don't understand why you won't at
least take his phone number; he's
a Christian and he specializes in
herbal remedies. He could heal you
and then you could share his success
with everyone and that could be
was standing in the buffet line
at a special dinner for committee
members of an international revival
that had come to town. Some would
go as far to say that those attending
this dinner were the who's who of
local women in ministry, and I was
proud to be among their company.
Despite their involvement and leadership
in ministry, however, this group
of women was healthy-bodied and
provided many examples for me to
share about how, as a church body,
we can increase our awareness and
understanding of those who live
with chronic conditions.
one committee member asked why I
was appointed as the disabilities
coordinator I shared a few words
about my ministry. She in turn asked
me what drugs I was on because she
could tell by my "fat face"
(her words, not mine, but a bit
too close to the truth) that I was
on "something horrible."
So when I mentioned the drugs she
insisted on sharing with me why
I shouldn't be taking them and how
she knew someone who knew someone
who specialized in herbal remedies
and that God had surely brought
us together so that I could be cured.
need not share anymore of this with
you. You already know this story,
as you have likely lived it yourself.
Never doubt that I too am confronted
with well-intentioned, even Godly
people sharing their cures to all
of my ailments. They believe that
somewhere I got my lines crossed
with God, because any illness ministry
who's mission is not solely to heal
everyone physically is surely not
God-ordained. They believe God's
brought them to me to "fix"
the ministry and fix me.
"How do I make people understand?"
Countless emails and calls all come
down to this one question. Is it
possible to magically place someone
in your shoes and have them walk
around in your skin for 24-hours
so that s/he can truly understand?
Unfortunately, it is not. However,
we can choose how we respond to
circumstances like the one I have
Rest Ministries founder,
"For we are his workmanship,"
(Eph. 2:10). No one on earth is
perfect. People will always disappoint
us, but God will not. Know what
you believe. Know who you are. You
are created in the image of Christ.
Spending time with God and reading
His Word will instill this into
your body, mind and soul. This way,
when people say things that hurt,
you will be able to respond, not
matter how hard you try, pray, believe
and respond, people are still going
to say things that hurt, even when
they mean well. "Remember the
time when you said something in
total innocence and found out later
that your friend had misunderstood
exactly what you had said? Or the
time that as soon as the words came
out of your mouth you regretted
it; but rather than call attention
to it you let it go, even though
you realized it deserved acknowledgement
and an apology. People are human.
Put your trust in God.
the Feelings of Others
More than anything people want to
feel that they matter and that what
they have to say matters. Imagine
were diagnosed with lupus two years
ago. A long-time friend comes to
visit bringing the spouse and kids
and insists that you all go to the
beach. You realize that this is
going to set you back physically
for a few days, but you do want
to go. You pack as light as possible,
bringing a chair, 45-spf sunscreen,
an umbrella and plenty of water
to drink. Once you get to the beach
your friend says, "I don't
know why you won't participate.
You used to jump right in and play
volleyball with us. Now you just
want to sit there under your umbrella
and you act like you're going to
melt in the sun! You've really changed!
You're not nearly as much fun as
you used to be."
think about what you're going
to say. Respond, don't react.
Validate! "You know, you're
right when you say I have changed,
and I understand why you think
that I am not as much fun. I
feel that way myself sometimes.
It's been a really difficult
two-years adjusting to the changes.
I love the beach and am glad
to be here, but I also have
to stay out of the sun. I've
really learned to enjoy just
reading a book and not having
to be involved in everything
like I used to be. In some weird
way I like parts of this new
me that is content in the little
things, like seeing your family
have such a good time.
They Want to Learn
That means you're going to have
to answer questions when they feeling
like listening, not when you feel
like talking - not always easy for
a chronically ill person, but a
necessary part of helping people
learn to understand. Truth be told,
if one more person asks me if anyone
in my family had rheumatoid arthritis
I am going to look them straight
in the eye and sadly say, "yes,
my grandparents' dog had it back
in the 70's."
a friend wants to learn more about
your illness, explain it to him
in simple terms. When he starts
to give advice or share remedies
gently say, "I really appreciate
you asking me about my illness,
and by telling you, I am trusting
that you will respect my treatment
choices." If he's relentless,
one woman said she jokingly said,
"Tell it to the hand,"
and walked away.
