A Note from Kelly King: It is likely that you know a woman who has persistent and chronic health issues. It’s easy to offer advice instead of offering compassion. In today’s article, Deb Douglas, gives all of us some ways to encourage others who face health difficulties.
Doctor appointments. Medical tests. Fighting with insurance companies. Taking medication. Ordering/organizing/taking medications. Worrying about medical bills and expenses. Arranging life around medical treatments, bodily functions, and physical challenges. Missing out because yet another illness has attacked. This is my life. I have chronic asthma and a few other health challenges.
Living with chronic illness is challenging, not much fun, and very messy. It is a battle to keep a healthy perspective on life. The isolation of illness can creep in, bringing depression with it.
And then there are the insensitive, rude comments of others.
- “If you had enough faith, you would be healed.”
- “Do you pray about getting well?”
- “You need to go to another doctor!”
- “If you would take better care of yourself, you’d get well.”
Or you’ll hear the same sentiment within a variety of other judgmental, ill-informed comments. For example, a woman gave my mother—who suffered and died from a hereditary cancer—a book on how food choices cause cancer. Not helpful.
From my experience, this is what I have learned about helping people struggling with a chronic, messy illness:
- Do not pity me. Encourage me!
- Do not tell me this is my fault. This is not something I chose.
- Do not try to sell me the cure-all oil or nutritional supplement you are selling. My illness does not mean you will get rich.
- Do not try to make my complex health situation simple. It is not.
- Do not think I am unaware of the latest research and cures.
- Do not ask me how I am constantly. I do not want to talk about health issues.
- Do not make my health my identity.
- Do not compare me to others who have similar health challenges. Each person’s health is unique.
- Do not set unrealistic expectations on me. I will do what I can do.
- Do not treat me like an invalid. However, sometimes I do need help managing life.
- Do not think I have lost my mind just because my body is challenged.
- Do not go to church, visit someone’s office, or send children to church when sick!
Health challenges can be messy. The way others respond to them either adds to the messiness or becomes healing to the soul. Jesus lovingly responded to the sick, the grieving, and the hurting. Following His lead, we can become a help instead of a hindrance to those living a messy life of health challenges.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
God has called Deb Douglas to make a difference in the world, one woman at a time. For over 39 years, Deb has served in women’s ministry. Now she spends her time ministering to women in the sex trade ministry and serving as the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Bossier City. Deb is a contributor to LifeWay’s All Access blog, a freelance writer, and an event speaker. Deb was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. Deb is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.