Coping with Well Meant but Insensitive ‘Encouragements’

insensitiveHas someone been insensitive about your illness and it hurt deeply? How can we respond? Melanie shares.

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth . . . He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Years ago when I was at university and struggling to cope with the chronic illness, M.E., a “friend” tried to “encourage” me with the verses above from Isaiah.

The meaning implied by my friend was that if only I trusted God more and put my hope in Him, I would soon recover my physical strength and be skipping along to lectures instead of having to go by taxi and then falling asleep in the opening minutes.

I tried to trust and hope in God but the renewal of my physical strength did not happen. I felt confused by these verses, angry at the person who flippantly quoted them at me and let down by God for not delivering on these promises.

I can now see with the benefit of hindsight that I was given strength at that time: strength to take the difficult decision to come home from university to rest and recuperate and when I was sufficiently better, strength to return to university, repeat the academic year and complete my degree.

It was my inner strength that was renewed as I tried to trust God in bewildering circumstances. Thankfully, my physical strength was eventually restored to a large extent.

I still struggle to read these verses without some negative reaction resurfacing. But an intelligent reading of them shows that they are figurative, not literal. I don’t know anyone whose strengthening from God has enabled them to fly (“soar on wings like eagles”).

The real message of these verses is about the source of strength. We are always to look to our God for the strength we need to help us with whatever issues we face. Why?

“He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28b).

Prayer: Loving Father, Please help me to graciously receive the good intentions of those who mean well but don’t understand the insensitivity of their comments. Please help me to hand over to You the hurt these words have given. Forgive me for the times when I have given a glib answer to someone in need, without taking the time to listen and empathize. Thank you that You understand me fully and walk with me through the pain. Amen.

About the Author:
Melanie Hodges has suffered from chronic migraine for 9 years. She lives in north east London with her husband and 2 teenage daughters. She enjoys writing and walking with her mad spaniel Pinto.

Can you think of a gracious but firm response which would show that you value the good intention but that the comment isn’t really appropriate?

This is Laura Story singing “Grace.” Many of you are familiar with her song “Blessings” which has become a theme song of sorts for those of us with chronic illness. There will be times when we are hurt and we lash out. Sometimes the pain is just too much to bear. But we have a God that gives grace. He will understand and forgive our passive aggressiveness, our sarcasm, our sharp words. Just make sure to take it to Him and truly ask for forgiveness, rather than brushing it aside as justified. (I speak from experience!) God bless, -Lisa

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