We all want to have an impact and produce good fruit in the lives of others with not just our actions but our words. I am convinced most of us have good, kind hearts and honestly want to be helpful. There are countless things we can do or say to bless others. However, talking with someone who has been going through a chronic illness is not the same as talking with someone who has a cold or a toothache.
In this blog post (part 3 of the series), I want to encourage you to be mindful of the words you speak, how they could be taken, as well as 10 truths to remember when speaking with someone who is going through a chronic illness.
In part one of this series, we asked the question, where is God when I am sick? When an illness touches our life, most of us have asked this question. We also wonder why bad things happen to good people. In this post, we learned that God is always with us but that there might be a few reasons why we are suffering. If you have not read part one, I encourage you to click here.
In part two of this series, we discovered practical ways to draw closer to God when we are ill. It requires us being intentional and putting forth an effort to draw closer to God when he seems far away. Our comfort from the world is like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound. Sure, it will help but it’s just not enough. You can’t be passive in the healing process if you want healing from the one who created you. You can read more about that process by clicking here.
Our Words Have Power
Have you noticed when someone comes into our life with an issue of illness, we are quick to gather around to pray and speak encouraging life over them? But if their illness is prolonged we are no longer sure what to do or say and we shy away. We secretly hope that the person who is ill will seek out anyone but us to talk with and pray for them.
I don’t believe we shy away from them out of meanness. Sometimes we don’t understand why they haven’t been healed and we just don’t know what else to say. I know it is hard for you to watch and stand in the gap for them but imagine how much harder it is for them to live it. We need to be careful not to become indifferent to their struggle.
We all say things we wish we could take back. For many of us, we have great intentions but our words get tangled up between our brain and our mouth. When we feel others aren’t “getting it” and accepting their healing we so generously spoke over them, we become impatient and frustrated. Unfortunately, when we reach that point, we tend to speak without thinking and our words might become a little more hurtful instead of helpful. It’s so easy to let those words slip out when most of us don’t stop to weigh our words first. But we need to slow down and ask Holy Spirit for help with our words because words are so very, VERY powerful!
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Proverbs 18:21)
The Parable Of The Good Samaritan
You might have heard the story of the good Samaritan. If not, please take a moment and read his story. It is found in Luke 10:30-37.
In this story, a Jewish man was traveling to another town and was attacked while on the road. A Jewish priest was traveling the same road. This priest saw the man but hurried to cross over to the other side of the road and ignored this poor injured man. Another man was curious enough to go over to the injured and dying man but he too moved on without helping. It doesn’t say the injured man was unconscious so it’s possible he cried out for help from the men passing by.
Next along was a Samaritan man who was so moved by the injured mans plight that he not only stopped but used his own supplies to bandage up and soothe this man. He could have gone for help and left it to others to help the injured man. But he didn’t. He didn’t care that it delayed his own trip, that it would cost him out of his own pocket to care for this man, or that Jews despised Samaritans. He didn’t do it for recognition or a reward. He did it out of mercy and kindness.
This man’s story shows us how Jesus expects us to treat those who are hurting. Through no fault of his own, this man was attacked and left for dead. He didn’t deserve what happened to him but he sure needed someone to step up and be the hand of Christ.
Those with a chronic illness usually suffer through no fault of their own. Many times they suffer in silence because they don’t always look or act “sick enough”. They don’t deserve what their body is going through and they need us to be like the good Samaritan and step up to be the hand of Christ.
Illness Is Hard Enough Without Feeling Less Than
When you have a chronic illness, your day-to-day reality is different than for those without illness. Have you ever had a day that in spite of your best efforts everything seemed to go wrong? The world calls it Murphey’s Law in action. For someone with chronic illness, they have far too many days like that and they have no control over what is happening to their body. They have to learn to lean on God in a way that those without prolonged illness do not.
I’ve heard chronic illness described as the feeling of a giant boulder pushing against them and they can’t get away from it. They become fearful of making a move because it just might be the wrong move and that invisible boulder might crush them. This person might be doing their absolute best to stand steadfast in God’s promises and ignore the pain, fear, and everything else they know is not from God. We all know that when someone takes a stand Satan loves to swoop in and speak death and discouragement.
