When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my children were two and four. I was exhausted all the time, and most days, I could not make it through the day without a nap. That was all well and good if my preschoolers were also taking naps, but they were growing out of needing naps and were in a mischievous phase. One afternoon I woke up to find my two adorable children covered in black paint from head to toe. They had decided to paint the playset. My four-year-old had climbed up on the washing machine to get the tempura paints. (Thank God for washable paint!) On that day, God gave me the grace to laugh, but there have been many other days since then when I have wondered how I am going to make it with chronic illness. How will I keep up with a part-time job and responsibilities as a wife and mom? How will I keep from living in an overwhelmed and discouraged state every day?
I learned early on that I had to take life one day at a time, and some days one hour or even just five minutes at a time. When each day is unbelievably hard, and you have to force yourself to put one foot in front of the other, you must take life in bite-sized chunks. To find the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other, I have learned to go to God to be refreshed and strengthened. God says in the Bible:
“Valley of Baca” translates to “Valley of Weeping,” according to the Life Application Study Bible notes. It is thought that it is not a specific geographical location, but a symbolic place of difficulty or desolation in our lives. We all go through times like that, though for some, the time in the valley seems longer than for others. It definitely feels long when you have a chronic illness, but God can help us make it a place of springs, where the water is the freshest and the grass is the greenest. This happens only when we come to Him on a regular basis for strength and encouragement. God also tells us in the Bible:
As we spend time in God’s Word, He refreshes us. He leads us to the right verses which are just what we need at the moment. He says that when we meditate or think on His Word continuously, we will not wither and die, but we will actually be fruitful in the dry and difficult seasons. But this happens only if we come to Him.
If we allow our hearts to become bitter because of our circumstances, we will close ourselves off to the power of God in our lives. In her book What Happens When Women Walk In Faith, Lysa Terkeurst says:
“If the only things we focus on are the doom and gloom our present circumstances bring us, then we’ll wallow in the mud. The mud will cloud our vision, skew our focus, and make us forget that the sun shines above us. But if we make the choice to rejoice and keep looking up, when we hit the inevitable mud puddle, our shoes might be a little dirty, but it will not affect the way we see life.”
The challenge is making the choice to keep looking up. I will never forget the time I was flying on a plane in a horrific storm. The sky was black, and I was terrified of how we were going to make it in the turbulence. I was a little surprised we were even allowed to take off, but we were. Within minutes after take off, we were breaking through the clouds, and to my sheer amazement, above the thick layer of intense black clouds were thick white clouds that looked like a sea of cotton-balls. The sun was shining brightly above the clouds, despite the intensity of the darkness beneath the clouds.
Our lives can be like that sometimes. The storms can be intense, and the clouds black, but if we look up through the clouds and allow God’s Word into our hearts, we will see a different perspective. We might even see sunshine and feel the warmth of His presence despite the storms of life all around us. When you are tempted to focus on your stormy surroundings, go to God in prayer and read His Word. Walking in close communication with God makes all the difference in our perspective and in our joy and satisfaction with our lives. Following are some practical ways to stay in close communication with Him throughout each day and prevent discouragement:
- Make time each morning to read a short devotional or chapter in the Bible. Doing so will help you have a good perspective all day. Use an app like First 5 (from Proverbs 31) or use Bible gateway or Olive Tree Bible reading plans to help you be consistent.
- Write down the things that have special meaning to you when you read. When you are discouraged, you can look back over these things and be reminded and encouraged.
- Listen to inspirational Christian music all day long or as often as possible. As you do this, you will be encouraged throughout the day and better equipped emotionally and spiritually to handle whatever difficulties arise in your day.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Find a church where you can make friends with those who love God and will encourage you with Godly counsel when you need it. Decrease the amount of time you spend with people that are affecting you negatively.
- Write out Bible verses that are especially meaningful to you on notecards and place them where you will see them often. This will keep Scripture at the forefront of your mind all day long and will give you spiritual strength to endure despite pain and illness.
- Join Christian social media sites that will send you encouraging messages throughout your day via email or when you check your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Girlfriends in God and Proverbs 31 are two sites for women that will send daily devotionals and words of encouragement. Crosswalk.com also sends daily devotionals and provides many online resources for Bible study and general enrichment. God-Living with Chronic Illness has a Facebook site to encourage those with pain and illness and also has a site just for moms with chronic pain or illness called God-Living Girls.
- Keep inspirational books so you can read a few pages when you have free minutes during the day, for example, when you have lunch or go to the bathroom. I like to keep books in various places like the kitchen, bathroom, car, and at work so that when I need encouragement, I can read a few inspirational words and “reset” my thoughts during a discouraging or stressful day.
- Make sure you get plenty of rest at night to prevent discouragement that can come from being overly tired. Read Psalms before you go to bed. This book of the Bible is full of praise to God and encouragement for when you have had a bad day.
- Keep a gratitude journal in which you write 3 things you are grateful for at the end of each day. This will help you end the day with gratitude even if the rest of the day was unbelievably hard or discouraging.
- Keep a prayer request journal so you can see how God has worked in your life and answered your prayers. Looking back over your journal will remind you of God’s faithfulness in the past and help you remember that He will be faithful in the future as well.
Life with chronic pain and illness is definitely not easy. Discouragement can become our constant companion. But when life is hard and feels desolate, we can keep our eyes on God and watch as He turns the bad into good and gives us a life full of beauty and even joy in spite of the difficulty.
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Disclaimer: The author and God-Living with Chronic Illness do not receive any compensation for references to specific products, ideas, people, or websites. The ideas posted are not intended as medical advice and should not be taken as such in place of your physician’s recommendations.
Hi! My Name is Laurie, and I am a wife, mom, nurse, and patient living with fibromyalgia. I understand first-hand what life is like with chronic pain and illness. My passion is to help provide others with the spiritual encouragement and resources that I so desperately needed when I was first diagnosed. Please join us on the blog and Facebook page for regular encouragement and hope. Welcome!