What Can It Do?   2 comments

How does the church respond to members of the body who live with chronic illness or disability?

How could it respond?

It’s a hard question to answer, because it is hard for anyone to know how to deal with chronic situations, that by definition are not going to go away, that may or may not get better.

In some ways, a crisis is more straightforward.  It can get a response from the body, because a straightforward response can be given.  If someone is in the hospital, very ill, or in an accident, obvious needs can be met — childcare, food, logistics, yard work, cleaning — all these areas can be picked up by other capable hands.

If someone has a serious illness, prayer is offered.  Healing is desired.  Often, it’s expected.  And practical help in the way of food and mowing the grass can be arranged.

If someone’s parent, spouse or child has died, practical help and comfort can be given.  If there’s divorce, an accident, a fire, a surgery, food is always good, and a listening ear helpful.

It gets messier and more confusing when there is no end in sight.  And that’s understandable.

If a person lives day in and day out in a wheelchair, or with chronic pain, or has a disease that is understood not to be curable, the situation becomes different, for several reasons.  A child with a disability, health problems that don’t resolve, ongoing financial problems, care-giving for a spouse or aging parent–these are all situations that won’t go away in a month or two.

I think the reason this is harder to address is because people love to help, but they would like to feel they brought about a solution.  They like results.

I don’t blame them.  We all want results.

The other reason is that chronic situations can become invisible.  The member of the body has to face the reality of the situation and find a way to go forward and live life.  They often do this so beautifully and bravely, learning through the trials to “keep on keeping on,” that the struggle they face may no longer be obvious.  They learn to cope, they find resources, they come up with a way to live or they die trying.  So, others walking alongside the person may not necessarily see the “thorn in the flesh.”

Honestly, those in chronic situations know these challenges are their own responsibilities.  They know nobody is going to be able to be able to waltz in with a casserole and fix the problem.  And they know that other people are understandably able to give them only so much.  Just because a person’s baby is born with Down’s syndrome doesn’t mean that person gets meals delivered every day for the rest of the child’s life.  It doesn’t work that way.

Yet–should the church ignore the struggle?


Of course not.  While tempering its response with the known reality, that unless God intervenes the situation is not going away, the church can offer love in a practical way–the same kind of love it would offer in an acute one.

Affirmation.  Prayer.  Encouragement.  Food.  Help with yard work, house work, errands, or childcare for other children.  All of these gifts can be given to one whose disease is probably not going to be cured, to one whose difficult situation is not going to just evaporate.

The body cannot minister as intensely in a situation that is chronic–but it can minister.

The circumstances will be different, but the love can be the same.


Posted September 16, 2015 by swanatbagend in the church

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2 responses to “What Can It Do?

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  1. You’re absolutely right – and it is VERY difficult for people to know what to do. But they DO need to do something. First step, I think, would be to ensure that church members are AWARE of the individual’s situation. Because the person with the chronic illness may deal with it so well, other church members may not even know there is a problem.

  2. Awareness would be up to the individual in the situation, if they wanted to make it known — then hopefully whatever body at their church handles those situations would do so, whether it was a mercy ministry, a prayer list, the meals on wheels committee, or just the person’s small group. I’m hopeful that if awareness were raised, that people would find it less difficult to know what to do. I think that another person even just starting with the question, “How are you really doing?” would bolster the spirits of the individual. It would be a good place to start. I think it’s kind of like when a death happens and people don’t know what to say, I’ve been told the best thing to say is just “I’m so sorry.” So with chronic issues, I would think one could simply start with “I’m sorry about this situation” or “how can I help you”….I would think that would be a good starting place.

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