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Chronic Illness - Chronic Pain Articles

[not available for reprint]

God Doesn't Waste Our Suffering of Coping with a Chronic Illness

By Ron Cameron

Ministries are not built by people, but by God. Ministries are not dependent on our strengths, but on our weakness.

Ministries are given to us, not in our timing, but in God's. One man shares the next step of his journey with chronic illness... and how God's plans are gradually being revealed.

Ever had those occasions when you've read an article and a phrase or sentence just jumps right out at you? Well that's what I experienced when I read Lisa Copen's article on Depression in the November 1999 issue of …And He Will Give You Rest. This article prompted me to document my continuing journey with Parkinson's Disease (PD). I believe that each one of us needs to document our walk with God, whether we are a great writer or not, for it helps us focus on what God has done in our lives. It directs our path and shows His love toward us. In days to come you can look back and see how you have grown in your daily walk with God and appreciate the lessons you have learnt, which can hopefully encourage someone else.

Back in the beginning of November 1999 I found myself going through a period of depression. It was no doubt brought on by events that had been going on around me and my lack of being able to cope as well as I could in the past due to my PD. I guess it all came to a head when we had a mental health seminar at work. This seminar highlighted PD as one of the mental illness conditions. I found that this was very hard to accept. (I have since found out that PD is not classified as a mental illness.) Later in discussing the seminar with one of the administration staff at work I found myself reduced to a blubbering mess; that was bad enough, but worse was to come. It was time to call for help.

The company I work for sponsors an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that allows staff to seek help from trained counselors and psychologists. I rang up and arranged for a visit. Next, it was time to inform my manager that I needed the time off to attend the EAP. This is when I found myself becoming completely unglued as I informed him that I was not coping with my work due to my PD and that I needed help. Being reduced to a blubbering mess in front of your manager is not considered a typical male thing and rather humiliating… but there I was.

Fortunately he was aware of my PD from previous discussions and had already taken steps to change my workload. Off to the doctor to check on what was going on and sure enough, the verdict was mild depression.

At the time I booked into the EAP I was only given the first name of the counselor, a lady, and the time and place of the appointment. As I sat in the reception area for that first visit I can remember asking God "What are you going to teach me through this?" Little did I know what was in store, and it is only now looking back that I can see how the bits and pieces were beginning to fall into place.

We may never fully understand the overall plan of God, we just have to do what He assigns us. As I sat through the beginning of the first visit with the psychologist I again told her of what had been going on and once more I was reduced to the blubbering mess. During the course of this first session my attention was drawn to a plaque hanging on the wall of the office. It was to do with peace and I think it read God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

This prompted me to ask her if she was a Christian, and sure enough the answer was yes. This was to change the direction of our discussions for it became easier to talk together about our walk with God. We have both been learning from the experience; me about looking at the things I can do rather what I can't and the psychologist about Parkinson's Disease and Rest Ministries. The visits to the psychologist have been a time of learning what is possible to accomplish. To the second visit I took a copy of And He Will Give You Rest from April 1999 which had details of the first part of my journey with PD. During the intervening period till the third visit the October 1999 copy of And He Will Give You Rest arrived and I also passed that onto the psychologist as it had an article in it on assertiveness which was relevant to our discussions.

God's timing was spot on again! The November issue also arrived in time for my last visit and as I mentioned previously it had the article on depression. We'll come back to another event that occurred during the last visit shortly.

Also during this time, I attended the monthly meeting of my Parkinson's support group. Whilst travelling to and from the meeting during the afternoon I was listening to a local Christian radio station here in Sydney - 2CBA. They were holding an appeal to raise funds to continue operating the station. During this broadcast they mentioned that they had a web site. That evening when I arrived home I checked out the site to see what it had to offer. One of their pages listed links to other sites and a request for people to submit details of any other suitable sites that may be included in the list. I then submitted a request that a link to Rest Ministries be added to their list of existing links. This has now been set up.

Having now set up the link on the 2CBA Web site it now raised the question of What happens if people here in Sydney look at the site and want further details locally of what the ministry is about? I had been considering starting a HopeKeepers [TM] group with another lady in our church for most of the year yet events never seemed to fall into place to start--maybe this was the time.

Out of all that had been going on in the last couple of months (it is now mid December 1999) the first edition of Baulko HopeKeepers was put together, a newsletter for the group of people within our church who suffer from chronic illness or pain. 'Baulko' is the nickname for Baulkham Hills, a suburb of Sydney. A link was also established on the Rest Ministries HopeKeepers group page. At this stage there have been no formal meetings of the group, just the newsletter with a survey sheet to gauge reaction to the need for the group and determine the way forward in God's timing.

Back to the last visit to the psychologist. During this visit I was able to give her the November 1999 issue of And He Will Give You Rest and a copy of the first issue, maybe the only issue, of Baulko HopeKeepers [TM]. The psychologist also informed me of another lady here in Sydney who is commencing a new magazine called Mind Matters dealing with mental illness. This is another avenue yet to be investigated. In summary what started out to be a disaster in falling apart had turned out to be a time of blessing. God had indeed not wasted my suffering, for out of this I have been shown:

  1. That I should look at what I can do rather than what has been taken away.
  2. It is time to start the HopeKeepers [TM] group.
  3. Maybe it's time to change my direction in life in the task I have been assigned. Time to step out of my comfort zone into the unknown.
  4. It's exciting to see God at work.

I leave you with a couple of challenges: 1. What emotions did Jesus exhibit? Read John 11 as a starting point, note verses 35 and 38. Also did you notice verse 4 along the way? Ask yourself 'How does my illness or pain glorify God?' 2. Have you ever been touched by an Angel? Read Hebrews 13 verses 1.

Author, Ron CameronRon has been a HopeKeepers leader and a volunteer for Rest Ministries for over 10 years. It brings me great joy to see how God works beyond national borders and across the oceans, bringing hope to so many. Thank you, Ron, for reaching out for God's plans, even in your weakness! Lisa C.


Get a free download of 200 ways to reach out to someone who is hurting from Beyond Caseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend when you sign up for hopenotes, a monthly ezine.