This is my third blog post on living a life of purpose with a chronic illness. Once again this month I am taking an excerpt from my new book, Weak and Indispensable, A Life of Purpose for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Margaret woke me around midnight, and anxiously told me her engagement ring was missing. As I struggled to reenter the land of consciousness, I did my best to encourage her, and assured her that most likely it would show up somewhere on the floor in the morning. I figured the gold band with three diamonds wouldn’t be hard to locate in the limited areas of our home she navigates with her walker. She was concerned because she had absolutely no idea when it had fallen off her finger—the persistent numbness she has in her hands and feet (it’s called neuropathy), had left her clueless to where and when this had occurred.
Though I was confident the ring would show up, the next morning, as a precaution, I retrieved two bags of garbage that I had taken out the night before. In the unlikely scenario that her ring had somehow tumbled into the kitchen or bathroom trash, I didn’t want to run the risk of being tormented by the possibility, if her ring didn’t surface, that I had allowed it to become buried treasure in a Colorado landfill.
Over the next few days our all-out search proved fruitless, and as it became clear the ring wasn’t in the house, the two bags of rescued garbage began to beckon my name. So. on a Saturday morning, equipped with plastic gloves and a resolve to sift through an assortment of grossness, I meticulously initiated my refuse adventure. Bag #1, a slimy blend of decaying kitchen goodies, had everything from egg shells to salmon skin—but no ring. Bag #2, a plethora of bathroom trash, also was ring-less. . . that is, until I got to the very bottom of the bag. And then there it was, a bit soiled from the used tissues cloaking it. . . but never looking so beautiful and precious.
God’s truth as revealed in the Bible would encourage Christians (especially we healthy ones) to freshly realize the chronically ill and their caregivers are like Margaret’s missing ring. They may be surrounded by non-appealing circumstances: the difficult to look at “slime” of medical hardship and painful disabilities—but their symptomatic surroundings don’t define who they are—priceless gems designed by God to bring beauty and life-giving radiance to their churches and communities.
The Lord’s heart is clear on this matter. Isaiah 42:1-3 informs us, regarding the coming Messiah, that “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.” What does this mean? That the Savior is full of tender compassion for suffering people. He will not oppress his children who are afflicted and bring them to the breaking point. On the contrary, he longs to apply his balm of comfort, and provide for them the strength they need to endure. And amazingly, he also wants to show them the meaningful purpose they can fulfill in their daily lives.
Next month I will discuss practically what that significant, God-ordained role looks like for the chronic sufferer. If you are feeling like the purpose for your life is clouded today, I would encourage you to freshly come to Jesus. Read the Gospel of John, and see Christ’s great love for you. May God show you how to find hope and purpose in the days ahead.