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Chronic Illness - Chronic Pain Articles Available to Read and Reprint

Comforting Others When You Live with a Chronic Illness:
      When Are You Ready to Reach Out to Others?

By Lisa Copen

We may want to reach out, but when we don't know the answers, how do we pass on comfort?

"If God would just explain this all to me, maybe I would be able to live with it," shared Cindy over a cup of tea. "It's so frustrating to have to go through all of this pain, but even more frustrating to not be able to explain it-to myself or anyone else." How often I have felt the same way. I like to live by logical rules and I like a plan to follow. I belive that one of the reasons God allowed illness into my life was so that I would have to put my plan aside and simply follow him one day at a time.

Comforting others when you live with  a chronic illness is a way to find purpose in your painA verse that is often quoted in churches, small groups and Christian support groups is "Praise be to the God and Father our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort that we ourselves have received from Christ," (2 Corinthians 3:4).

Sometimes this verse brings people in pain peace, but other times it brings confusion. How can we live joyfully and brings others comfort knowing that we must suffer to be of any use? There are four clear, simple steps in the verse that will help us better understand this process.

1 We need to have ZEAL for God. This can be difficult, but the first part of this verse, "praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," reminds us that in all circumstances we have an opportunity to choose to praise God or withhold our praise. The Apostle Paul writes this verse while he is going through difficult times, and he had a "good excuse" to just skip this part, but he chooses not to. We may not all feel zealous about our life right now, but surrender those feelings over to Christ and He will take comfort in your genuiness.

2 It's vital that we realize that God truly FEELS.* "...the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort," It has been said, "Never doubt in the darkness what God has told you in the light." God loves you and cares for you, and although things seem difficult right now, His promises to bring you joy, hope and a future remain true.

His desire is to bear our burdens and for all to know Him. He hurts when He sees the world today. Despite this, our comfort is not His greatest goal, but rather his concern is our conformity to be like Christ. To understand what we are experiencing and to be willing and able to reach out to others, we must be able to understand God's feelings in all of this.

"I once went to see a speaker who was going to talk about her experience with cancer," Kathy told me. "But rather than encourage others, she explained how she now tells people that the only thing that they can depend on is themselves, because when it came down to it, depite her faith, she still got cancer!"

If you are still in the process of sifting through this theology and all of the emotions that go with your experience, talk to a pastor or mature Christian that can help you process them. Don't mistake the diversion for the destination! If you are still doubting that God loves you, you may encounter difficulties when trying to encourage others about God's faithfulness.

3 God wants to HEAL us. "...who comforts us in all of our troubles..." Healing means different things for different people. Not everyone is going to experience a physical healing. Tim Hansel writes in his book, You Gotta Keep Dancin', "I was healed when I gave up the desire to be healed..." God says he will comfort us in all of our troubles.

It's so easy to feel abandoned by God when we can't attend our daughter's dance recital. It's easy to feel alone while we wait for the test results. When the doctor doesn't believe the depth of our pain and we cry all the way home from the doctor's office, it's hard to believe that God is there, trying to comfort us-but He is.

I once heard of a mother who had a "tear jar," and every time her child would start to cry she would run and get the jar and try to "catch" the tears. She wanted to her child to know how precious the tears were and she discovered a great parenting tip along the way-her child quickly became more interested in the jar than the tears, and it was impossible to fill up the jar. This mother loved her child and although she wished the tears weren't there, she treasured them just the same. So too does our God care and comfort when we cry, reaching out to catch our tears. "You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?" (Psalm 56:8).

4 When we have praised God, we know that He feels compassion, and that He comforts us in all our troubles; we are given a gift of compassion for others and we want to pass on the comfort that we have received. " that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort that we ourselves have received from Christ." We feel that, despite the unanswered questions we still may have, God has REVEALED that there is purpose in the pain. One could say that, as Christians, we have a responsibilty to pass on the comfort that God has provided. By passing on the comfort that God has given us, we find that a part of His plan has been revealed.

"Nothing in the world can replace the effectiveness of Christians who have been wounded in the pruning process, speaking and living authentically," writes Larry Kreider, author of Bottom-Line Faith. "Although these people may not understand what is happening to them, they know they are part of a grand design."

Reaching out to others can help you deal with your own diseaseSix-year old Sara was browsing in the toy aisle as her mother shopped nearby. "Come on, Sara. We have to go," her mother called. As they were paying for a few items at the cash-register, Sara's mom glanced down at the bulge in her daughter's shirt suspiciously, just as a bean bag animal dropped out. "Sara! What are you doing?" her mother exclaimed.

"It's for Stacy. Tomorrow is her birthday, and I wanted to give her a gift." It can be tempting to want to give a gift without paying the price. But, by living with a chronic illness and surrendering each day over to God, you are sacrificing. And because of your sacrifice, the price you have had to pay, you have a great gift which you are called to share. Your gift is larger than the gift that any non-beliver can ever give because your gift is as a result of your faith in Jesus Christ.

As the HopeKeeper groups of Rest Ministries continues to grow across the country, I feel a joy and protectiveness about my leaders of these groups. I wish that I could take each one out for lunch and sit across the table and just get to know them. As I was reading the other day, I came to a passage that I felt was perfectly suited for each hk leader and to each of you who have reached out to others, even when in pain.

"This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:12-15).

Each one of us has a purpose. We all have a way in which we can reach out to others. And along the way, we discover a wonderful thing-that when we reach out to others and offer them comfort, the feelings of joy that we feel in return cannot compare to anything else. No book or new CD, no cup of tea or bubble bath will ever give the peace and joy that you will experience when you pray for others, and reach out to them, offering the comfort that we have received from Christ.

5 Ways to Reach Out to a Hurting Friend

Listen. Remember when all you wanted was someone to listen, someone who wouldn't give advice or try to fix it?

Ask how you should pray. Don't assume that you know the area in which your friend desires prayer. Ask about what he feels are his areas of need.

Remember those "tough days"-because she will. Write down those days that are devestating for your friend and send simple cards of acknowledgement during the anniversary. Don't be afraid to acknowledge that one year ago she was diagnosed with cancer by sending a card that simply says, "Thinking of you today, call me if you need to talk..."

Remember to celebrate! There will be good news too, and your friend will need someone to be as excited as she is when those test results arrive. Rarely do people understand the impact a simple test result can have on one's life. So don't be afraid to celebrate!

Be honest. Say, "I wish I knew what to say, but I don't. I'm here for you, though." If you start your sentence by saying, "I probably shouldn't say this..." then don't! Talk to her about what she feels she needs from

Find 505 Ways to reach out to a chronically ill friend in Beyond Caseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend

Get a free download of 200 ways to reach out to someone who is hurting from Beyond Caseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend when you sign up for hopenotes, a monthly ezine. Author of this article, Lisa Copen is also the founder of Rest Ministries and National Invisible Illness Awareness Week.





Don't forget! This article can be reprinted for free or syndicate Lisa's new articles.