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*Welcome to SPAG Magazine

*Welcome to SPAG Magazine
Welcome in wood

Thanks for dropping by!

Are you a Christian? Do you love God?

SPAG Magazine is a FREE quarterly, online magazine for Christian adults with a focus on singles. Our purpose is to encourage, challenge and inspire Christian adults in their walk and to honour and exalt God. We believe that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word. (Link to our Statement of Faith)

The latest issue is now available

(December 2019 – February 2020)
The feature article is “Pedophilia: Crime, Disorder or Orientation?
Other articles include: 
  • The myth that religion is the #1 cause of war;
  • Christmas: more than a star;
  • What you didn’t know about Laura Ingalls Wilder;
  • Thirty, flirty and thriving…..?
  • Diduno: the Pocket Testament League;
  • Creation Ministries: incredible kinesin;
  • Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?
  • and lots more
Following is the link to the online ‘flippable’ version of the current issue. (Note – this is on a third party website so there may be some advertising):
Following is the link to the downloadable pdf version (not flippable):
* – Link – *
The team at SPAG Magazine would like to take this opportunity to send you warm wishes for Christmas and the new year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


Previous Issue (September-November 2019)
The previous issue is still available, until the end of January 2020. This issue includes articles such as:
  • Marry the man who stays (feature article);
  • When good things happen through bad people;
  • The cult of violent vegan vigilantism;
  • Do Facebook, Google and Twitter censor conservatives?
  • Is masturbation a sin?
  • and lots more
Following is the link to the online ‘flippable’ version of this issue. (Note – this is on a third party website so there may be some advertising)
Following is the link to the downloadable pdf version (not flippable):
link here

If you’re not on our subscription list (free subscription), then if you provide your email address to us, we’ll add you to our list, and you’ll be one of the first to receive it 🙂 Here is our email address:

 

NEWS SNIPPETS – new segment

Check out our News Snippets page to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening around the world on Christian and ethical topics, on what’s happening in Israel and with the Jewish people, as well as other relevant social and cultural issues. This will be updated approximately once a month.
Here’s the link

AND FOR YOU: a FREE devotional booklet for one month:
We hope this book will bring you into a closer relationship with God through praise, prayer and worship.
Here’s the link to the downloadable pdf (link here)
OR view the online ‘flippable version:
Praise To God Devotional Booklet No. 1

(Note: there may be some advertising on this third party website.)
You can help us by submitting the following for our consideration:
  • your own article;
  • your natural scenery photograph for our back page;
  • your comments in response to an article or other item; and/or
  • your suggestion for a topic for us to consider.
One of the items available in our store is the gorgeous “Reflections” e-book which contains over 120 pages of beautiful photos and includes inspiring quotes and Bible verses to lift your spirits as well as to challenge you in your walk. Here’s the link to buy this lovely e-book through our shop. (At present it’s only available in flippable format to view on a third party website.)
Your purchase will help to support this ministry. Thank you for your kind consideration.

Join our Prayer Network Team

One of the most important things you can do for SPAG Magazine is pray for us. We need prayer to not only increase our readership, but to enable God to reach out to Christians and Christian leaders across the world, with articles which will encourage, inspire and challenge, and to bring our brothers and sisters closer to God.
We also need your prayers for enough finances to keep SPAG Magazine going.
If you’re interested in joining our prayer network, you can become a member on Facebook on this link.

Can 44¢ a day really help SPAG Magazine?

While we’ve recently overhauled some expenses to reduce costs, there are still lots of costs we need to cover to ensure we keep SPAG Magazine available and to provide it to you for free.
This is one of the reasons we sell items through our online store.
During the 2017/2018 financial year, we received some welcome donations and purchases (thank you so much), but still, the outstanding costs were just over *$1,600. That works out to around $4.40 a day.  If just ten people had contributed 44¢ a day for the year, our operating costs would have been met – that’s less than one small cappuccino a week!
Would you consider being one of those ten people for our current financial year (2018/2019)? Perhaps you could ask nine people from your church or singles group to make up the remainder. Maybe you could put in a good word for us if you know a great Christian organisation that might be able to help.
Consider also that while we purchased a new computer and monitor back in 2016, which came from Vicki’s now depleted savings account, the computer developed a major fault in mid June 2019, so it had to be repaired and two major parts replaced at a further cost to Vicki.  We have to consider that when the time comes to completely replace the computer, she does not have the funds to do so.  
With the assistance of group of ten supporters such as you, putting aside 28¢ a day for the next two years (or 14¢ a day by twenty supporters), we’d have enough money to purchase a new computer tower and monitor as our current computer reaches the end of its life.
 Can you help? Email us for our bank details: 
* (NB: Wages for staff have not been included.)
If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Warm regards
Vicki Nunn
Editor
SPAG Magazine

[Voice] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.
 
