A Struggle with Chronic Illness

as told by Liz Grant

The Beginnings of Chronic Illness

I started to have stomach issues five years ago. I thought, “Oh, I’ll just stop eating dairy,” like maybe it was an allergy. That seemed to help for a while. Then, a year later, I moved to Colorado and many life factors were difficult, and I noticed that my stomach stuff became an issue again. I would always feel a pressure in my lower abdomen. I wondered if my pain was caused by anxiety, and I even took anxiety meds, but that didn’t help. I started to realize, this is every week that I feel bad. That’s when I tried everything: diets, colonoscopies, I went the endometriosis route—had surgery for that a couple times. All the supplements, all the heavy metal detoxes. I even thought, maybe it’s bees wax in my Burt’s bees, so I stopped using that. But then you go that far and literally anything could be the cause—like something in my house—and that will drive you insane, which makes you more anxious, which causes more stomach aches. At this point, I’ve tried everything that I, my doctors, or anyone else can think of, and still I have no answers.

What It’s Like to Live with Chronic Pain

Now I’m always in pain; I haven’t seen any real change in symptoms in five years. I can feel fatigue, drowsiness, stomach pain, digestive pain…How I feel just depends on the day. I plan when I eat, how I eat, when I’ll sleep, when I’ll rest, when I’ll work out, and even if I do plan everything out, I’m still going to struggle. Even resting doesn’t solve it—though I wish my body would take a rest day every once in a while. What gets me through my days is lots of prayer. Of course, I’m definitely in a better headspace when I feel better, and then it’s easier for me to talk to God; I might pray, “Give me strength.” But when I’m not feeling well, my prayers are just, “I can’t handle this anymore. Can you do something?” The last thing I want to do when I don’t feel good is to be with other people—like thinking of going to Gospel Community group on a Thursday night when I just don’t feel good, and I’m in a bad mood and being a jerk to my husband John, and I need time to myself—that’s when I need to get out of myself. Once I’m around other people I can focus on their lives, and it can sometimes bring me out of the emotional pit. (Though sometimes being around people can be worse.)

Asking God for Healing

Once when I was at this conference, a girl I’d just met was standing next to me, and during worship, she looked over and asked, “Do you need prayer for healing?” I said, “Yeah, I do,” and so she prayed for me. God didn’t heal me then, but to have a stranger turn to me, having no idea what I was going through, and ask to pray for me—that made me feel like God was saying, “I see you.” A few times since then, people have prayed over me and I’ve felt hopeful. And then it’s the next day and I’m still not healed. That’s when you ask yourself, okay, what was that about? That can be really hard. But I also know that every prayer will be answered, even if it’s not this side of heaven. My physical body is wasting away—everybody’s is. It’s never going to be perfect, not even if I am healed.

For the Person Walking through Chronic Illness

Pick running buddies: people you’re close to that you can be honest with, with whom you can share the depth of what you’re experiencing. These are the people who go to war with you, for your heart, who you can text and say, “Hey, I’m really struggling today—yes, I don’t feel good, but also I’m really struggling emotionally.” Some of those people might be folks who are also suffering. Listening to or reading stories of struggle also really helps me to remember that there are so many other people going through the same thing as me. I even have a “when it hurts” playlist—it can be powerful to listen to truth in music for me.

For the Supporters of the Person with Chronic Illness

I have learned how I want to be approached as a suffering person, so that’s made me more aware of how to approach people who are suffering. It just drives me crazy sometimes… I’ll have a dentist appointment scheduled, and someone will say to me, “Well, maybe that dentist will have all the answers for why you’re feeling bad.” And I want to say, “No, it’s only a dentist appointment. It has nothing to do with how my stomach feels.” Or maybe they’ll say, “Well, at least you have your husband.” Or they’ll come with a list of all the ways to fix what I’m going through, asking me, “Have you tried…?” That can feel like people are dismissing my pain—like they feel uncomfortable that there are no answers for me, and they want to fix their own discomfort somehow. It can even be hard for me to stay in the discomfort sometimes if someone asks, “How are you feeling?” Even if the true answer is “Still not good,” I might want to add a “but…” Of course, fostering a heart of gratitude will help me, but I don’t need other people to find the bright side for me. Instead, I need a friend that can rest in the “this sucks” with me.

A Theology of Suffering

I believe God wants to heal me, but if He really wanted to heal me now, He would have—but He hasn’t. I don’t want this to be my story, but it is. And it’s important to rest in the “grey,” because that’s what most of life is. Everybody you come across is going to be suffering in some capacity, and we all have to learn to live fully in our suffering, even when we don’t understand why it’s happening to us. Our life isn’t supposed to be comfortable; you weren’t called to live a comfortable life. Everyone knows that, but I think we all want that happy, healthy life. God has promised to be with us, but He didn’t promise to give us all the answers, or to heal us always, or to make us comfortable; He just promised that He would never leave or forsake us. So as people who are called to live like Jesus, that’s what we’re called to do, too, for each other—to be with people. I guess that’s something that I’m still learning about God. God is not outside of the pain, He’s bearing it with me.

Bread & Wine 2017 Recap

An evening to taste and see the glory of God through His good creation.

Where the person of God is enjoyed through wine, food, and conversation. On Tuesday, December 5, Park Church hosted its fifth annual Bread & Wine event at Moss Denver. Each year, we create a space where the eyes of our hearts are opened to the beauty of our Creator. How do we do that? By turning our attention to a specific element that God has gifted us for our enjoyment, to be used as a unique way to illuminate how we can relate to God. This year the focus was music. Music is a marvelous conductor that uses the “instruments” of melody, notes, and sounds to create a symphony that our hearts are drawn to, pointing to the ultimate Musician, God Himself. Bach said, “I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.” We see the centrality of music in the life of God’s people throughout history. After crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites sang with joyful hearts to give thanks—a jubilant cheer of crying out to God for what He had done. We find trumpeters and musicians joining in song to praise God (2 Ch. 5:13), and a call from Paul to sing and make music from our hearts (Ep. 5:19). This night recognized the importance of music as an instrument for us all to create and creatively respond to our Father. So what happened at Bread & Wine? The event started off with a hang-out time where people came in, poured their wine, and enjoyed appetizers and socializing while Bruce Butler played a live instrumental set. Across the beautiful setting of Moss Denver, we had Jennie Pitts display her artworks that added to the splendor of the atmosphere. Jennie was introduced and spoke a bit about her artwork and her inspiration behind them. Following this, we had Nicole Langford perform a musical piece on the viola. The piece was introduced with poetry that reflected how the artist experienced the beauty of the composition. Lights were turned off to enhance the focus of listening. This moved into a discussion time, where people were encouraged to ask various questions to each other about what they experienced, including other questions about the way we engage with music. As the conversations dwindled down, we proceeded into a Q&A panel with Nicole and Matthew Langford, Joel Limpic, and Bruce Butler. They were asked asked about being musical artists, why music matters, how faith impacts our ability to create and listen to music, should there be specific music we do or don’t listen to, etc. Together, led by Mark Wilkins, many joined in worship to close out the night with “This Is My Father’s World”, “Great Are You Lord”, and the “Doxology”. Praise God from whom all blessings flow indeed! May we be a people who respond to His gifts with fire in our hearts to listen, enjoy, and sing to our creative Triune God who sings over us. Credits: Blog, video & photography created by Jacques Gerber, our arts intern at Park Church.