When You Need Real Hope

Life is hard.

If you live with a chronic illness or chronic pain, you understand more than most just how intense “HARD” can be.

You know that the stress of chronic illness and overwhelming pain can push you right to the edge of your strength and abilities. As you stand and peer over the edge of this cliff, you are intimately acquainted with the feeling that this life is unbearable and that all hope for a better future seems gone. On the really bad days, you might even feel like jumping off this cliff and ending it all.

You desperately need the kind of hope that withstands the difficulties of this life, but where do you find it?

From the very beginning of time, God made a way for us. The Bible teaches that He didn’t want this kind of life for us. In fact, He designed a perfect place, a beautiful place where we would have all we needed. A place where we could even walk and talk with Him. It was called the Garden of Eden.

The first people that lived in the garden with God made a choice that resulted in bad consequences not just for them, but for us, too. From then on, they had to live outside the perfect world that God created, away from the garden and away from God’s presence. Pain and hardship were ushered into this world, and from then on, all people had to experience the negative consequences of their bad choices (kind of like when a child has to live with hard things because his parents are making bad choices).

God didn’t want this for us, not then and not now, so He created a way for us to come back into a close relationship with Him and back to a place where we can live in His presence once again. This place is called heaven, and the Bible tells us it is a beautiful place where we will have no more pain. No more suffering. No more tears.

The one thing that keeps us away from Him now is the same thing that kept people away from Him then–bad choices. We all make them. None of us is perfect. We all do things we are not proud of, things we wish we could take back. We say things we wish we hadn’t said. Some of us even make choices that end up in jail time. The Bible calls these bad choices “sin.” And our sin is the one thing, the only thing, that keeps us away from Him, because sinful people can’t come before a perfect God.

But, here’s the thing.

God loves us and wants us to have the hope and redemption we so desperately need. He wants us to know that there is a better way, a way paved with hope. A way that provides the redemption we cannot find on our own.

Jesus, God’s Son, came to tell people of God’s love about 2000 years ago, but most didn’t believe Jesus’s message of hope. They didn’t believe He was from God, and they killed Him.

But, God.

But, God is stronger than death, and after 3 days, God raised Jesus from the dead. He brought Him back to life to show us that God has power over death and power over the people’s sin that lead them to put Jesus to death. Power over the sin that leads us to death, that leads us to an eternity away from God.

The good news is that we still have an opportunity to make a different choice. A choice to believe that what God says is true. A choice to believe that Jesus’ death gives us freedom over our sinful choices, too. Choices that threaten to keep us away from God forever. Choices that lead us down a path without hope. A path very similar to the one you might have found yourself on today.

There is still opportunity to find a different path, a path where Jesus leads us and provides for us every step of the way.

How do I know this? Because He does it for me every day. When I read the Bible, I learn how to keep on this new path. I learn how to make better choices. I learn more about why I can live with hope. I learn about His promises that give me this hope even though life is still hard, promises that give me the inner strength to live with the harshness of chronic illness.

And even though I still live with chronic illness and pain here on this earth, I know that after my life is over, I will be going to that place where there are no more tears, no more pain, no more sickness or death. This place is called heaven, and there I can walk with God in a new body not affected by sin, or sickness, or death.

You can go there, too, when you make a choice to believe in Jesus, to ask Him to save you from your sin that would otherwise keep you away from God forever. If you want to make that choice today, just tell God that is what you want to do. You can talk to Him just like you talk to your friend. Ask Him to take your sin and bring you to Him when your time on this earth is over.

It’s important that you know you don’t have to be “good enough” before you can talk to God or before you can go to heaven. You just have to be humble, to recognize that you have sin that will keep you from Him if He doesn’t take it from you. You just have to ask Him to do that, and He will. When you do that, you may not look different on the outside, but you’ll be different on the inside.

It would be my honor to give you a Bible if you want one. The Bible will show you what this kind of hope is all about. It will teach you about the promises God has made to us that give us this hope. These promises will sustain you when life is hard and painful. They will give you peace when life is uncertain. They will give you joy when life tells you there is nothing to be joyful about.

Oh, how we need this kind of joy, and peace, and hope! How we need this kind of love to calm the hurts in our hearts! Without it, we are just roaming this earth hoping the pain and difficulty will end soon. But knowing this great love gives us peace in the pain, strength during the difficult days, joy in the drudgery of life, and hope for the future.