 


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*Welcome to SPAG Magazine

*Welcome to SPAG Magazine

Welcome in wood Thanks for dropping by! 

Are you a Christian? Do you love God? Do you want to be encouraged, challenged or inspired in your Christian walk? Then you’ve come to the right place.

SPAG Magazine is a FREE quarterly, electronic magazine for Christian adults. While we have a focus on singles, our articles are suitable for all Christian adults. We’re an international, inter-denominational publication, and we aim to honour and exalt God. We believe that the Bible is God’s inerrant Word.

The updated issue 13 is now available!

The June/August 2018 issue of SPAG Magazine is finally here and what a great selection of articles there are in this issue.

Initially, we had a problem with our “Letters to Lou” pages, but they’re now all updated and uploaded to the online issues.

Our 13th issue of SPAG Magazine coincides with our 3rd birthday! We have a great bunch of fascinating articles which I’m sure will get your thinking, and hopefully bring you closer to God.

The articles in the issue include:
– Hate like Jesus;
– Domestic violence and the church (Part 2);
– God’s gift of life: NO to euthanasia;
– Road to Damascus;
– Open Doors: from muslim sheikh to secret believer;
– Josie and the gift of singleness;
– Creation Ministries: Cuttlefish colour changes inspire new TV screen design;
– Condemned to celibacy?
and lots more!

Following are the links to the current issue:

We’re celebrating our third birthday with a whopping 60% off all of our previous issues (until the end of August 2018) so you can catch up on all of our earlier great articles, and it’s an easy way you can also help support this important ministry. (Link to our store)

Time is running out for this offer: we’re offering 50% all promotions in our September/November 2018 issue. Find out more in our promotions/advertising page here. 

—————————–

Let us know if you would like to subscribe for your very own quarterly issue. Email us: 

Warm regards

From Vicki Nunn, Editor and the staff of SPAG Magazine

——————————

Calling all singles!

 How Do You Respond to Those Dumb Comments?

How do you respond when other people make silly, annoying, rude or repetitive comments to you about being a single person? What kinds of things do they say? We had an article in the March/May issue of SPAG Magazine, sharing things that people have said to other Christian singles about their state of ‘unwedded bliss.’

If you’d like to share some of the comments said to you, please fill out the form on this page, or email us:

How do you like this humorous idea?

I’ll be doing a series of these images based around singleness, spinsterhood and bachelorhood to go into my personal shops, sometime in the near future.

I’ll put them on cups, shirts, cushions and other items.
If you like the idea, please let me know and I’ll redirect you to the shops where they’re located, once I upload them in my personal online stores.

Vicki Nunn
Editor

———————————————–

 

Becci and Robbo from the Rise and Show program on Vision FM interviewed me on 24 March about my near death experience, which I shared in an earlier issue of SPAG Magazine. Here’s a link to a copy of that interview:

Bridget Brenton from Christian Today wrote a fantastic review about an earlier issue of SPAG Magazine. You can find the review here.

AND FOR YOU: a FREE devotional booklet for one month:

We hope this book will bring you into a closer relationship with God through praise, prayer and worship.

Here’s the link to the downloadable pdf  (link here)

OR view the online ‘flippable version:

Praise To God Devotional Booklet No. 1

(Note: there may be some advertising on this third party website.)

SPAG Magazine is FREE – covering our costs is essential if we want to continue making this terrific magazine available at no cost to you and to all of our readers. Please prayerfully consider how you may help:

Or send along your friends to our shop.

You can also help us by submitting the following for our consideration:

  • your own article;

  • your scenery photograph for our back page;

  • your comments in response to an article or other item; and/or

  • your suggestion for a topic for us to consider.

One of the items available in our store is the gorgeous “Reflections” e-book which contains over 120 pages of beautiful photos and includes inspiring quotes and Bible verses to lift your spirits as well as to challenge you in your walk. Here’s the link to buy this lovely e-book through our shop. (At present it’s only available in flippable format to view on a third party website.)

Your purchase will help to support this ministry. Thank you for your kind consideration.

Join our Prayer Network Team

One of the most important things you can do for SPAG Magazine is pray for us. We need prayer to not only increase our readership, but to enable God to reach out to Christians and Christian leaders across the world, with articles which will encourage, inspire and challenge them.

