Practicing Forgiveness: Forgiving Others During Chronic Illness

While it is my sincere hope that this blog post will encourage everyone that reads it, this particular post was written to my fellow spoonies. It is dedicated to them.

You don't have to look on social media for long to see that there are more people with chronic illness now then maybe any other time in history. Search the hashtags #spoonie #autoimmunedisease #lymedisease and more on Instagram and you will see images of people in hospital beds, walking around with IV poles, in doctor offices and in wheelchairs.

Not only are these people sick. They're lonely.
Friends and family have long tired of hearing of their illnesses and have moved on. Doctors don't listen to them. Many have to document reactions and flare ups on video and pictures for proof. 
They walk in with baggies and folders full of lab results that document what has become of their lives.

These people have been fighting for so long that they don't know how to stop. Fighting doctors. Fighting Family.
Fighting for their lives.

Bitterness and anger threaten to take over.

How would God have us to behave?

As followers of Jesus Christ, God has laid out how we should behave regardless of our circumstances.

We are to forgive.

At the end of the Lord's prayer, in Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus says,

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Jesus also tells a parable in Matthew 18:21-35:

Then Peter came up and said to Him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"
Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times."
"Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Years ago I was discussing a situation and person that I was having a hard time forgiving with my counselor. I had told this person on multiple occasions that I had forgiven them but each time this person did something wrong, I would bring up the old incident. The counselor told me to do something that I have never forgotten.

He said, each time that memory comes up, pray this:

God, I thank you that you have forgiven me and I have forgiven ___________.

An amazing thing happened. After doing that for a while, the bitterness was gone. I had remembered how very much I had been forgiven and I was finally able to forgive.

Let us also be people of grace.

We have discussed being a person of forgiveness, but let us also be people of abundant grace! 

How can I, in my illness, serve others?

In James 1:22-25 we are told:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he is like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

In James 1:27 he says,

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

The book of James is written to the early Christians. They were hated by their fellow Jews and persecuted by them. They were being dragged into court, robbed of their possession and killed. They knew immense trial.
Yet they were told that as believers in Christ, their faith would work. Now these works did not save them, they were evidence of their faith.

As Christians who are ill, we should still be asking for places where we can serve. Can you pray for someone else who is suffering?
Can you send them a card encouraging them?
Can you pray for your family?
Can you pray for your doctors?
Can you lift of the very ones who have ignored you?
Not out of vengeance, but love.

What if you are so ill that even that is too much?

Joni Eareckson Tada tells an amazing story in her wonderful book, A Lifetime of Wisdom (a book I HIGHLY recommend),

Perhaps more than any other person, Kim showed me that my life- and your life- counts. And it counts more than we can possibly imagine.
I first learned about Kim when an elder from her church in Pennsylvania called to ask if I could contact her with a few words of encouragement.
"Kim is a brilliant twenty-six-year-old Christian woman who has always been active in our church," he explained. "But last year she contracted motor-neuron disease and now must stay in bed with a feeding tube." The elder paused a moment, then added, "Kim is very depressed. She's wondering if her life is worth living anymore."

I telephoned Kim right away. Her mother tucked the receiver against her ear and against the pillow. I could hardly hear Kim's voice, her breathing was so faint. We discussed many things, including our favorite parts of the Bible, the subject of heaven, and prayer. Finally, Kim said faintly and with great labor, "Joni, they want to give me a ventilator to help me breathe, but I don't know whether I want one. I'm so tired. Do you think I should go on a ventilator?"

For a moment, I was speechless. Finally, I took a deep breath, whispered a quick prayer, and replied. "Kim, there are a lot of things to consider- not the least of which is that your decision will affect many people around you. But of the two choices facing you, I think there's a better one." I then proceeded to tell her about a simple but powerful Bible verse that has encouraged me and guided me through the toughest times of my forty- plus years of quadriplegia.

2 Peter 3:8- But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.

We all know the old adage that God looks at the last two thousand years as only a couple of days gone by. But what about the other half of that verse? The part about seeing each day as a thousand years?

What kind of math is that?

It's the math of One who lives outside of time, is not bound by time, and can step in and out of time whenever He pleases to accomplish His purposes. If we can really come to grips with the fact that God can pick up any twenty-four-hour day He chooses and give it an eternal impact of a thousand years, then each day of our lives becomes immeasurably important- and brimming with opportunity. Each day God gives us precious hours to invest in the lives of others- investments which will have eternal repercussions in our lives and theirs....

... Kim perked up as I began to speak with her about these thoughts. "But I'm in bed," she reminded me. "I can't go anywhere or do anything. How can my life count in this condition?"

"First Kim," I replied, "you can pray. No matter how feeble or fainthearted your prayers may seem to you, they have a very special power to God. It says in Psalms 10:17- 'You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.'

"Do you realize what this means, Kim? It means that the Lord cups His ear to listen when someone like you prays out of great affliction. He bends over backward when people offer Him a sacrifice of praise. Please hear me Kim. I mean this with all my heart. God will use your intercessions to shake the lives of those around you... as well as the destiny of nations."

Joni goes on to share:

I should tell you that Kim ended up living another month and a half after our conversation on the phone. But as her mother told me later on, those forty- five days- she looked at them as forty-five thousand years- were some of the most meaningful and important weeks she had ever lived.

Friend, whatever trials you've endured- you're enduring...
Your life matters in the eternal.

If you do not know Christ as your Savior and you want to know more, please message me. If you're struggling to take the next step- whatever that is, know you are loved. Reach out.

Be a Bertha, Not a Naomi

I wanted to wrap up by sharing a story about two women that I met when I was about 10 years old, Bertha and Naomi.

When I was about 10 years old, my dad took over as Pastor of a church. This church visited nursing homes where my dad would give a short sermon to encourage them and our church would sing with them. After that, we would visit with them for a while before going home.

There were two women in particular that my mom had a heart for- Bertha and Naomi. They were roommates and as different as night and day.

Bertha was one of the sweetest women I've met. She was full of joy. She waited each month for us to come and visit and she would save chocolates for us kids.

Naomi was bitter. All she could think about was the fact that her adult children never came to visit with her. It may have happened, but I don't ever remember seeing her smile.

These women were in the exact same circumstances but one was full of joy and one was full of bitterness.

My friend, as we are struggling with our health. As there are needles, doctors visits, sickness, tests, loneliness and more...

Let us ask God to show us the joy.

We are told that the Joy of the Lord will be our strength. (Neh 8:10)

It does not have to come from within us, it can come from HIM!

Let us be full of forgiveness, for we have been forgiven much.

Let us be full of grace, for we have been shown much.

And let us praise the Lord in ALL circumstances.


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