SECOND: RESOURCES, OPENING MY EYES
TO SEE CHRONIC SUFFERING
… … … … …
I wanted to pray but had no idea what to say,
as if struck dumb by my own pain.
Groans became the only language I could use,
if even that,
but I believed it was language enough for God to understand.
~Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised, p43~
When the Lord put it on my heart a month or two ago to begin praying more for my friends who have particular chronic suffering (which I myself have experienced in particular, probably smaller, forms), I wanted to know how to find out more. I googled for a lot of things. I went back to some books that encouraged me in my own forms of suffering (like grief or depression) to see how they might (or might not) be pertinent for people with chronic pain, chronic illness, mental illness, etc. I read Scriptures, especially Psalms, with these friends on my heart. I wrote some prayers with them in mind. And most importantly, I asked questions. I emailed my friends (as that is the way I tend to communicate with the majority of people, but particularly with these friends), asking them questions about their suffering, about what they need, about what help they receive, about how their husbands & families & church bodies encourage them. I received a variety of responses, and getting those specific glimpses into the hearts of these women (yes, these are all women who I know with these chronic needs… and all but one are married… all but two have children to care for…) gave me particular insight into how their lives are effected by their various suffering, and how their hearts are both uplifted & downtrodden in turn.
Pain insists upon being attended to.
God whispers to us in our pleasures,
speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains:
it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
Please participate in this conversation, by considering these links and books, by sharing this with people you know who would be challenged or blessed by these things, by commenting here with questions or experiences or additional resources, and by praying for the Lord to work even in your own family to see where suffering is around you—in yourself, in your home, in your neighborhood, in your local church body—and ask Him to grant you whatever particular grace He needs to speak into your heart.
Do you need to humble yourself to receive more assistance? Do you need to embolden yourself to ask for more assistance? Do you need to lower your expectations for what kind of help you need, wisely discerning between needs and desires? Do you need to heighten the demands you put on yourself for seeing where your hands can labor, your prayers can bless, and your gifts can be showered? Ask the Lord to open your eyes and soften your heart in whatever direction would most glorify Him—and ask Him, then, for the strength and fortitude to follow Him with joy!
…We laughed, even me,
sincerely and happily,
but yet, I still ached in my soul.
~Ben Palpant, A Small Cup of Light, p97~
Soon I will share responses from the hearts of these women themselves. We will look at some Scriptures and meditate thereon. And then we will also hear, Lord willing, from a couple various church leaders for the perspective that comes on the side of sacrificial service and rallying the body of Christ toward love and good works. But today, let’s look at these links and browse these books—see what you can glean here, whether you are bed-ridden with illness or homebound with suffering, or whether you are strong & equipped to be serving hands filled with grace to those who are, or even whether your own current station in life doesn’t necessarily allow you (honestly) to lend time or finance to the suffering around you but at least to offer prayers and encouragement through words…
My prayer today is that the Lord would prick us by His Spirit, put our roots down amongst our family & church family, grow vibrant blossoms on our vines, and drop our fruit with abandon upon everyone around us. Amen.
One of Jesus’ early and great followers,
the apostle Paul, wrote once that
it is not what we have achieved
but what we are striving for that counts.
~Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised, p91~
LINKS FOR THE SUFFERING & THOSE SERVING THE SUFFERING:
SUGGESTED BOOKS FOR VARIOUS TYPES OF (primarily longterm) SUFFERING:
A Cypress Will Grow by Amy Chai
A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada
A Reluctant Journey by Kristen Grathwol
A Small Cup of Light by Ben Palpant
Be Still, My Soul edited by Nancy Guthrie
Beyond Pain: Job, Jesus, and Joy by Maureen Pratt
Bound by Illness, Freed by Grace by Maureen Brady
Chronic Pain by Rob Prince
Chronic Resilience by Danea Horn
Coping With Chronic Illness by H. Norman Wright
Doing Well at Being Sick by Wendy Wallace
Empty by Cherie Hill
Fibromyalgia: God’s Grace for Chronic Pain Sufferers by Robert Smith
Healing Prayers by Lauren Wilder
Holding on to Hope by Nancy Guthrie
Just Show Up by Kara Tippetts
Living Well With Chronic Illness by Richard Cheu
Mended by Angie Smith
Ministering to those in Chronic Pain by Susan Gerberding
Miserable Joy by Jason Nelson
Mosaic Moments by Lisa Copen
Pain and Providence by Joni Eareckson Tada
Sick and Tired of Feeling Sick and Tired by Paul Donoghue and Mary Siegel
Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine
Struck Down but Not Destroyed by Douglas Wiegand
Suffering and the Sovereignty of God edited by John Piper
The Beauty of Pain by Judy Dillard
The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts
The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford
The One Year Book of Hope by Nancy Guthrie
The Works of Ann Bradstreet by Ann Bradstreet
What if Your Blessings Came through Raindrops by Laura Story
When The Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper
You Don’t Look Sick by Joy Selak and Steven Overman
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~part of our series, Serving Those in The Church with Chronic Needs~
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6 Replies to “Second: Resources, Opening My Eyes to See Chronic Suffering”
One of the hardest things of suffering is the hope given by medical procedures that are torturous in themselves. After each such procedure a length of time is given for “healing” or getting better. When the awaited time arrives, very little change has occurs so something else is suggested. It is the repetition of this anticipated hope that is cause for much despair. I know God has a perfect plan and try to remember His sovereignty but hope is tenuous in such times and grace to get through each day is sorely needed.