We also need your prayers for enough finances to keep SPAG Magazine going.

If you’re interested in joining our prayer network, you can become a member on Facebook on this link.

Can 73¢ a day really help SPAG Magazine?

While we’ve recently overhauled some expenses to reduce costs, there are still lots of costs we need to cover to ensure we keep SPAG Magazine available and to provide it to you for free. Presently all outstanding costs are met by our Editor, Vicki Nunn who has a limited income on a disability pension. Yep, it’s almost like she pays you to read it.

Our total operating costs per quarter are around AU$662. If ten people could contribute just 73¢ a day for a year, all of our operating costs would be met. Would you consider being one of those ten people? (Perhaps you could ask nine people from your church or singles group to make up the remainder.)

73¢/day x 10 people/year = all operating costs*

Other costs:

There are also a couple of other costs as well including the Glasbergen cartoon and costs for promoting SPAG Magazine, which total around AU$100 per quarter. If ten people could contribute just 11¢ a day for a year, our remaining costs would be met.

11¢/day x 10 people/year = remaining costs*

Your generous contribution can make a big difference! You can also help by purchasing items from our online store: www.spagmag. com/shop.

Here are those 2 costs again:

73¢/day x 10 people/year = all operating costs*

11¢/day x 10 people/year = remaining costs*

Consider also that in the past 18 months or so we’ve spent $2,000 on a new computer and monitor as our old computer had been making strange noises for two years.

Would you make a commitment to help SPAG Magazine in its mission?

Our mission is to inspire, challenge and encourage Christian adults in their walk, and to honour and exalt God.

Email: 

* (NB: Wages for staff have not been included.)

If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Warm regards

Vicki Nunn
Editor
SPAG Magazine


[Voice] The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.


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Can Christians Have a Mental Illness?

Can Christians Have a Mental Illness?

Vicki Nunn

by Vicki Nunn

Introduction

Over the centuries, people with mental illnesses were locked away in institutions or jails and subjected to the most appalling treatments and conditions. Some were killed out of fear, or (as happened in various countries early in the 20th century including Australia and the USA), they were sterilised or euthanized as a means of ‘improving’ the genetic human stock, or to remove them as a burden on our society. Unfortunately this concept arose from the theory of evolution which was taking a strong hold in many countries at the time.

When I was growing up, people never talked about mental illness other than just to make fun of the ‘crazies.’ Television programs and comedians mocked people with mental illness, and many people were so afraid of them that they took care to avoid them and to ostracise them, and to ensure that they were locked away.

As an adult, I’ve been fortunate to have personally known people who have suffered various mental illnesses including schizophrenia, bipolar-affective disorder, depression and more. I say fortunate, because it’s given me more of an understanding of the problems and issues with which mentally ill people struggle, and also because I came to value them as individuals, and to admire them for their resolve in living as normally as possible while struggling with their illness.

As someone who has personally suffered depression and panic attacks, I know that mental illness can have a profound and life-changing impact upon us.

Mental Illness in Modern Times

It is really only up until recently in our society, that mental illness has been more openly discussed, and we are becoming more accepting and compassionate towards those with mental illness. Rather than just locking people up and treating them as ‘unfixable’ or even as less than human, we are at last finding some medical treatments and psychotherapy to help them as best as possible.

Within the church though, it is an area that has been slow to change. In some churches there is still the belief that Christians simply do not suffer mental illness, unless they’re committing sin or are lacking in faith and are being punished for their actions, or possibly even as a result of a curse.

Other churches run with the concept that the person needs to be freed from demonic possession.
Some still treat the afflicted as if they are carrying an infectious disease and should be avoided, or they arrogantly look down their noses at the poor unfortunate, offering them indifference or condescension instead of solace and compassion.

Those then that suffer from mental illness while they are Christians, are usually forced to hide their condition in shame and embarrassment, as if they are disgusting failures. As a consequence, many Christians who struggle with this, do not seek out help from within their own churches or they feel that they can’t discuss their situation with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Many struggle on alone, for fear of being judged and shunned.

Thankfully this is changing, and more churches are recognising that Christians can suffer a mental illness and it’s not always because they’re sinning, possessed or cursed. More are offering support and help.

What Causes Mental Illness?

In most cases, the causes of mental illness are still unknown. Research suggests that they are caused by physical, biological and environmental factors or a combination of these.

The illness can come about from a disruption in the unborn infant’s brain development or caused by injury at birth. Sometimes neurological pathways in the brain function incorrectly. It can develop through a physical injury to the brain as a result of an accident or it may be caused by chemical imbalances.

