I attended a support group meeting where
I expected encouragement and hope. I left
feeling disillusioned because what I found
was a place of desperation, disappointment
and discouragement. Living with rheumatoid
arthritis was not going to be easy. At
the age of 24, I went from feeling happy
and healthy to fearing the future and
barely being able to walk. I experienced
all of these emotions within a three-week
period. I searched my local Christian
bookstore for advice on how to stay hopeful
but also how to keep the faith whether
I was healed or not. But the subject of
chronic illness was not addressed. Was
I the only one who hadn't been healed?
to the year 2002 with me. I still have
not been healed. I still struggle to stand
some days, today being one of them. I
find that walking has it's own difficulties.
Simple things like washing my hair may
come with ease or with much trouble. Like
you, there is no way to predict how my
body will feel when I wake up in the morning.
Last year, I was also diagnosed with fibromyalgia
and between the two illnesses, I understand
that waking-up feeling of "Did I
just get hit by a truck?"
chronic illness is not easy. It's daily.
It's distancing and sometimes it can be
discouraging. We hurt. We feel harassed.
We harden our hearts. Only by knowing
God can we be what we were meant to be.
I say this because I am a Christian and
I know that I never would have made it
through this crisis without my faith.
In 1997, I began Rest Ministries, a Christian
organization that serves people who live
with chronic illness or pain. I saw too
many people who were hurting and searching
for hope-somewhere, anywhere, and still
feeling empty. Living with physical pain
is a daily challenge but it's the emotional
aches that hurt us most of all. "A
man's spirit sustains him in sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear"
us have been supported and loved by our
friends and families. Many of us have
not been as fortunate. Many of us have
been told, "If you had enough faith
you'd be healed" or "Maybe if
you just prayed about it some more."
If this is what faith is about, why is
it so necessary?
dozens of recently published research
studies that explain how attending church
will lower your blood pressure, extend
your life, help you recover from surgery
faster, and even view your illness as
less painful than it is. We can scientifically
prove that faith helps. But my heart and
friends remind me daily that we don't
believe because of a study. We believe
because with Jesus our burden is light.
started with a simple newsletter called,
And He Will Give You Rest,
which soon thereafter expanded into Rest
Ministries, Inc. Why "rest?"
I was given many opinions from colleagues
and people with marketing experience about
my choice of title. They suggested we
call the newsletter "Chronic Illness
something-or-other" or describe it
by saying that we serve the chronically
ill. (We emphasize that we serve people
who live with chronic illness or pain.)
There is more to us than our illness!
What do we really want though? We want
rest! We want to be reminded that we can
drop our burdens, disappointments, heartaches
and fears of the future. We want to lay
down our need to succeed as well as the
guilt and frustration over faltering relationships.
to know that we can pack up our worries
about finances, our concerns about parenting,
and our ability to care for our parents.
For God tells us "Come to me all
who are weary and burdened and I will
give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).
ask me what fibromyalgia feels like, I
describe my pain by saying the following:
"A simple pat feels like a baseball
hitting me," a constant sunburn,
or that I often feel as though "I
have a fifty pound child sitting on my
shoulder with his legs wrapped tightly
around my neck" . I recently thought
about how this relates to the following
verses. "Take my yoke upon you and
learn from me, for I am gentle and humble
in heart and you will find rest for your
souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden
is light" (Matt. 11:29,30). Stop.
Go back and read that verse again. Does
this not sound wonderful? Rest for our
us is carrying a yoke on our shoulders
right now. Perhaps it is the stress of
that overdue bill and wondering how we
are going to pay it. Maybe it's because
as we lay awake at 4 a.m. this morning,
we wondered if we were going to be able
to make it through this life if we continued
to feel so poorly. A few weeks ago at
a fibromyalgia conference, a young girl
sitting near me shared her story with
me. She said that her dad had just told
her that he wanted to discontinue all
contact with her until she stopped being
tells us that they can heal our ills.
They tell us that if we eat better, try
harder, and drink more water we will be
healed. They show us commercials where
one ibuprofen tablet gives one back his
or her life. I tend to yell at the television
every time one pharmaceutical commercial
comes on that says, "Life is good,
if you have your health." Life can
still be good! Life can still be worth
living. Why? Because if we take our worries
and our bruised heart to Him, he will
mend it. However, we must discard the
yoke of the world before we can accept
rest for our souls that Jesus' yoke provides
not to be skeptical. Perhaps it's been
a long time since we have thought about
God. Perhaps, we still think about praying
but we just can't get down on our knees
anymore to do it properly, so we put it
off. Instead, we run to the store and
we buy scented candles. We put our faith
in an herbal bath. We accept the yoke
of the world by spending money and time
on things that promise to bring us rest
for our souls. We watch daytime talk shows
that present moments of "spirituality"
and we believe that if we are "spiritual
enough" we have found peace. But
then we wait
and peace doesn't come.
We wonder what we did wrong. All of those
self-help books and "coping with
chronic illness" books tell us that
to maintain a positive outlook and live
the best life, we must buy rest for our
souls. It's not in a bottle, however,
but in the Book.
there for free if we just ask. We all
qualify and there are no forms to fill
out, tests to pass, insurance claims to
file, or balance due. Warm baths and hot
tea can be a blessing. Hot tubs can be
a lifesaver. Friends and family who care
about us can feel like our personal angels
here on earth. But someday it's all going
to disappoint us. Only Christ can give
us the rest and the peace that we really
If you are
searching for answers about what this
faith is all about or have been a Christian
for years, I am sure that you will find
a warm, comforting place at Rest Ministries.
You can talk about what you are going
through with people who are on this same
journey. Daily devotionals also offer
a great way to start off those painful
mornings. I invite you to come and find
rest for your soul. I know that the next
time I feel like a child is sitting on
my shoulders, I'm going to remember to
ask again for that lighter yoke that is
there for the asking.
Copen is the founder and director of Rest
Ministries. She lives with rheumatoid
arthritis and fibromyalgia and is the
author of When
Chronic Illness Enters Your Life Bible
He Will Give You Rest
monthly support newsletter, Volume 5,
Issue 5. ©