Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. – Matthew 11:29
Oh, the fight, the seemingly endless fight. How can we not fight? It seems like a foreign invader, a terrorist even, has entered into our bodies and our lives. The invader is relentless, bent on destruction, a bringer of pain. Everything becomes more difficult. I was thinking about this today and God brought to mind this verse.
While our illness, pain, and disability don’t define us, they are part of who we are. By taking the stance of a soldier fighting off an enemy in a war, we are really fighting against our own selves. That is very counter-productive. Yet this is the main advice we get from others… “don’t give up, keep fighting.” Is that really the best advice to follow? Would they give the same advice to someone who has lost a limb? Someone who has a birth defect, or someone who is terminally ill is usually given much more leeway from the “outsiders looking in”. For them, they recognize that resistance is a waste of energy. I contend that those with chronic illness deserve the same understanding.
Well, sure, you say, but how can we accomplish this? Of course we don’t want to just surrender to our illness. Make no mistake, we will never be defeated. But this is what a constant fighting of our situation might lead us directly to! I don’t know about you, but I only have so much energy in a day, and I am much better off directing that energy toward living as much of my life as I can, rather than fighting something I will never be able to change. Some days that energy is depleted, and I need a day or two in bed or the recliner so that I can store up more for the days ahead. If I don’t take that sabbatical, I will set myself even further back, inviting in more sickness and pain, and perhaps need an even longer step-back before I can recover. Sometimes I will need to say ‘no’ to activities I crave and enjoy. This is not because I am surrendering, it is because I recognize that this is not an enemy, this is my condition and my body and my limitations, and I am honoring that instead of expending valuable energy fighting the inevitable. Because if there is a fight, there is an inevitable crash, and it’s not pretty or easy. And when that crash comes, I am the one who has to deal with the pain and grief. My family are the ones who must suffer watching me hurt, and do without me in their day-to-day lives while I recover from an energy over-spend. There are always consequences.
I would say to those who give this advice, “Every day is a type of battle for me. I AM FIGHTING. Every. Single. Day. Sometimes every hour.”
Let’s all be more aware from now on that people who give this advice have no clue how we are receiving it. While we must never lose hope, we are allowed periods of rest, a Sabbath of sorts, and these times are crucial for our sanity and even our very survival. We must learn to live in harmony with our illnesses and our limitations. To do anything else does not allow us to be available for our God, and that is not acceptable. To do anything less shows a lack of faith in God’s plan for our lives, and who among us knows better than He?
So today I say, if you are able to be active today, You Go! If you are in a Sabbath Day, Rest Well. If you are in Limbo, Welcome to the Club. It’s not a fun club, but it’s got some super-cool members! Where ever we each are today, let’s support one another and have faith that we know our own bodies and we should listen to them.
Dear Lord, help us to lay down the weapons we use against our own selves unknowingly. Show us the way to live in harmony with our conditions and our limitations. Grant us the grace to accept ourselves, and at the same time the strength to never give up hope. What a balance! We know we can only achieve it through You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen…
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