It may result from a brain infection, exposure to toxins or lack of good nutrition, particularly in one’s developmental years.

Some families are born with genetic abnormalities that make them more susceptible to mental illness which may be triggered by trauma, abuse or other factors.

Other mental illnesses can be brought on by the use of drugs such as marijuana or long-term alcohol and drug abuse.

Some mental illnesses can be the result of physical, psychological and/or sexual abuse, particularly in childhood, which can impact on the person’s psychological development.

How Can People with Mental Illness be Treated?

A combination of medication and psychotherapy can assist, though the person may still continue to struggle with the illness’s effects throughout their life, particularly its impacts on their personal and social functioning.

While these therapies assist in many cases (but not necessarily cure), not every person is able to find a successful treatment and some people will need to remain in the care of their families or in institutions for the remainder of their life.

There are many families who struggle daily with caring for a loved one with a mental illness. (See our other article – “Good Grief: Mental Illness” in issue 7 of SPAG Magazine which is available to purchase online – link here)

Can Christians Have a Mental Illness?

Yes, many Christians do have a mental illness, although few make it known.

As a result of misinformation and lack of compassion within some churches, some Christians come to believe that they’re lacking in faith if they’re not healed, and may be actively discouraged from seeking medical and psycho-therapeutic help. Others unsuccessfully try to have the demon removed, or they may simply suffer through it because they’ve been lead to believe that because of their sins, they’re being judged and punished by God. Many suffer in silence because they don’t want to be condemned and shunned by their fellow Christians.

Of course, if a Christian is consciously indulging in a sin, then this is the first thing which they must put forward to God, seeking help and healing, praying for wisdom and forgiveness and with the Holy Spirit’s help, deliberately working at ways of ridding themselves of it. This isn’t always easy to do.

We must understand though, that not all illnesses in the believer, whether mental or physical, are the result of our sin or because we are cursed. By Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection, our former, present and future sins are forgiven. We don’t have to prove ourselves worthy of forgiveness – it is Jesus who was worthy to take our sins for us, so we already are forgiven by our faith in Jesus and God’s promise for the forgiveness of our sins.

Can We Assume that it’s Mostly Due to Sin?

So what do we say to those who are still suffering sickness? Do we judge them simply as sinners and not offer them compassion, prayer and comfort? Why would our loving heavenly Father on the one hand promise forgiveness of sins, and with the other, punish us for them through mental or physical illness?

I’ve known many Christians who have long-term illnesses, both physical and/or mental, and I know that their illness is not the result of sin. I know this because I have seen God working in them and I see that they seek to make God the priority of their lives.

Personally, I know that physical and mental ailments are not always due to sin. I was born with a congenital defect in one hip which affected me even as a child. Was my problem due to sin? Of course not – I was born with this defect.

Then when I was in teens, I developed a spinal disease that led to the development of scoliosis and caused pain. By the time I was 21, the pain began to increase and by my late twenties was impacting my movement. The pain and restrictions affected my every day activities as well as the ministry to which God had called me.

In prayer I regularly sought God’s guidance about whether it was from sin and asked repeatedly for healing and clarity about whether I would be healed of it, but if anything, my pain and physical restrictions increased. In my mid thirties, God eventually answered my prayer and told me that I wasn’t going to be healed, not as a form of punishment because of my sin or lack of faith, but so that I would develop compassion and empathy for others who suffer.

Therefore, mental illnesses too are not always the result of sin. What do we say to those who are born with a mental illness? “You’re obviously still sinning, so don’t come and talk to me about that until you’ve fixed it?” Of course not! Can we make the judgement that a newborn infant is responsible for a deliberate sin and is being punished for it with a mental and/or physical ailment? If a person can be born with a physical or mental ailment, or develop it later, we cannot condescend to assume that the person is actively sinning and being punished for it.

In fact, not a single one of us is without sin. Yes, we are forgiven, but not a single one of us is able to go about our lives without committing a sin. If we don’t suffer a physical or mental illness, does that mean that we are somehow better than others who do have one? Are those with a physical or mental illness somehow committing a sin that’s worse than ours?

Let’s ask an important question, “Are some sins worse than others?” The Bible makes it clear that there is only one unforgiveable sin: blaspheming of the holy spirit. No other sin is unforgiveable or worse than others.

