Chronic Sufferers and Fellowship

When someone has cancer or other chronic ailments, there are often people who care deeply about them and don’t shy away from asking the person with that condition how they are doing and wanting to hear details so they can pray and be updated on their condition. This is a great thing. But many times the discussion can get stuck on the physical (or mental) illness and spiritual matters are pushed to the side. This can be a little frustrating if the condition is not changing and might be something that won’t change. (Can you imagine if a blind person constantly gets asked if they can see yet? Not that it can’t happen.) Sometimes it’s the spiritual aspect that the person would like to talk about, or what God is using the illness for. Here is a quote by David Powlison from the book Don’t Waste Your Cancer by him and John Piper that I read in the book If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn.

People will often express their care and concern by inquiring about your health. That’s good, but the conversation easily gets stuck there. So tell them openly about your sickness, seeking their prayers and counsel, but then change the direction of the conversation by telling them what your God is doing to faithfully sustain you with 10,000 mercies. Robert Murray McCheyne wisely said, ‘For every one look at your sins, take ten looks at Christ.’ He was countering our tendency to reverse that 10:1 ratio by brooding over our failings and forgetting the Lord of mercy. What McCheyne says about our sins we can also apply to our sufferings. For every one sentence you say to others about your cancer, say ten sentences about your God, and your hope, and what he is teaching you, and the small blessings of each day.

8 Responses to “Chronic Sufferers and Fellowship”

  1. 1 Louis

    Great post Jeff. Thank you. I think people sometimes (often?)shy away from speaking about the “spiritual” aspect of things lest they be perceived as “holier than thou.”

  2. 2 Scripture Zealot

    That’s a good thing to realize. But I would hope they’re praying and concerned about that aspect too. If they were to give me advice on that front too it could be just as bad now that I think about it but it doesn’t happen to me much at all, fortunately.

  3. 3 Craig Bennett

    I often minister to people who are in deep despair and I often ask them if they are suicidal….Sometimes after asking a guy and if they say no, I say to them… I know your personal story and I know that you are among the most at risk people group for suicide and so I ask….”Did you just lie to me and are you suicidal”

    I can’t tell you how many times they have looked at me and said yes I am.

    If I’m talking to a Christian who is going through trials -I will often ask them where is God in the midst of this…and ask it a 2nd time – because I’m wanting to hear their heart and not hear them tell me what they think I want to hear….and if they tell me they don’t know where God is – I say to them…how about I trust God for you and we can work through your doubts and fears.

  4. 4 Scripture Zealot

    Wow, I admire you. Those really are people who are in the abyss, as I call it. Such a horrible place. As bad as that is, it’s great that you can get some to tell the truth and literally save their lives. That’s something that has touched Stan in some way too.

    I also like ‘trusting God for them’. I need people to trust God for me physically. I’m always thinking spiritually and feel I’m doing OK in that regard (except for when I had a hard time after my second surgery). But physically, including mental illness, I just don’t have much faith. I don’t see things changing on that front except for one more procedure for my back. But spiritually is where things have been going really well. But I don’t get to talk about it a lot because people always want to know how I’m doing as far as my conditions, and usually my back, which is the least of my problems. But it’s something they can understand better. I’ll stop rambling.

    Thank you for the comment. God is using you in a great way and you’re someone who can understand. Where do you minister in this way?

  5. 5 Craig Bennett

    I was involved in setting up a suicide awareness and prevention network between the local churches a number of years ago. Since then I have moved and God opens the doors for me to minister to people who come across my paths to where they are at.

    We are currently planning a community memorial service through where we fellowship for those who have suffered pregnancy and infant loss… and help out time to time with a homeless city ministry.

  6. 6 Eric

    Excellent post, Jeff. I love McCheyne’s quote about looking at our sin versus God’s mercy. That’s a lot of food for thought. Plus, looking at our sufferings that way too. My perspective is backwards. Also, I liked Craig’s offer to trust God for the suffering person till they can work through the obstacles. I really think you guys are finding God’s real heartbeat here.

  7. 7 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks Eric. I’m just trying to work this stuff out myself, although some people I know have said it’s nice to see someone working through it in a positive way and it encourages them, which really surprised me the first time I heard that. Craig is to the point where he’s able to really work with others while also working with his own stuff. Extremely difficult but great work.

  8. 8 Stan McCullars

    This post and discussion are very encouraging. I appreciate it.

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