Finding Contentment While Chronically Ill
By Kerri Fowler
The alarm goes off and another day begins. I start to wonder what this day will hold on this roller coaster I call life. Will I have a good day with little pain and exhaustion or will my day be filled with a lot of pain, a low-grade fever, and overwhelming exhaustion? Will I be able to accomplish all I need to in my day, pace myself to accomplish some things, or will I need to forego my To Do List and focus on resting and medicating? I usually figure out quite quickly when I awake if it will be a good day, a “meh” day, or a really tough day.
You see, I have suffered with a chronic illness for more than half of my life now. In July, I will mark the milestone of being chronically ill for 29 years. While this is much less than many, it is also much more than many. Having a condition that causes flare-ups of significant widespread pain has made for an interesting journey and has often left me feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, depressed, less than, and honestly, cursed, at times. It is only in the last few years that I have begun to really find contentment in the midst of my chronic illness.
For many years I thought maybe my faith wasn’t big enough and that is why God was not healing me. I also had moments where I was just angry with Him for not healing me from this illness. I struggled at times with thinking there was some unconfessed sin that was resulting in this pain. Unfortunately, I sometimes listened to those who thought they knew best about why I suffered with this illness and didn’t really seek God for His Truth!
That changed the more I poured into God’s Word and really connected more with Him in my daily life. While I have often felt overwhelmed and sorry for myself when in the grip of unexplainable pain, God has used those times to point me more towards Him and His promises.
The life of Paul and the God-inspired words he penned have provided teaching, conviction, and comfort for me. Like Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 has resonated with me. Even though I have continually implored God to take this illness away, He has said “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” God has said “no” to healing me on earth, so far, but has provided me with His all sufficient grace and power!
Jesus has shown time and again how he has provided for me and even blessed me during this journey. I have also learned to trust in Him, rest in Him, and rely on Him. He knew that I was a stubborn, willful, and independent girl that needed a thorn so that I would turn to Him and rely on Him. And rely on Him I have! It is only by His strength, grace, power, and provision that I am where I am today!
God has also taught me how to really understand what it means to be content. Two years ago, two of my dear friends agreed to attend a Refresh Prayer Service with me that was focusing on healing. I think they went with me hoping I would experience the miracle of healing, but I went seeking contentment even if God continued to say “no” to physically healing me. I wanted to be free from anger and bitterness toward God for the illness and be content in resting in His presence and His provision within the illness. I had been studying Philippians again and He was revealing to me the true meaning of Philippians 4:13.
I am sure many of you can quote that verse: “I can do all things thorough Him who strengthens me.” While that is true, I missed the context of that verse for many years. I missed that this was referring to how God gave Paul the strength to be content in all things! Notice in Philippians 4:11-12, Paul is speaking about how he learned to be content in whatever circumstances he was in. He learned what it means to be in need and how to live in prosperity. He learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, of having abundance and suffering need. It was in those times that Paul learned that he could do all of that through Christ who strengthened him!
I prayed to God during that Refresh Prayer service for Him to provide me with that kind of contentment and the strength to be content in the circumstances He placed me in, even if that meant that no physical healing would come.
He has faithfully answered that prayer! Like Paul, I am learning how to be content when in pain and when pain free, when exhausted and when rested, when in need and when fulfilled. It is Christ who strengthens me and gives me contentment!
I have also been blessed with a wonderful circle of people who love me and continually provide encouragement! My wonderful husband and sons show me grace and compassion when I can’t be the wife and mom I want to be, love me beyond comprehension, and point me to Jesus for strength! My extended family loves and encourages me. My excellent co-workers and boss show such understanding and grace when I can’t do the work I need to, due to my pain. My fabulous friends and prayer partners have cried with me, helped me to keep my focus on His love and provision, and have interceded for me!
Although this journey is a tough one, God provides more abundantly than I could ask or think according to His power! All I can do is to be content in His strength, praise Him, and give Him all the glory!
For those of you also suffering with an invisible illness, know that I understand and am praying that you will find healing, and if not, true contentment in Jesus during your journey.