If we are suggesting that a person with a physical and/or mental illness is being punished for sin, than why isn’t everyone being punished for theirs, because none of us is able to live without sinning. Yes, we are working towards becoming more like Jesus, but that work isn’t completed in us until after we die.

accusing-judging-a-man-walking-away-ashamedsm

Churches and Believers Are Becoming More Compassionate

Thankfully there are churches which offer compassion and understanding to Christian sufferers, and hopefully more churches will learn to accept that those with a mental illness should be allowed to seek appropriate medical treatment without fear of condemnation.

Just as we treat people with physical illnesses with proper medication and treatments, we should also treat people with mental illnesses with compassion and allow them to seek the medical and psychological treatments available to them. Would we deny medical help to a person with diabetes or heart disease or for a broken leg? Why then should we deny treatment to those with a mental illness, particularly since some mental illness are caused by physical problems?

Perhaps the reason we don’t treat those with a mental illness the same way we treat people with physical illnesses comes from our long history of superstition and fear in connection with mental illness, and because we don’t understand its cause or know how to treat it properly.

Perhaps even, we shun sufferers out of pride and our own sense of superiority.

hands-4-holdingsm

Conclusion

While mental illness may in some instances be a sign of demonic possession, once a person becomes a Christian there is no way that a demon would be allowed to remain inside someone who is occupied by God through His Holy Spirit. God abhors evil, and so He would not allow evil to reside alongside Him in a believer’s heart and mind.

We cannot make the assumption either that mental illness is caused by demonic possession in every non-believer, although it’s possible in some cases.
Aside from demonic possession, we’ve discussed that while mental illness may on occasion spring from deliberate sin, in most instances it arises from various physical, biological and environmental causes, or a combination of these.

Modern medication and psychotherapy can be a tremendous assistance to those with a mental illness, although not everyone can be helped. Hopefully as our medical knowledge increases, we will be able to improve our treatments.

As Christians, we need to be mindful that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering from a mental illness. Statistics suggest that as many as 45% of the Australian population will suffer a mental health condition in their lifetime. I can only assume the statistics are similar in other countries. In any one year, around one million adults have depression, and more than two million suffer anxiety. Depression is claimed to be the leading cause of disability worldwide¹.

We should ask God to help us to become more empathetic towards those who are afflicted, rather than add to their already heavy burden by our own callousness or judgement. If we act towards the mentally ill with intolerance, indifference or out of a sense of superiority, then which of us has the worse ailment?

Challenge

Here’s a challenge for you to prayerfully consider. What is your response towards those with mental (or physical) illness? On the day of judgement, how will God view your attitude and actions towards those who are afflicted?

Bibliography
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0). Canberra: ABS.Bibliography:
Unknown author (unknown date) “Causes of Mental Illness” (WebMD) available: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-causes-mental-illness, accessed 17/10/16
Unknown author, no date, FAC – Family Caregiver Alliance: “Grief and Loss,” available https://www.caregiver.org/grief-and-loss, accessed 20/10/16
Authors: Glynn, Shirley M., PhD, Kangas, Karen, EdD, and Pickett, Susan, PhD, no date. American Psychological Association: “Supporting a family member with serious mental illness,” available: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/improving-care.aspx, accessed 20/10/16
Author: Karen Hanna, 23 March 2016, Karen Hanna Coaching: “Grieving Mental Illness,” available: http://www.karenhannacoaching.ca/uncategorized/grieving-mental-illness-2/, accessed 20/10/16

1. Keep a ‘Happiness Journal’

1. Keep a ‘Happiness Journal’
thumbs-up-with-smiley-facesm  happiness-habits

“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.” Anon

Keep a ‘Happiness Journal’
by Vicki Nunn

Gratitude can have a major impact on our attitude and a ‘Happiness Journal’ can help us to focus on the good things in our lives and distract us from the negative ones. Too many negatives can overwhelm us and make it hard for us to keep going.

journal-decorated-with-butterfliessm

At this point you may be thinking to yourself, “I’ve heard all of this rot before.” Perhaps you may consider that a ‘Happiness Journal’ is a complete waste of time, or that it’s only for girls, or for wimps. If you have trouble with negativity, then a ‘Happiness Journal’ is exactly what you need.

In a way, gratitude is a bit like an air-pump: every time we feel grateful for the positive things in our lives, it’s like a burst of air goes into our floatation device which helps keep us afloat and buoyant, which is especially helpful when waves of trouble threaten to swamp us.

Buy a writing book and a pen (they don’t have to be expensive),  and place them somewhere you’ll easily find them, such as on the table next to your lounge or in the bedside drawer. The book should only be used for your journal and not for anything else.

