Hope is one of the most difficult things to sustain while living with chronic illness. The very nature of never-ending sickness and the battles that come with such a condition can seemingly suck the hope from even the most enduring optimist. Yet with hope, it is next to impossible to live productive, joyful and meaningful lives. The simple quote below illustrates this truth.
To live without Hope is to Cease to live. ~Fyodor Dostoevsky
The question is, how can one maintain hope during what appears a hopeless situation such as chronic illness?
I am going to try to answer that within this post. The simple one word answer I would like to offer is Faith. Living with JRA for over 30 years and being a member of the clergy, I have experience with the question and the answer found in a life of faith.
Before I go on, I realize that not everyone embraces God, faith or religious activity or belief. That is a personal choice, and I respect that decision. My desire is to provide a perspective that has helped me, and may help others struggling with this area.
My faith has been a key to maintain a healthy attitude and never lose hope. I am not suggesting that I haven’t had my struggles, but I have been able to remain positive and continually look forward to life, regardless of what I physically go through. My religious belief system is responsible for this.
Here are two very basic thoughts as to how my faith impacts my hope.
Belief in God – This is where it all starts. Believing in a person who is infinitely greater than me (greater than man) gives me hope that there is someone who can offer help and healing beyond mankind’s brilliant yet limited skill and knowledge. Without going into any stories, I have firsthand experience that even during the toughest seasons of life God has been there to sustain me.
Belief in Heaven – The belief that there is life beyond this earthly existence and that in the afterlife I won’t have JRA, gives me hope that one day I will be without pain or limitations. I love life, and want to experience a full, long life here on earth, but I have peace that one day when I transition from earth to heaven I will no longer need to deal with chronic illness. I will be existing, but I will be well, happy and strong.
Here are some thoughts on how to strengthen your faith thus strengthen your hope.
Develop Your Relationship with God – Get to know God better and build a stronger relationship with Him. He is not hard to find, in fact, He wants to be found and involved in our lives. Seek someone out to help you with this, or leave me a comment and I will be glad to give some input.
Prayer – One of the best ways to get to know God better is to talk to Him in prayer. Don’t worry about trying to sound spiritual, just talk to Him like a friend. Prayer has been one of the things that bring me the greatest practical benefit. I usually pray at night when my family is asleep, so I am often tired from the day. I have found that when I don’t pray, I will get up the next morning still tired, but when I take the time to pray, I wake up refreshed. I am not suggesting everyone do this, I am merely illustrating how prayer has impacted my life.
Read the Bible – I believe in and read the Bible. It is the spiritual writings I put my trust in. It is where I gain strength, inspiration, encouragement and hope for daily living. It is also a terrific way to get to know God, and how He desires to help us. I also use the Bible in meditation and prayer, dwelling on who God is and what He is doing in my life.
Go to Church – Going to church is a fantastic way to be encouraged and sustain hope. Being in an uplifting and caring atmosphere where people can pray with you, offer support and even possibly provide practical help is extremely valuable. Many churches even offer various support groups. Our church, for example, has a group called Hopekeepers. This is a group of people with chronic illness who meet once a month to offer hope and encouragement to one another.
I realize these are basic thoughts on this subject. I could go into this deeper, but I don’t want to sound too “preachy”. If there is interest expressed, I can and will expand on this area in the future. Thank you for patiently and openly reading through this. I look forward to your comments.
Published On: May 29, 2012