We have a choice to help those who are hurting just as those men had a choice with the injured Jewish man. I’m sure many of this man’s injuries were visible but I am just as sure that many were not so obvious. Noone was there to force these men to attend to the injured man. We’ve all heard the phrase “character is who you are when no one is watching.” These men surely showed their character when there was no one around to impress.
Like the other two men, the good Samaritan didn’t know anything about this man or what caused him to be injured. It was possible the Jewish man attacked someone first with the intent to rob them but the person turned the tables and got the best of the Jewish man. I don’t believe so but who knows? I’m sure the good Samaritan had many questions and concerns regarding this man, yet he didn’t hesitate to do what he could.
Along the same lines, you won’t always know the circumstances of someone else’s life and illness. We often hold back helping others because we fear they will somehow take advantage of us. But God gives us a choice every time. When someone cries out to you for help, will you ignore them and walk away or will you do what you can to help regardless of who is listening and watching? You might honestly not be in a position to help in any way except through prayer and the spoken word. That will be between you and God to determine.
When God places someone in your path that is suffering from a chronic illness, what you say to them and how you make them feel is so important! I pray you will keep the following in mind.
Our Brothers and Sisters With Chronic Illness need…
…Love, Encouragement, and Mercy.
When someone is down and discouraged they need help. That point in time is the absolute wrong time to walk away from them. Going through a chronic illness wears on a person’s finances, body, spirit, and emotions. You might not realize it but a hug, a kind word, or even knowing someone is standing with you in prayer are all ways God uses his children to bless each other. The person who is ill does not deserve our chastisement for being less than we think they should be. We are to be kind and tenderhearted towards each other (Ephesians 4:32), the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
…Reminded that Christ alone is their answer.
We are to be a blessing to each other but we are NOT to try to be their answer. We must always point them to Christ Jesus because only he is all things to all people. What those with a chronic illness need is for you to tell them God’s truths straight from the Bible without adding worldly buzzwords.
The world’s answers are temporary and ultimately empty. Even the best physicians around use educated guesses to heal. In my own life alone it would take two hands to count the number of times my family has been to the hospital with an issue that the medical staff could not definitively diagnose. It is more common than you might think. The medical staff does their best but they are only human.
God’s truth will heal down deep in the physical and spiritual. He never has to guess what is wrong with us and he knows exactly how to bind up and mend what is broken in each of us. Because Jesus is The Word, when ministering to someone with a chronic illness, allow him to use your words to begin the healing process. After all, the power of our words combined with the power of God’s truth is what every soul longs to hear. It gives hope to the hearer as well as the one who stepped out in faith and spoke God’s word.
…Help to adjust their perspective.
Without realizing it, they might have fallen back on believing Satan’s lies. Help them see that God is still blessing them in the midst of their suffering. Help them see and give thanks for the big and little blessings. What they once took for granted and thought was no biggie might now be a big deal that they aren’t sure how to handle.
Most of us are so goal-oriented that we ignore little blessings because we are laser focused on something bigger, better, and more impressive. Sometimes it takes our having to slow down with a prolonged illness to recognize this. What a shame! God often uses little blessings to flow into greater blessings. As I mentioned in my last post, being ill can be a blessing if we just adjust our perspective. What a wonderful opportunity to draw closer to your Savior!
…You to stop comparing.
I’m not sure why but we all seem to play the comparison game. When someone shares their struggle, we feel compelled to share our cousin’s boyfriend’s aunt’s new neighbor’s story. Of course, this person went through something similar but way worse. Or we feel compelled to tell this hurting soul that we went through something similar but naturally, we handled it so much better than this person.
Why do we do this to each other? Do we really want that fake gold trophy for suffering more than someone else? Do we really need to one-up each other and diminish the other person, even in this? Didn’t Jesus talk to the Pharisees about such things?