Jackie, yes, I can totally see that! I have seen that in a couple of my friends with chronic physical pain & illness; that cycle of hope, mingled with expensive and/or painful treatments (diets, pills, surgeries, whathaveyou…), and then the letdown if that hope is disappointed & unfulfilled. Oh! that cycle is just heavy beyond imaginable weight, for sure.
In my own journey (which has had let chronic illness/pain, my own chronic suffering having a different root), I have experienced my own version of the cycle of grief-treatment-hope-grief-treatment-hope-grief-treatment-hope… and I know in my own longing to overcome my body’s immune problems so that I could bear children to raise (rather than straight to the glories of heaven), that cycle is physically, mentally, spiritually, and even financially debilitating.
Thank you for pointing that out! What a very timely and pertinent reminder.
I would really love to know if you have specific thoughts on how to come alongside someone who is in the midst of that tenuous hope or torturous despair (wherever they are on the cycle).
I know in my case, I’ve blamed myself for the treatments and medications not working. Even when I know I did everything right, deep inside there’s a feeling of guilt. Guilt for having the affliction itself wears me down at times. Just assurance that it’s not my fault gives rest. Family and friends are riding the same wave of feelings. Their eyes and expressions betray them without their knowledge. Sometimes it’s best to talk to someone who is not so close to protect loved ones from anymore negative feelings. (Another burden to carry it seems.) Just being able to pour out my difficulties without judgement or advice or pity or guilt can be a soothing balm. It is something needed in our churches but left out of many. A phone call can be enough to bring encouragement. Other times a meeting in person is needed when trials are at their peak. Someone who will approach the throne of grace when I can’t find the words even though I know the Holy Spirit hears my groaning. I know there must be some people with this gift of listening and praying who aren’t using it. Some of your prayers I’ve clung to lately because my mind is so busy I can’t put words together sensibly. In the depths of despair, God seems to far. I need to be reminded He’s still hearing my cries. In all this, I remember my suffering is nothing compared to His sacrifice. I hope I’ve given you some information you are seeking so others may benefit. (On a personal note, my middle name is Joy)
Jackie, thank you again for sharing your heart here! May the Lord be with you and bless you exactly where He has you. (((hugs))) And one thing I am noticing is a running thread that emphasizes to me that it doesn’t even matter quite so much HOW we come alongside those who are suffering, but simply that we DO IT… that we pick up that phone or send that notecard, that we find them in the back of the sanctuary at church (and if they come late &/or leave early, make it a point to get up in the middle of the service to go rest your hand upon their shoulder even in the midst of it!), that we not simply casually say “how are you” but look them in the eye and say “I want to know truly how things are going, I want to pray with you, I want to find a way that I can be a blessing to you this very week.”
Everyone needs heard, loved, touched, prayed over, validated, and absolutely smothered in grace. Figuring out how to be the hands of Jesus so that this is accomplished in His churches is what I am seeing doesn’t even “need figured out” as much as simply attempted and done.
Keep conversing here, as you are able or desire; it blesses me to have insight into this niche, where the Lord has burdened my heart. Share this conversation with others too. May the Lord hear our cries for His comfort, and for His people to be His arms when we are at our weariest.
I’m so excited about this list of resources! I have so many friends walking this path right now that I know this post and the series will be an encouragement to them (as it is to me). Thanks Melissa!
I hope some of these things are helpful, Sara! And also that the length of the lists doesn’t make it overwhelming. 🙂