If there was one thing that is rarely talked about in regards to having a chronic illness, it is friendship. Somehow, once your health goes down the tubes, it seems as though your friends (or so you thought), go with it. All of the sudden, no one understands you, and frankly, they don’t have the time on their hands to even try. If you are lucky, they may stick around for a little while, acting as though you aren’t even sick. Yet then the day comes when you can’t physically or mentally try and even pretend that you can do the activities that you once did together, and therefore, your friendship becomes seemingly meaningless. You are stuck going to doctors appointments, getting treatments, trying to recuperate, and then doing it all over again, all of which makes you out of sight, and therefore out of mind to all the individuals once termed “friends.” You are surprised at how rude, odd, and weird people treat you. Instead of easily talking to you, conversation becomes scarce, and people have a hard time even looking at you in the face. It is as if you came down with leprosy, moved to a foreign country, and no one knows how to take you or your condition. Ultimately, people who have never experienced a chronic illness, can’t seem to wrap their heads around what “chronic” actually means, therefore leaving you in the dust as they live out their life like they never even knew you. Now, some of the distance that occurs between relationships when one person becomes chronically ill is only natural, as you as the patient are inevitably left with little energy to try and explain yourself to others outside of your close family circle, even if you wanted too. Just having your family “get it” takes time, and truly, no person will ever fully comprehend how you feel or what you are going through. Overall, the process of letting go and accepting that life with a chronic illness is not going away anytime soon, can be extremely difficult. In fact, sometimes this is even harder for your friends, then it is for you, making it even more difficult for them to realize that you are not the same person as before. All of this is rather heartbreaking, and I myself have experienced many nights of pain, confusion and loneliness, wondering, and working through, how I was going to get through a chronic illness, and no form of human support or friendship. It feels as though everyone is going on their merry way in life, and though you were set up to go right along with them, all the sudden things have changed, and you are left crumpled in the dust, unable to simply get through the day. Yet this is where I learned over and over again, the significance of my relationship with not only my family, but also with God.
It is hard to believe when you are going through the storms of life, that God would also take the opportunity to sift out any unneeded friend or relationships in your life, so that He could bless you with a special few, or even one, later down the road. Not only that, but it is even harder to accept that all you really need in life is Him, no matter what, despite how desolate life can seem without friends. Now, it is not to say that God doesn’t want to give us earthly companionship. However, it is for certain that He only wants the best for His children, and if that means taking away those that may hinder you in your walk with Him, or are just not important in the overall plan for your life and healing, then He will do so. Having a chronic illness will also prove just who is and is not, your real friend, and it is through this difficult time of parting ways, that our faith will be bent every which direction, and tested to see if it will break. If it does, not only will we be friend-less, but we will be left without a reason to live, heal, or look beyond our current illness. However, if we stand firm in our belief that God is making us go through these seemingly inhumane, unfair, and painful seasons of life to bring about something greater, we will not waver when all that we once knew, including our friends, has been stripped away from us. Again, it is hard, really hard, and Job, the servant of God in the Bible, can serve as the perfect example of how hard it can be to get through severe, earthly suffering when all forms of physical support (including family and friends) is stripped away. Yet the passage of Job is also one of the greatest testimonies of God’s faithfulness, and how relying on Him can get us through the most tragic, hopeless, and sorrowful of events. In the end, we must remember that despite all of the broken relationships that come a long with a chronic illness, we have a friend that sticks closer than a brother, and His name is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who promises to never leave us nor forsake us, no matter what. We do not have to worry about trying to explain how we feel or what we are going through, all we must do is cry out to Him, believe in His faithfulness, and He will be there to support and guide us through every tear that falls here on this earth.
Job 1:20-21 “