I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

09 May 2013

Unto the least of these...

Bee pollinating flowers - photo by J. Stahl

I've been mulling over how to answer the call to action for this month's syncroblog:

Whether we realize it or not, lots of people all around us are experiencing great pain and hardship. Maybe someone has lost their job, gotten a divorce, is going through depression, or worst of all, has lost a family member or loved one.
As followers of Jesus, how are we to respond in such situations?
... for the May 2013 Synchroblog, we want to invite you to write a “How to” post about helping Christians know what to do (or not do) and what to say (or not say) when others are going through times of personal tragedy.
Syncroblog: Being with those in pain

I think I mask it rather well, so a lot of people do not know that my face is the face of chronic pain and chronic unseen illness.  I've told a select few people outside of my support groups, especially a select few Christians due to the reactions that I often receive.

You probably know them. In case you do not, I'll illustrate some of the most frequent responses I tend to receive.

"You really should not allow a spirit of illness/fatigue descend on you. Rebuke it in Jesus name!!"
 "You will get better if you act better. Put on your clothes and get out of the house."
 "No matter what, you should ALWAYS be in the church, unless you're in the hospital or on your death bed. No excuses. Any staying out is backsliding."
 "That again! Aren't you over that?"
 "Can't you just take a pill or supplement or drink or something?"
My personal favorites:
"If you just get out to the gym and push through, you'll start having energy!"
 "But, you don't look sick!"
 "SMILE! It looks far better than a frown!" / "Time to turn that frown upside down!"

What these people do not know, is that I have lived my entire life with chronic unseen illness. It started as an infant with several tragedies spaced one after another.

In this entire ordeal I have learned many things, including several key areas that believers and churches in general need to really step up:

  • Remember the spoon theory when it comes to members that have expressed unseen illnesses and chronic fatigue disorders. 
  • Have compassion and be there for people who have chronic illnesses. We can't always leave our homes and go on fun activities with you all. BUT, we thrive on your friendship, prayers and compassion. 
  • For those of us with chemical sensitivities - please remember our requests for when you come over. We want to spend time with you, but not at the expense of a week long sinus flare and gut flare due to the chemicals.
  • For those of us with infertility issues, we want to celebrate with you and take joy in your lives! We thrive on the bit of sanity that comes from your love. Don't cut us out just because you are uncomfortable or have questions you are afraid to ask. If we let you in our secret, don't leave us hanging.
  •  For those of us with food related disorders, I would simply request that you ask what we need or that you can do, and help plan activities that we can also partake in. If there is one thing that causes us the most pain, it is the loss of friendship due to "complicated table fellowship". We want to participate with you. We do not want to break table fellowship. We didn't do this to ourselves, and it is in no way something we wished upon ourselves or that will simply heal away.
  • For those of us with chronic pain issues, know that we didn't do anything to bring this upon ourselves. We just need a listening ear from time to time and someone willing to spend time with us. 
  • For those of us undergoing a marital split, be an ear rather than a judge. You have no idea what happened behind closed doors unless you hear it from one of us.
  • If we have experienced a death in the family, be there. It takes time to process all of that grief.
  •  When we offload our "I'm fine" to you and explain that we are not really fine - believe us. Tell us you do. That is the one thing that we crave the most; someone who believes us. We trust you with this information.
  • Remember:  "...Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25) 

List of other posts in the link-up: