everyone will not jump to conclusions on what’s really wrong, then judge based on bad information or assumptions.

Rachel~ I make it to church most Sundays. If I didn’t, communion delivered would be welcome. (However, my first thought when I read that suggestion was that on some days I can’t even predict when I’ll be okay enough to shower, so setting a time for someone to come by with communion could be stressful. I guess if I was in that situation, we’d figure something out.)
Early on, I really appreciated my health being prayed for during corporate prayer (especially when we were at a bigger church and others’ specific health needs were being prayed for also). But at our newer, smaller church after a few months of medical answers being elusive and treatments having little effect, I can understand why they stopped. Illnesses with elusive diagnoses and treatments are awkward, so why keep praying for this or that treatment to hopefully work? (This shows the unintended ignorance about the other aspects of chronic needs.) I have learned, however, that I am not the only one with ongoing physical pain/needs. Someone has frequent bouts of migraines, another has Hashimoto’s and fatigue, one family has a handful of things they are dealing with. At least 5 of our 40-some adults have ongoing health difficulties.
One of the things I would most appreciate is prayer for us as a group—I don’t need to be singled out. To have our ongoing physical, emotional, relational and spiritual challenges bathed in prayer would be a huge encouragement!


4. What do you wish your friends and fellow congregants knew about asking how you are, praying for you, helping with practical needs, etc?

Louise~ Don’t ask how I am if you aren’t ready for a torrential rainstorm.
Don’t ask how I am if you are in the space to compare yourself with me.
Pain makes the flesh strong – it makes the spirit weak.
Don’t preach to me: when I read the book of Job, my first temptation is to think, “well, what Bildad or Zophar, or Eliphaz said sounds right: they were just defending God.” The fundamental problem was that they put themselves “on the same side of the table as God”—as one wise lady told me. God doesn’t need a defender—a falling brother needs a hand up. We are to run this race together, which disallows me from striving with you. I will stop running altogether if you judge me. Job’s counselors made it appear to Job as though they were on God’s side while he was across the table.
There is a helpful old saying by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: “Advice is like snow; the softer it falls the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into, the mind.”
Don’t feel pity for me. Help me find a way to feel valuable. Help me find a way to be useful. Help me find a way to be a part of your life and needs—even though I am very limited. Don’t decide for me what I can or can’t do based off of what you think my family needs. That is for my husband and me to decide, not you. It only hurts and it isn’t helpful.

Carolina~ Don’t abandon your friends just because they can’t do all the fun things they used to be able to do.
If you are going to offer help, offer specific things that you know you can do to help instead of giving a blank cheque offer and later having to retract your offer, which can discourage the sick person. Even the small things help, like giving a kid a ride to school, dropping off takeout for dinner, calling on the phone for 5 minutes to pray for the sick person, offering to mow their lawn, taking the sick person’s kids over to your house for a playdate so the sick person and caregiver can take a break.
Give random money gifts if God is giving you extra as it is always safe to assume there are extra medical costs, and there is likely a shortage of money since chances are only the caregiver is working but missing some work to begin with to help the sick person on really bad days.
Be willing to accept the sick person’s new limitations and don’t expect him/her to be the way they used to be and do the things they used to do. This is who they are now, and we are called to accept that and help them in whatever way we can.
When you see a need, help be their voice to others (with their permission).
I am hurt and pushed when people don’t really know how sick I am and how much it hurts—that’s probably what I’m struggling with most of all right now.
We pray the Lord will use our pain and suffering to help others who are suffering, and also to educate others on how to help families with chronic needs. Many hands helping would make a lighter load for many families suffering with chronic illness or children with severe disabilities.

Rachel~ Realizing life with chronic illness is not well understood, I’ve begun talking about my challenges more with people I see on Sundays. Some seem to understand because they are dealing with something similar themselves. Others appear to think that since I am there and standing, I must be okay. Sometimes just getting out of bed and getting ready to go somewhere is an event in itself. They don’t know what it takes out of me to simply get out of the house.
“How are you?” can be difficult to answer. Do I say that I am not doing well; or that it’s been a hard week; or that I’ve been struggling emotionally, spiritually or physically, especially when it’s the same truthful answer week after week? Sometimes I sense the expectation that this time I should feel better. And what do I say when the truth would be that I just feel like quitting; or I’m feeling guilt and stress about not being able to meet my husband’s needs; or I just feel so alone in this? But the kindness of a genuine inquiry is endearing and builds confidence and trust.
A good way for someone to get a peek into the life of someone with chronic needs would be to ask “When you are feeling unwell, what does your day look like?” or “What is it like to live with your chronic illness on a daily or weekly basis?” Because there can be much loneliness, the sincerity of someone seeking to understand our situation can be encouraging in itself.
Chronic illness affects not only the individual who is physically afflicted, but also the spouse and family. We had no “honeymoon period.” Frequent bouts of being house- or bed-bound, coupled with low tolerance for sound, light, or touch during these times, and just scraping along with managing the home has greatly affected both the quality and quantity of our time spent together. My husband has the extra, often invisible, role of caretaker for me, as well as picking up the slack with household duties that I often cannot do.
If someone in the congregation has learned to live well with chronic illness or the pain of broken dreams, sharing that would be a gift to those of us who struggle daily with these challenges. Even while we continue to search for answers, I want to learn how to live well and be fruitful where God has placed me now. Is there someone who can teach us how to do that?
My husband says he struggles with empathy, not knowing what to do to help, nor understanding how my fatigue affects our physical relationship.
We don’t often initiate doing things with friends. I tend to hesitate because I’m not sure how I will be feeling when the time comes, or I’ve worn myself out trying to get caught up during a period of feeling okay. It has been hard on my husband to become somewhat disconnected from his friends. Since we don’t do much socially as a couple, he needs to get out of the house and meet up with a friend or two a couple times a month for some fun and refreshment.
For some with chronic illness, it is difficult to host but would be lovely if other couples initiated.

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~tomorrow we will continue the personal testimonial series,
hearing from the hearts of three more dear women~

In the meantime, would you join me in praying for the Lord to
reach His hands into these homes, touch these suffering saints, and uplift their souls by the power of His Spirit?
Pray for our church leaders to be full of grace, and speak the truth in love.
Pray for our congregants to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Pray for our burdens to be shared, and in so doing,
multiply the strength of our local church bodies.
Pray for eyes to be opened, hearts to be humbled,
bodies to be healed, tears to be bottled,
hands to work diligently, prayers to be offered as sweet sacrifices.

For the glory of Christ’s Kingdom
and for the blessing of His people
while we await His Heavenly Jerusalem
and in the meantime toil in His kingdom on earth.


Good duties must not be pressed and beaten out of us,
as the waters came out of a rock when Moses smote it with his rod;
but must freely drop from us, as myrrh from the tree, or honey from the comb.
~Thomas Watson~

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~part of our series, Serving Those in The Church with Chronic Needs~

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