Put aside a few minutes at the end of each day and after noting the day’s date, write down all of the good things that happened to you. It could be something as simple as finding a car-park right when you needed it, or noticing a funny face in a cloud. Perhaps it was something delicious that you ate or a joke or a humorous situation. Maybe it was the simple pleasure of taking the dog for a walk or the fact that you didn’t have as many aches and pains as usual. Perhaps it was the enjoyment of a lovely shower and the appreciation of having clean, drinking water.

Writing them down before bed can help improve your mood which may help you to sleep better. The following morning, remind yourself to look out for the good things in your day.

Oddly for some of us, there’s a strange appeal in indulging in pessimistic thoughts. In a way it’s a protective mechanism that tells us that if we look on the bright side, we’re sure to be disappointed. Unfortunately, pessimism can be quite habit-forming which can suck us into a spiral of unhappy thoughts that grow darker as the weeks and years pass.

I’ve personally indulged in both camps, but found that continually looking at one’s life as a half-empty glass ultimately made me feel miserable, and I decided one day that I didn’t want to live like that anymore. Since then I’ve come to know several people who are active pessimists. Frankly, they’re not pleasant to be around and their negativity impacts badly on their relationships with others. For people like me who struggle with negative thoughts, I avoid pessimists because it’s hard work to stay positive or feel good around them.

The following quote from Elisabeth Elliott really got me thinking:

“It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than resentful over what is withheld – one attitude or the other becomes a way of life.”

I’ve learned that we can be both an optimist and a realist at the same time. Being a realist doesn’t mean we have to be a pessimist, rather that we understand there are bad things and bad people in the world, but we choose not to focus on them, but rather look for the good. We choose therefore not to let the negative things in the world overwhelm us or impact on our thoughts and feelings.

writing-in-journal3smIf you struggle with negativity and pessimism, and notice that watching the news or reading the newspaper often make you feel more depressed afterwards, then perhaps you may need to consider omitting them from your life. The media loves to tell us about horrible events and rarely about the good ones, and I personally find it impossible to maintain my optimism if I listen to the media on a regular basis.

Finally, let’s look at that ‘Happiness Journal’ again. If you keep up the journal for a year or so, at some point, go back and re-read some of your earlier entries. There will sometimes be events that you’d quite forgotten about that will make you smile. It can also be a good reminder that perhaps you did after all, have a very good year. [End]

Good Grief: Coping with Chronic Illness

Good Grief: Coping with Chronic Illness

Vicki Nunn

by Vicki Nunn

Introduction

To the rest of the world, any person with chronic illness, particularly when it’s invisible, can sometimes appear to be faking it. We often don’t look sick. We may not be in a wheelchair or use walking-sticks or other visible forms of support to enable us to get about. We may have all of our limbs. We may seem too young, or happy or we don’t complain.

While our scars and our pain may be hidden, our struggles are very real.

People with chronic illness have to deal with many everyday issues due to their conditions, from medications and tiredness, or pain and physical restrictions, high stress, inability to perform normal tasks, lack of energy and much more.

An added and unnecessary burden is the many able-bodied and healthy people around them who are dismissive of them and their very real needs, and the effect their illness has on their everyday activities.

For many with chronic illness, there are long-term physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological impacts of which the world is often not aware. To those with chronic illness, it sometimes seems is if people around them don’t care about their struggles.

Things people say to us when we have chronic illness

Open image up for more details

What is Chronic Illness?

Generally a chronic illness is a condition that lasts a year or more. While in a small percentage of cases, chronic illness can sometimes be overcome or managed, for many people it is a condition they have to deal with for the remainder of their lives.

There are many conditions classed as a chronic illnesses and the effects vary from person to person. Some people are born with chronic medical conditions, while some may only have mild cases or the illness doesn’t progress very far.

For others, the illness comes later and has serious impacts upon their well-being and the way they live. Chronic illness can include conditions such as: lupus; diabetes; chronic fatigue; lime disease; glaucoma; heart disease; cancer; arthritis; epilepsy; haemophilia; kidney disease; asthma; Crohn’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; muscular dystrophy; and multiple sclerosis and many, many more.

Chronic Illness Impacts More Than One’s Health

Financially

One of the consequences of chronic illness is its financial impact and the stresses that result from that. Sometimes people can’t continue their studies or remain in employment which limits their income. Many have high medical costs including insurance, at-home-care, medications, operations, and the need for specialised equipment and even motor-vehicles and home renovations. Sometimes a spouse has to quit their job to provide full-time care for their partner which means that neither receives a decent income.