Easier said than done, but it is
possible. Healthy people don't like
to be reminded of the possibility
of illness. The fact that you-who
life pretty decently, prayed, and
went to church, now have a devastating
illness that is affecting your family,
health and finances-is terrifying.
If you still want to be his or her
friend, the ball is in your court
to keep certain parts of the relationship
fun. Call them up and ask them to
go get a milkshake with you. Join
a local book club. Go out for Mexican
food and act silly while drinking
a virgin margarita. Wear bright,
colorful clothes. Send a silly card.
When you have a sense of humor about
your illness, those around you will
lighten up too. Ask your girlfriend
to help you go pick out a wig. Bring
a joke book to the doctor's office
waiting room and read it together.
the Kind of Friend
That You Want to Have
So your friend doesn't have an illness?
So what? You think you understand
every itty bitty thing that she
is going through with her child's
divorce, her mom's stroke, or her
husband's depression? Do you only
talk about your problems? Listen!
Ask questions that draw her out
and show you care about her. "What's
the hardest part about getting out
of bed in the morning?" "What
can I specifically pray about for
you?" "What can I do to
help you?" Healthy friends
don't want to bother us with their
troubles or needs; they feel guilty
and even embarrassed that they are
stressing out over their daughter's
new boyfriend or the layoffs at
work, when we are wondering if we'll
live to see 60. True friends, however,
share both the ups and the downs.
Don't expect that you get to share
all of your downs and s/he only
is allowed to share the ups. "Rejoice
with those who rejoice; mourn with
those who mourn,"
Share your feelings. Say what you
mean. Proverbs 25:11 says, "A
word aptly spoken is like apples
of gold in settings of silver."
Be kind, gentle, and respectful.
First, pick an appropriate time
to talk to a person. Don't have
the conversation in front of other
people. Don't do it out of anger
validate the friend and avoid using
the word "but." Instead
say "and." For example,
"I really value your friendship
and there are some things that I
would like to talk about
If you say, "but there are
" it invalidates
the compliment and puts your friend
on the defense.
put yourself in his/her shoes. "I
know you really care about me and
it must be really hard for you to
see me in so much pain. I don't
know how I would respond if you
were hurting and I couldn't do anything
to fix it
Fourthly, set clear boundaries.
Use word pictures to help you communicate."
Do you remember how you told me
about how you felt when you were
young? How your grades were never
quite good enough for your parents?
How they always made you feel so
stupid?" (S/he says "yes.")
"Well, my illness affects all
areas of my life and I have really
jumped in and done all sorts of
research on treatments and the good
and the bad and the side effects
and consequences. I feel like I've
made a very educated choice that
I can live with for now. I know
you have good intentions, but when
you tell me about all the stuff
that you've read and how I should
try something else, it makes me
feel like you must think that I
am really stupid." (Oh! I never
meant it that way!) I know, and
I know you just want to help, but
I feel hurt and that you must not
think I care enough about my health
or am bright enough to make my own
You Aren't Perfect
What? Who, us? Yes! Be sure to tell
your friends that this whole illness
thing is new to you and that you
are taking it one day at a time
and learning along the way, just
like they are in areas of their
lives. Tell them that you really
care about them and know that they
are going through tough times in
their own lives too and that you
are there to listen. Explain that
if you try to start giving advice
and forget to listen, for them to
call you on it, because you are
practicing your listening skills
and trying to learn how to be a
it doesn't work. Go back
to step 1: Know Your Values. People
will disappoint you. In fact, you
will probably even disappoint a
few too in this journey of life.
Learn to forgive. Learn to listen.
Keep realistic expectations of friends.
The very best of friends will listen,
bring chicken soup, take your kids
for a night, and even cry with you,
but only God promises to actually
count our tears. "List my tears
on your scroll-are they not in your
record?" (Psa. 56:8).