Things I’ve Learned from Chronic Illness (2)

In honor of Invisible Illness Week, I’m sharing some things I’ve learned along my journey with Wegener’s Granulomatosis. Yesterday I shared about recognizing the body/spirit connection.

Lesson #2: see opportunities, not limitations

It would be so easy to compare my current life with how I lived before Wegener’s. It would be easy to feel sorry for how much I can’t do anymore.

And I admit, I do sometimes struggle with what I’m missing. I wish I could still run and hike regularly. I wish I could be at church more often. I wish I could see my friends more frequently. I wish I could volunteer for more activities, help out more often, “be there” more consistently.

Anyone who’s ever been sick for more than a day knows what I’m talking about. Whether you just had a cold for a few days, or some virus that lasted a week, you probably missed out on some real-life activities. Things that you wanted to do. People you wanted to see.

But we can’t sit there feeling sorry for ourselves! Because if you focus on what you’re missing, you’ll never see what you have. Sure, I’ve had to learn a new normal – multiple times! Sure, I’ve had to figure out how to deal with some of these new limitations.

But there are so many opportunities I have now, that I never had when I was “healthy.” There are opportunities you have when you’re sick that you might not have when you’re healthy.

–> Sickness gives a greater opportunity to live a clear testimony of God’s grace! Scripture doesn’t say that we must be strong, in order for God’s strength to be made known. No – it says that His strength is made perfect in our weakness!

“…I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.
But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.’

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses,
so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content…
for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:8-10

–> Sickness gives more opportunities for prayer and Bible reading. I’ve talked with many, many women who deal with chronic health problems, things that keep them home most of the time and awake most nights. And you know? They’ve discovered the joy of interceding for others during their times of suffering.

  • Those nights you lay awake in bed, unable to sleep – have you ever thought of spending that time praying for your family? Your neighbors? Your coworkers and fellow church members?
  • Those days you’re home because your body is fighting yet another virus – have you ever chosen to spend that time listening to sacred music or audio Bible (the Psalms are great to listen to when you’re not feeling well!)? Have you ever considered spending time reading the Word while you’re lying there on the sofa, unable to do any physical work?

–> Sickness gives different opportunities for new hobbies, new ministries, and new relationships.

I am amazed at all these “new” opportunities God has blessed me with! Before getting Wegener’s, I had just graduated college and was working full-time. I had a busy social life, was quite involved in my church, and never turned down an invitation. But I wasn’t writing much, I’d never even considered handcrafting a card, and I was likely doing too much to make a difference in any one place.

Now I have to take life a lot more slowly. But look at the opportunities God’s given me:

  • I’ve discovered an ability and love for making cards for people (thanks to my Mom-in-law). Never knew I could do that! And what a ministry it provides me, and what an encouragement it can be to others.
  • I’ve rediscovered my love for writing. Two years ago, God laid on my heart to start this blog, and I am simply amazed at how He’s led since then. He gives me His Word to study – and then He gives me the words to write about it all.
  • I’ve completed an ebook and a full-length manuscript, neither of which would have been written had I been healthy and working full-time. Both have been God-given opportunities, and completely by His grace and direction.
  • I’ve found friendships and mentors who are a constant source of  encouragement. They’ve helped me (often unknowingly) with my writing and my spiritual growth. And I probably would not have met them, if I were living a different life.

I could look at my illness and see my limitations… that I’m forced to stay home, that I can’t be as involved in my church or community, that I can’t be as active outdoors, that I can’t see many of my old friends anymore.

Or I could see all that God has provided me with! He’s given me new friends,  new and different opportunities to be involved with the universal church, quiet hobbies I can enjoy at home, the ability to be home whenever my husband is. He’s allowed me to have uninterrupted prayer times, quiet afternoons to read and study God’s Word, and consistent time to spend writing.


QUESTIONS for YOU: How can you find opportunities, instead of limitations, in whatever physical affliction you’re facing? What new ministries, hobbies, relationships, or blessings has God provided you through your time of suffering?


Also in this series: body/spirit connectiongood health is not everythingcherish the time you have


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12 thoughts on “Things I’ve Learned from Chronic Illness (2)

  1. I would have never understood this post a year and a half ago, E. Honestly, until I got mono for nearly a year, I could not have related, but there is so much wisdom in this post. God does foreordain sickness, for a reason, for His glory. You are using the “gift” well, friend.

    1. Thanks, Sarah.

  2. Sick at home, I was watching Veggie Tales, and Madame Blueberry learned that the first step towards having a happy heart is being thankful for what you have and not being sad about what you don’t have.

    1. That’s a great way to put it. And much more concise than what I wrote! 🙂

  3. Hi, just found your post through Incourage. I have been recovering from chronic fatigue, insomnia and a few other symptoms for 4 years now and I can relate to what you said about not looking back and comparing life now to before. It is hard some days but God has brought me back to him during this time. I learned how to cross stitch and LOVE it. I am reading my Bible for the first time and started going back to church. I am cooking at home now and baking bread – things I never had patience for in the past. I get to spend more time with my husband as well. Your post is a good reminder to count the blessings and that God is using this time in our lives. One of my favorite quotes is “Don’t let what you cannot do stop you from what you can do.”

    1. Heather, I’m so glad you found me! I love your list of blessings. And that’s a great quote. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, so I “get” the frustrations you speak of and have worked hard to change my attitude to see the “opportunities” that my disease has brought into my life. But I’m also more importantly reminded of the need for gratitude and trust in God’s goodness and constant redemption of our pains and sorrows. Thanks for encouraging me, Elizabeth!

    1. Beth, thanks so much for sharing that here. It’s a hard road, but worth it, when we start becoming more aware of all our blessings!

  5. Although I do not have a chronic illness, I believe your advice here can be applied to most folks. We all feel limited to some extent. For me, there are just some things I can’t do with a little one at home or due to financial constraints. But God has also opened up amazing opportunities I wouldn’t have had if not for my exact life situation. Thanks for linking up with WIP!

    1. Yes, exactly! Great application for everyone else 🙂 Thanks, Mary Beth!

  6. […] In honor of Invisible Illness Week, I’m sharing some things I’ve learned along my journey with Wegener’s Granulomatosis. Read the last two posts here and here. […]

  7. […] Granulomatosis (WG). You can read them here: Recognize the body/spirit connection; See opportunities, not limitations; Realize that good health is not everything; Cherish the time you […]

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