Sometimes the medical expenses have been so large, that people with chronic illness have had to declare bankruptcy. I can’t imagine how they manage after that.

Emotionally and Psychologically

The emotional and psychological impacts can be huge. As a result of their illness, once physically active people can lose their independence and sense of self-worth. They struggle with depression and feelings of inadequacy and may feel they are a burden to their family and friends.

Others who found their joy and purpose in their careers or their volunteer work, may struggle to find any kind of meaning once their lives are impacted by chronic illness. Some worry how they will manage in the coming years and the thought of the struggles they face may seem overwhelming. This is particularly difficult for single people who have no-one to care for them.

Younger people with chronic illness in particular, wonder if they will ever find someone to love them, or wonder if there is any purpose to their life.

Coming to terms with chronic illness and its impacts can be difficult for many people. Depression is common for those suffering chronic illness. While some Christians who enjoy good health think it should be easy for Christians to shrug off depression (or even suicidal thoughts), a person who daily lives with chronic pain, its restrictions, medications, tiredness and the constant worries about finances and concerns for the future – joy can be difficult to find, let alone sustain.

Living with a chronic health issue and its associated problems day in and day out, month after month and year after year, eventually take its toll. I’m sure even the fictional Pollyanna would struggle to remain cheerful.

For Christians, it may be difficult to forgive God or to understand how He can allow someone to suffer this way. This is particularly true when they’ve been obedient and had perhaps given up stable secular jobs to do His ministry and work.

Grief is Part of the Chronic Illness Journey

Coming to terms with the consequences of chronic illness, and its psychological and emotional impacts can contribute to the sufferer feeling grief. They may grieve for the life and opportunities they’ve lost, for their independence or even the chance for love.

Even if a person with chronic illness comes to terms with the impact the illness has on their lives, they may later discover further problems due to the progression of the illness which they hadn’t considered nor for which they’d been prepared. This can lead to higher levels of stress and new feelings of loss.

Younger Person’s Grief

For a younger person, there may be a sense of grief as they learn to accept the real limitations their illness has on their life. It may affect their ability to study, obtain a career or find love. They will see their friends living normal lives and grieve for what they are missing, such as the normal ability to go out and have fun. They may grieve for their lack of independence and their reliance on others for their everyday needs. They may grieve for a life without pain or restriction, or even the ability to communicate easily.

In many cases, young people may be stigmatised by others in their peer group and may face shame and ridicule and prejudice. One frightening statistic suggests that violent crimes against disabled people are on the rise.

Older Person’s Grief

An older person will feel much of what a younger person does, but for a person who has had a career and found a sense of purpose and joy through their work, their hobbies and other activities such as volunteering, the loss of these due to ill health later in life, can lead to extra feelings of grief such as inadequacy and loss of purpose and meaning. It can be especially difficult for them to see how their life after the onset of the illness can possibly be of any real consequence or purpose.

How Can We Show Compassion to Those with Chronic Illness?

We should understand that it may be especially difficult for someone who has enjoyed their independence to ask for help after their body and health betrays them. If we want to help a chronically ill friend or church member, just ask them to let us know how you can help, and follow it up, particularly if they seem dismissive or we suspect they’re refusing help out of a sense of pride or even fear that others may think they are troublesome.

Please don’t offer, if you really have no interest in following through with it. Being let-down by someone who offers to help, may reinforce their belief that they’re a burden and it may make them less likely to ask for help when they need.

Also, don’t expect that it’s easy for those with chronic illness to perform everyday functions that healthy people take for granted. A great example of what this actually means is given by Christine Miserandino with her “Spoon Theory” (see below):

Spoon Theory

What is the Spoon Theory? It is difficult for healthy people to understand why day-to-day activities can be so challenging for people with a chronic illness, eg, getting ready in the morning can take an enormous amount of energy.

Most people with chronic illness or disability have a much more limited amount of energy than healthy people and therefore have to choose into which activities they place their energy each day.

Christine Miserandino came up with this theory when a friend asked her how her illness impacted upon her life.

You can find out more about the Spoon Theory on Christine Miserandino’s webpage on this link.

Churches and the Chronically Ill

Life with a chronic illness can be challenging physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. It impacts every single area of our lives.

Few churches seem to know how they can help those in their congregation with chronic illness. Sometimes it seems that churches almost forget about these parishioners, particularly those who can’t attend regularly due to their condition. Perhaps they assume that because they aren’t regular attendees that they aren’t serious in their church or Christian commitment which is often far from the truth.