Just as each person is different, so is each illness. Don’t assume that because you know someone who knows someone who had something similar that you understand another person’s illness. No two journeys are the same even when it comes to illness. The good Samaritan could have easily looked at the injured Jewish man, shrugged his shoulders, and mumbled “you’re not hurt as bad as I was last year. I was hurt way worse and had to crawl 3 miles to get help – all uphill!” and moved on like the other two fellows.
…You to remember God’s principle of sowing and reaping.
Everyone has some trial they are going through. It is only by the grace of God that this person is suffering from this chronic illness instead of you. God spells it out for us in Galatians 6:6-10. Not only will we reap what we sow, we will give an account one day of the words we have spoken (yes, the principle of sowing and reaping applies even to our spoken word). Do you really want to explain to God Almighty that you hurt one of his children out of carelessness and lack of self-control? Words are powerful and what you sow you will surely reap.
What Our Brothers and Sisters With Chronic Illness do NOT need to hear…
(Yes, these are snippets of actual conversations spoken to me or that I have overheard spoken to someone else.)
…”You missed church again. What is wrong with you this time? We all get sick, that’s no excuse. Besides, it’s not about you. Don’t you know we aren’t to forsake the assembly of the brethren to stay home and lay on the couch?!”
Many people went to Jesus for healing but I can’t recall a single person he condemned this way. This person isn’t exactly showing grace or the fruits of the Spirit. I wonder why they are keeping track of someone else’s church attendance? They seem to assume they know why this person missed church. Maybe they do but maybe they have no idea.
This type of comment is pretty presumptuous. This person is assuming the person they are speaking to didn’t go to church because they didn’t see them. Maybe they went to a different service or went to a different church altogether. I don’t know why we assume just because we go to the same church with someone that it gives us an automatic relationship and they owe us an explanation.
I don’t mean to sound harsh here, honest I don’t. The above type of comment could be asked in so many encouraging and uplifting ways instead of being condemning about matters we don’t know. If we aren’t careful, we tend to get so wrapped up in monitoring everyone around us that we fail to see (or work to remove) the plank from our own eye.
If you have not seen someone at church that you know has been battling a chronic illness, maybe you should pray for this person. Then, if led by God, go visit them and take a meal and a heavy dose of God’s encouragement. Share with them what the message was about that they missed. Give them a copy of your sermon notes.
…”You poor thing! I’m never sick. I take this vitamin and that herbal supplement and eat this many protein bars a day. If you really want to be healthy, you should try it. Oh, and I happen to sell them if you decide you really want to be healthy and healed.”
What do you suppose this person’s real motives were here? Do you think they realized how bad their comment made the other person feel? Again, can you think of a single time Jesus went to someone who was ill and offered them the latest worldly fad to fix their issues? I’m not saying God wouldn’t use things to heal. He used his own spit to heal after all. However, he never once offered to sell someone a healing and Jesus really did have all the answers to everyone’s problems. Yet he never once made anyone feel less than.
Someone who is suffering from a chronic illness doesn’t need your sales pitch, condescension, or pity but I bet they wouldn’t turn down your prayers and kindness.
…”We prayed for you a few times already. We don’t need to pray for you again. Where is your faith?”
Ouch. Have you been guilty of this one? I have. In the church I was attending at the time had the same people come week after week asking for laying on of hands and prayers for healing. It was always for the same people with the same issues every single service. It was frustrating. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t have more faith and why they needed to draw attention to themselves like that. I looked down on them instead of lifting them up.
God corrected me. He began to show me that the absolute best thing someone can do for you is to lift you up in prayer. If God says to forgive someone 70 x 7, how much more would he want us to pray for someone seeking him for any reason? It really was none of my business why they did or didn’t have “enough” faith. It was none of my business how many times they asked for prayer. Taking someone before the throne of God is an honor and privilege, not something we should do begrudgingly and out of obligation.
Maybe in addition to praying for a healing, we need to pray for that person’s ears and eyes to be opened to God’s truths. Maybe we needed to pray for their faith to be increased. Maybe this person is repeatedly seeking prayer from the church because they are lonely and want to feel special for a few moments. I realize that is a separate issue but my point is they might need prayer for more than their illness.
