Recently, after a church service, a friend tried to break my ‘shell’. And to her credit, she came pretty close. She hugged me until I started to crack and a tiny amount of my feelings came out through the cracks in my armor. She asked how I was doing and I kept saying, “I’m OK”, trying to make her believe it. But the tears in my eyes betrayed me and she kept saying, “No, you’re not”. The only thing I could finally say was, “I’m having a flare.” But that’s not the whole reason I was having a ‘moment’. I’ve had flares before, many of them. In fact, some could argue that the whole last two years of my life have been a flare. So I’m not sure why that’s all I could think to say in the moment. I think I was just feeling very fragile about everything that’s going on in my mind and heart, as well as my body. Illness takes a massive toll on every aspect of life and sometimes the feelings just well up and threaten to overflow. Plus, God was speaking to me in a very real way that day and the blessings and intimacy of God always heighten my emotions.
The next thing my friend asked was, “What do you need?”, and the question almost completely stumped me. I responded with something like “I don’t know”, or “Nothing”, which is such a lie. I’m sorry, friend, for lying! I don’t mean to, but it’s such a habit. What I should have immediately said was, “prayer”, because that’s the only thing that came to mind. I’m so thankful that people are praying for me even when I’m too stubborn to ask.
For whatever reason, or I should say most likely for a God reason, the question has been with me ever since. What DO I need? I have sat and wrestled with the question, and God is slowly revealing the answers to me. I touched on this subject a little bit in a previous post called Food, Fellowship and the Isolation of Chronic Illness, but I will further address it here in hopes of giving voice to the needs of those of us who live with chronic illness.
First and foremost is the obvious answer. I need God. Every waking moment, I need to be reminded of him and his presence and every sleeping moment I need him to hold me and preside over my dreams. I truly have everything I need if I have God, because everything else is provided by him.
Along the same lines, I need prayer. I need people to speak to God on my behalf, to pray for a complete healing if that is his will, but also to pray for my strength, comfort, and peace if it is not his will. I am beyond blessed to already have people in my life whose faithful and fervent prayers for me consistently lift my head. I am awed and humbled by prayers uttered on my behalf. I consider prayer very intimate and it amazes me and touches me deeply that others would mention me during their time with God.
Now, here’s where I kind of get stuck. What else do I actually need? In a practical way, my husband and I often have a financial need, although it would take another blog post entirely to describe the ways in which God has been faithfully providing for that need. From providing my husband with the perfect second job (even though I struggle with the fact that it was necessary and feeling like the burden is all on him and worrying about his stress – I’m a slow learner when it comes to worries), to receiving gifts from the beautiful people of God shortly after getting behind on the bills, to health insurance very unexpectedly covering some of my Functional Medicine treatment, God is providing. I am unable to fully express my gratitude to him and to his people who are willing to be his hands and feet to bless us.
In addition to the physical needs, and perhaps sometimes more important than the physical needs, are my mental and emotional needs. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like to explore this subject, but I do feel it necessary if I am ever going to reach complete healing (remember, healing is not necessarily health). What I need in this regard is to know that people care, however that looks. I need encouragement in whatever form, but a major love language for me is words. I hold onto words of encouragement for a very long time after they are spoken. They are life-giving to me. Even more amazing is when someone goes to God on my behalf and comes back with his words to speak to me. I can’t even describe how much words mean to me – written, spoken, quoted – I take each one to heart. And I need these words often. Illness is like a roller coaster on all levels. I could be flying high one moment and the very next feel like my feet have been kicked out from under me. So there is ALWAYS a good time for encouragement. I also still need to feel needed, like I still have something to offer the world. Encouraging me to remember that, and inviting me to share in your own struggles is also very much appreciated.
Sometimes this ‘care’ comes in the form of your presence, whether that be face to face, or heart to heart. Sometimes words are not necessary, especially if God doesn’t give you any. I very much understand the desire to fix things, to do SOMETHING, or to say SOMETHING, but sometimes things need to stay broken for awhile in order to reveal God’s purpose and teachings. In those moments, I just need you to be present with me and walk through it with me. Learn from God along with me through prayer and spending time with me in conversation or even in silence.
Sometimes things get so overwhelming. My thoughts race and my emotions rise as I desperately try to force them down. I hesitate to write this because I’m afraid someone might actually succeed in doing it, but at some point I may need someone to hug me until I break (very nice try yesterday, friend!), to understand that I am not OK, and to allow me to not be OK. But don’t get too frustrated if I try to fight it. Habits die hard and I may not be ready to break.
In all of these things, what I need is for you to try to understand. I know it’s hard. I know you don’t know what to do or say. I know you grieve the loss of your healthy friend. But understand that, by the grace of God, I am healing. It may not be in the way we hope or pray, but the journey is packed full of blessings and miracles. I would love for you to share in them with me.
And thank you. Thank you so much for asking the questions!
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2
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