The reality for many with chronic illness is that oftentimes there are specific reasons why they do not attend regularly:

• they are not well enough and/or are in too much pain to attend;

• they have to choose between attending church and another activity;

• simply don’t have the energy to both attend church and do their normal everyday chores;

• didn’t sleep well enough to attend church; or

• feel invisible and/or ignored and uncared for in their church.

Often it is those with chronic illness that need more support from their church family than many others. That doesn’t necessarily mean that someone needs to turn up at their door every day offering to cook, clean or mow, but at least a regular monthly visit or fortnightly phone contact will ensure that the ill person doesn’t feel isolated or that they are looked upon as someone of little value, or a burden.

We should understand that people with chronic illness contribute to God’s kingdom in a variety of ways. I personally know of people who have their own ministries and are a great source of encouragement for their brothers and sisters, and there are others who are amazing prayer warriors. But even those who are too unwell to contribute in such a way are still valuable in God’s eyes aren’t they? Perhaps it’s time then to reconsider the value of those in your church with chronic illness.

Could your church create a group of volunteers who can put aside a couple of hours a month to reach out to those in their congregation with chronic illness? Has anyone within your church even bothered to ask the person/family what specific needs they have?

When was the last time your church instigated a program like this? If you’re healthy, when was the last time you considered volunteering for it? Don’t be one of that group of regular church-goers who give little if anything of themselves, who seem to expect everyone else to do the work.

It is part of Jesus’ command that we love one another. I don’t ever recall the Bible verses saying that we should love one another “only when it suits us,” or “when we’re in the mood,” or “when it’s easy,” or “those tasks were meant for someone else to do.”

Why Does God Allow Us to Suffer?

If you are suffering chronic illness, it is perfectly natural that you may experience a grieving process. Be aware that as you go through your daily struggles, you may not ever quite come to terms with the impact on your health, mind and spirit. As your illness progresses, you may find there are times when you still have to readjust to new losses and problems.

Remember though, that God sees it all, and even when you feel that you’re alone, this is when Jesus is standing right beside you, His heart filled with compassion and love, His arms stretched about you.

It is difficult for us to understand why God would allow such terrible pain and suffering, especially when we’ve been faithful. We should realise that it’s not some form of punishment, nor as a result of our disobedience. The fact is, pain and suffering always have been and always will be part of the Christian journey.

All we have to do is look back at early church history to see that from the first, Christians have suffered: Paul’s journeys were fraught with danger and difficulty. Church leaders in some of the very churches that he established, later resisted his guidance. Most of the disciples and many early Christians were martyred for their faith. Their lives were not easy physically, financially, relationally or emotionally.

Conclusion

Because we are Christians, it doesn’t mean that life will be perpetually good, problem-free or that we will always feel happy. While others around us may not seem to suffer pain or ill-health, it may seem unfair that we are burdened, but we should remember that it’s not a form of punishment from God.

I say to people that for me it’s “part of the package deal” from God. I jokingly say, “God made me pretty amazing in every other area of my life, so He had to find a way to balance that out.”

While we may never understand why God has allowed this to be part of our journey, we can choose to resist God every inch of the way and stay angry and resentful, but that will not change the situation. Instead it will keep us mired in our depression, hurt and anger, and our relationship with God will suffer as a consequence.

Alternatively, may I encourage you to pray for strength to make it through each day – just one day at a time. Focus on what you can do in the short-term. Ask for courage and to regain your joy. Tell God about how you’re feeling – He won’t feel angry or upset with you. He won’t turn His back on you if you admit any negative emotions towards Him. Jesus Himself understands where you are coming from because of His own personal experiences and suffering as a human being.

Perhaps through your struggles, you will become a powerful leader for God, whether as a prayer warrior or through a ministry, or you may inspire others with your courage and grace. Perhaps instead, your simple, quiet faith will be motivation for others to persevere during their own trials and struggles.

So …. hold on! Just hold on and keep going. Perhaps there will be days when all you have to grasp onto is God’s promise that one day you’ll cast off this broken body and be made brand new.

Even if your life feels grey because of illness, there’s no grey in your relationship with God. His unwavering love for you shines as brilliantly as the brightest rainbow. You are His own child. His heart aches to see your pain.

You aren’t just another face in the crowd. He hears your voice – He personally knows your voice – because you are His beloved!

Bibliography

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/turning-straw-gold/201403/the-extra-burdens-faced-young-people-chronic-illness author: Toni Bernhard 2014

http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/ author: Christine Miserandino 2016