You don’t have to proclaim that out loud to the church and embarrass them though. Jesus would never humiliate anyone for seeking him. This is where our spiritual discernment needs to come into play. Just keep in mind we are all in a different place with God. Sometimes the need for a spiritual healing is greater than the need for a physical healing. The person needing healing doesn’t always know what is wrong, just that they need God’s help.
…”You’re STILL sick?!? Too bad you don’t have enough faith to be healed.”
There is so much power in our words. Those words you just spoke had the power to rip that person to shreds. When we line our words up with God’s Words, power goes forth. A statement such as this is belittling and not of God. It does nothing to encourage, uplift, edify, or train the person who is suffering.
Truthfully, you don’t know where their faith is, how much or how little they have, or why they are going through what they are going through. Only God alone knows. In fact, the person you are speaking to might actually have more faith than you do.
It is so important that we realize that God doesn’t heal just because we pray and speak his words over someone. If that were the case, don’t you think Paul would have been healed? Yet, it says he prayed 3 different times and God chose not to heal him. We are told Job was a righteous man. Don’t you think he prayed many times and asked God to take away his suffering? Yet it went on for a season to fulfill God’s purpose.
Don’t make the mistake of judging someone’s faith by what you see. We don’t know why God heals or doesn’t heal. God had his reason’s in the Bible and he has his reason’s now.
…”God is not punishing you, he is preparing you.”
I have heard this popular catchphrase spoken many times especially when an illness is prolonged. I always wonder how the speaker knows such a thing. God uses suffering to get our attention, to correct, to rebuke, to put a stop to something we are doing when we need redirecting. Don’t lead someone astray with empty platitudes that tickle their ears. You don’t know God’s reasons for things and shouldn’t act like you do. Maybe God has told the person suffering that it is punishment or correction. They might need help wrapping their head around that truth, but the fact is, the reason for their illness and healing is between them and God.
No matter what we think, God is still the one in control, not us. This is so important I want to make sure you get it down deep: God doesn’t heal just because we pray and speak his words over someone. Yes, he hears and is listening. He is examining our hearts and motives. But just because we speak doesn’t mean he is obligated to act. We answer to him, he doesn’t answer to us.
We forget sometimes that God has a purpose and a plan for everything, even this person’s illness. I’m not saying God caused it. I’m saying there are many reasons why someone goes through something.
We know that God uses all things for good. He could be using their illness to bless them in any number of ways that may not be obvious until later. It’s funny how things seem so confusing until we take the time to look back on it. What was not so obvious then is suddenly so obvious that sometimes we just chuckle at the irony. You know what? That right there is another blessing from God. 🙂
The power of life and death is in the tongue
I pray that you have received this blog post with the spirit intended. We might never find ourselves in the position of the good Samaritan and need to pick someone up out of the street to help them. But God places people in our lives who have just as many needs as that long ago Jewish man. The words we speak to them are so vital to their spirit. The old saying that “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me” is such a lie of the Devil. Words stick with someone long after our bodies heal.
We must make a practice of speaking life over others and stand with them in prayer regardless of what our eyes see. This post is not meant to mock your efforts. We all need to reach out to each other and find ways to bless someone hurting. I believe that too often we are all guilty of speaking without thinking. Sometimes, that gut reaction reveals more about our real motives than we realize.
I really want you to think of that person in your life who has a chronic illness. Please take a moment and pray about your response to this person. Is it godly, helpful, and true? Are you speaking life and love over them or are you responding flippantly with a multitude of words that is crushing to their spirit? Did you do what you “had” to do for them because others were watching? Did you do what you “had” to do for them because you wanted to be a blessing and didn’t care if others were watching?
“In the multitude of words there is no lack of disobedience, but he who restrains his lips does wisely.” (Proverbs 10:19).
Restrain yourself from speaking anything and everything that pops into your head. James 3 tells us that the tongue is untamable and full of deadly poison. The Devil loves to take our words and use them to hurt and offend. What you might think of as cute, light, and flippant might be a huge deal to someone who is hurting. Allow the Holy Spirit, and not the Devil, to guide your speech.