When you invite Him into your life, you’ll begin to realize what is not important and what needs to be the most important. The chaos in your soul will be replaced by the peace of God. If you are searching for real hope and joy, consider letting God’s love for you calm your heart and breathe life into your soul.

“If God is going to do His deepest work in us, it will begin with surrendering to Him. So give it all to God: your past regrets, your fears, dreams, weaknesses, habits, hurts, and hang-ups. Put Jesus in the driver seat of your life and take your hands off the steering wheel. Don’t be afraid; nothing under His control can ever be out of control…. You will be like Paul (writer of many books of the Bible) who said:

‘I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.’ (Philippians 4:13)

Now is your time to surrender to His grace and love and wisdom.” (Rick Warren from “What on Earth am I Here For?” pg 85.)

Don’t let anything hold you back from surrendering to this God who loves you. When you invite Him into your life, you are in the safest place in the world. Speak to Him, and tell Him that you want His presence and power in your life. Ask Him to give you strength to deal with the realities of your life. He will.

When you do this, you will have a new relationship with God! A new friend. Someone with whom you can share your deepest thoughts and fears. Someone who loves you and accepts you, even though you still won’t be perfect until you get to heaven. May God’s love give you hope and joy to sustain you every day of your life.

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Laurie Miller blogs at God-Living with Chronic Illness, a website dedicated to providing spiritual encouragement and resources for those living with chronic pain or illness. If you would like a Bible, please comment below. You are welcome to pass this post forward to those you know that may benefit from this information, but please respect the copyright privileges of the author.

Disclaimer: The author and God-Living with Chronic Illness do not receive any compensation for references to specific people, books 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.


When You Can’t Find Joy in the Holidays

The holiday season can be a lonely, hard time for those of us who have particularly hard circumstances. Perhaps you have lost a loved one with whom you used to spend the holidays. Or maybe, like me, you live with chronic pain, and each day is hard beyond belief. Or perhaps your little ones are grown and the house is now empty on Christmas day. All of the these things can make the holiday season particularly hard to bear.

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When You Feel Like A Failure

Chronic illness causes you to drop balls. Because of a constant lack of energy and ongoing weakness, things just don’t get done. Not because you’re not trying, of course, but because you just don’t have the strength. When you start dropping balls, you feel like a complete failure, as a spouse, parent, employee, and friend.

It is a hard feeling to live with. I don’t like being a ball-dropper. My husband and kids don’t care much for it, either. Employers definitely don’t like it!

So, what do you do about this all-too-common feeling?

Here are some practical suggestions:

1.    Adjust your expectations so they are realistic with your abilities. Consider the fact that you may have expectations of yourself that others do not. You may feel that you have to cook a hot meal from scratch every night because your mother did it, but your spouse probably doesn’t expect that every night. (If he/she does have that expectation, have a discussion about what is realistic for your energy level.) Make things easier on yourself. Get take-out, or if they are old enough, let the kids make chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese. Cook when you feel well enough to do it, and don’t guilt yourself for not cooking on the nights you just can’t.
2.    Educate your family and friends about your abilities, and especially your current pain level. Since they can’t see how you feel, tell them how you feel in terms they can understand. You might want to use the 1-10 number system to communicate how well you feel each day. They will probably like this system since they will know what to expect each day, especially if it is a high pain and low energy day.
3.    Ask for help when you need it. There is nothing wrong with the spouse and kids helping with chores, dinner, and laundry! Make a list of “things to be done by whom” so responsibilities are more evenly distributed, especially if you work outside the home.
4.    Plan rest into your schedule, including short naps, days off, and recovery time for when you have to push through. Be realistic about your abilities or lack thereof. Especially be realistic about your need for rest and recuperation.
5.    Try not to “push through” on a regular basis. “Pushing through” is my term for when you force yourself to keep going despite red flags that you are doing too much. These red flags may come from your own body, your spouse, your friends, or even your kids if they see you over-doing it. Listen to those red flags! Pushing through is sometimes necessary for emergencies and unexpected responsibilities, but doing this on a regular basis will backfire and require more recovery time than normal.
6.    Make a “daily tasks” schedule for yourself that is realistic. Only put a couple chores/activities on each day’s schedule. Put a star by the most important task, and a notation for one that can be pushed to the next day if need be. If you tend to over-schedule yourself, be purposeful about putting 1-2 fewer activities on the list that you think you can accomplish. Something always comes up to complicate your plans, so plan for mishaps and unexpected things, especially if you have small children. Put naps, days off, and recovery days on the schedule, too. Also, include time for your “quiet time” with God, and other important self-care activities, like exercise. Don’t forget time for bill-paying, and other tasks that are not part of a daily routine.
7.    Do just a few small things every day to put you ahead of the game: load the dishwasher, do one load of laundry, and make the bed. It is amazing how doing just a few small things each day will make you feel more on top of your game! Do things in 15 minute increments of time so that you don’t over do it and end up more exhausted than when you started. After several episodes of 15-minute tasks are done (with rest periods in between), you will find that you actually have gotten some tasks scratched off your to-do list without feeling too terribly bad in the process.
8.    Cut things out of your schedule that you don’t truly enjoy, especially if they are not important. Doing things we don’t want to do are part of normal adult life, but doing this on a regular basis will steal your joy. Determine what is really important to you, and focus your energy there.
9.    Plan fun activities, especially if you have kids. Nurture the relationships that are most important to you. Don’t forget date nights and alone time with your spouse. It doesn’t take long for relationships to deteriorate when they are neglected.
10.    Try to organize and streamline as much as possible. Do your grocery shopping online, and make use of the pick-up or delivery option if your local store offers this. File your emails and important papers as soon as you see them. Take care of school papers, phone calls, etc. as soon as you become aware them. Try not to let things pile up, as those piles tend to become large and overwhelming very quickly. Only touch things once. For instance, when you finish drying a load of laundry, don’t keep moving the pile. Only touch it once–fold those clothes and put them away.
11.    When you do drop a ball, ask for forgiveness (and don’t forget to forgive yourself, too). The ability to extending grace and forgiveness to others and yourself is an important life skill. Think of how you might teach your child about the importance of being able to accept their limitations and extend forgiveness to themselves when they fail. You want your children to learn these things so they don’t get stone-walled by failure, right? It is just as important for you to be able to do the same for yourself. Failure is a part of life, and it is one of the ways we learn how to succeed, so don’t be devastated and overwhelmed by your own failure. Disappointment in yourself is understandable, but don’t let it overpower your ability to move forward. It is important to learn to extend grace to yourself and let that disappointment go.

Grace is a concept that originated with God Himself. It does not come naturally to us. We must practice extending it to ourselves and to others. When I struggle with this, it helps me to remember that when we fail, God PROMISES forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9).

God also says that when failure and sin abound, grace grows to fit the failure (see Romans 5:20). Did you know that? God’s grace grows to fit our failures. When the failures get bigger, grace also gets bigger. So let grace towards yourself also grow to fit your failures and disappointments with yourself. As you practice this on a regular basis, you will get better at it, and it will begin to become second nature.

Ask God for help with this. He wants us to learn to live a grace-filled life. He doesn’t want us to feel constantly over-shadowed by guilt and shame. After all, Jesus died to remove guilt and shame from us, so don’t keep dumping on yourself what Jesus died to remove! When you let the grace of God abound in your life, you will begin to experience more joy. As you begin to incorporate some of the above suggestions into your life, your capacity for even more joy will increase.

Share in the comments which suggestion from the above list will help you the most. Do you have any other suggestions to help deal with feelings of failure? Please share those, too!

Let joy begin!

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You saw this post first on God-Living with Chronic Illness, a website dedicated to providing spiritual encouragement and resources for those living with chronic pain or illness. You are welcome to pass this post forward to those you know that may benefit from this information, but please respect the copyright privileges of the author.

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.

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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 (god-livingwithchronicillness.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/godlivingwithchronicillness) for regular encouragement and hope. Welcome!

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When You Can’t Find Joy in the Holidays

The holiday season can be a lonely, hard time for those of us who have particularly hard circumstances. Perhaps you have lost a loved one with whom you used to spend the holidays. Or maybe, like me, you live with chronic pain, and each day is hard beyond belief. Or perhaps your little ones are grown and the house is now empty on Christmas day. All of the these things can make the holiday season particularly hard to bear.

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Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Have you wondered what God is doing in your difficult circumstances? Why God allows suffering into our lives? It’s natural to ask why and to want to see some benefit from our suffering, because it makes us feel better if we can see good coming out of the difficult situations in our lives. It makes it seem more “worth it” when we can see a purpose for it all.

If you’ve ever wondered what God is up to, then I have good news for you. God IS doing something. He is doing something very good, indeed.

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