Small Groups Provide Support Through Illness Journey

Leading a support group for the chronically ill may be the last thing you have considered taking on. But if you feel the nudge from God, don’t ignore it. Laura explains.

“Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.” (Job 8:7)

It’s the group no one wants to join but we are all happy to have met. It is comprised of 11 women and two men, ranging in age from mid-30’s to 60’s. We talk, share, nod, listen, pray, eat, and cry. We have one main thing in common–chronic illness.

We are a HopeKeepers group which I began recently with a friend at church. I would never have dreamt of started such a group, but my path has taken this turn and I am excited. I had worked nearly half my life as an elementary school counselor but never thought of running a group for adults. But I scoured the internet for hours on end and could not find any chronic illness support group in my area. There were plenty of groups for specific needs but nothing for chronic illness. I was lonely and looking for others to meet who understood the reality of a chronic condition.

I called the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo and talked with the coordinator of disability services. They say God works in mysteries ways and before I knew it I was not only volunteered to run a group but I also was the new parish advocate for the chronically ill and disabled for my church. Wow, what had I just gotten myself into? But that’s another devotional.

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

We are growing and supporting one another. You would think a group for people with illnesses would be depressing–but it is not. We talk about the loss and sadness, but we also have the hope that our futures will be prosperous. We all have realized we have to reinvent ourselves a bit.

God gives me the endurance to sit with these inspiring men and women for 90 minutes twice a month and listen, share, and be enriched. And my dear friend, who has lived through two life-threatening illness of her own, is a light spot in our group. She co-leads and takes over when my brain stops processing information or I lose steam.

God works amazingly in us. He provides this diverse group of people, from several different Christian backgrounds, to share, support and listen to one another. We are truly blessed.

Prayer: Dear God, thank You for helping me to be open to running a HopeKeepers group in my community. Thank You for bringing the people to the group and for allowing them to share their lives with us. Bless them and everyone who is struggling with the challenges of living with a chronic illness. Help us to prosper in our new way of living. Amen.

About the author:
Laura Seil Ruszczyk lives in New York with her husband and three kids. She retired from her job as an elementary school counselor in 2012. She is writing a book about her struggles with dysautonomia _ a neurological condition in which the autonomic nervous system malfunctions, affected such things as blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and temperature regulation.

In what ways have you prospered in life since becoming chronically ill?

Here is a sweet video abut friendships with the song “Friends are Quiet Angels.” -Lisa