Why Do I Have to Be So Sick?
“When you are young, you feel invincible. Then, suddenly, being seriously ill shakes you out of that. You feel that you have become old overnight.”—Jason.
AT 18 years of age, Jason learned that he had Crohn’s disease, a debilitating and painful bowel disorder. Perhaps you too suffer from a chronic illness or disability. Activities that many take for granted—including getting dressed, eating, or going to school—might require enormous amounts of effort.
A chronic health problem can make you feel as though you’re locked in a prison, with your freedom restricted. You may feel lonely. You might even start to wonder if you’ve done something to offend God or if God has brought some special test of integrity upon you. However, the Bible says: “With evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) Sickness is merely part of the present human condition, and all of us are subject to “time and unforeseen occurrence.”—Ecclesiastes 9:11.
Happily, Jehovah God has promised a new world in which “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isaiah 33:24) Even those who have died will be resurrected, so that they will have opportunity to enjoy that new world. (John 5:28, 29) In the meantime, though, how can you make the best of your situation?
Try to be positive. The Bible says: “A heart that is joyful does good as a curer.” (Proverbs 17:22) Some might feel that joy and laughter are inappropriate in the face of serious illness. But good-natured humor and pleasant company can refresh your mind and increase your will to live. So think about what you can do to bring more joy into your life. Remember, joy is a godly quality, part of the fruitage of God’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22) That spirit can help you to endure illness with a measure of joy.—Psalm 41:3.
Set realistic goals. “Wisdom is with the modest ones,” says the Bible. (Proverbs 11:2) Modesty will help you to be neither reckless nor overprotective. For example, if your condition permits it, appropriate physical activity can help you feel better. That’s why medical facilities often have physical therapy programs for young patients. In many cases proper exercise not only promotes physical healing but also helps to keep your spirits up. The point is, honestly assess your situation and set realistic goals.
Learn to deal with others. What if some make insensitive remarks about your condition? The Bible says: “Do not give your heart to all the words that people may speak.” (Ecclesiastes 7:21) Sometimes the best way to handle such talk is simply to ignore it. Or perhaps you can head off the situation. If, for example, others seem to be tense around you because you’re confined to a wheelchair, try putting them at ease. You might say: “You’re probably wondering why I have to use a wheelchair. Would you like to know?”
Don’t give up. In the face of great suffering, Jesus prayed to God, trusted in Him, and concentrated on his own joyful future rather than on the pain. (Hebrews 12:2) He learned from his hard experiences. (Hebrews 4:15, 16; 5:7-9) He accepted help and encouragement. (Luke 22:43) He focused on the welfare of others rather than on his own discomfort.—Luke 23:39-43; John 19:26, 27.
Jehovah “Cares for You”
Whatever your difficulty, you need not feel that God views you as damaged. On the contrary, Jehovah sees those who strive to please him as precious and valuable. (Luke 12:7) “He cares for you” in a very personal way, and he’s pleased to use you in his service—despite your illness or disability.—1 Peter 5:7.
So don’t allow fear or uncertainty to hold you back from doing the things that you want and need to do. Always look to Jehovah God for support. He understands your needs and your feelings. Furthermore, he can provide you with “the power beyond what is normal” to help you to endure. (2 Corinthians 4:7) In time, perhaps you will have the optimistic viewpoint of Timothy, who was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome at age 17. He says: “According to 1 Corinthians 10:13, Jehovah won’t let us go through more than we can bear. I reason that if my Creator is confident that I can cope with this trial, who am I to argue?”
If Someone You Know Is Sick
What if you’re healthy, but you know someone who is sick or disabled? How can you help that one? The key is to show “fellow feeling” and to be “tenderly compassionate.” (1 Peter 3:8) Try to understand what that person is going through. See his challenges through his eyes rather than your own. Nina, who was born with spina bifida, says: “Since my body is small and I’m in a wheelchair, some people talk to me as if I were a child, which can be discouraging to me. Others, though, make an effort to sit down and talk to me, so that we’re at the same eye level. I really enjoy that!”
If you look beyond their infirmities, you’ll discover that those who have health challenges are a lot like you. And think of it—by your words you have the power to ‘impart a spiritual gift’ to such ones! When you do so, you too will experience a blessing, for there will be “an interchange of encouragement.”—Romans 1:11, 12.
READ MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC IN VOLUME 1, CHAPTER 13
“At that time . . . no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’”—Isaiah 33:23, 24.
Knowledge reduces fear of the unknown. So learn as much as you can about your condition. Ask your doctor specific questions if you’re not clear on some matter.
DID YOU KNOW . . . ?
Your illness or disability is not a punishment from God. Rather, it is the result of the imperfection that all of us have inherited from Adam.—Romans 5:12.
To keep a positive outlook despite my illness or disability, I will ․․․․․
One realistic goal I can set is ․․․․․
If someone says unkind things to me about my condition, I will put the matter in perspective by ․․․․․
What I would like to ask my parent(s) about this subject is ․․․․․
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
● How can you use the information in this chapter to help someone who’s disabled or chronically ill?
● If you have a chronic illness, what positive things can you meditate on to make the best of your condition?
● How do you know that affliction isn’t a sign of God’s disapproval?
[Box/Picture on page 75]
“I remember crying in my mother’s arms when I learned that I would be confined to a wheelchair. I was only eight years old.
I have muscular dystrophy. I need help getting dressed, showered, and fed. I can’t lift my arms at all. Still, my life has been busy and enjoyable, and I have much to be grateful for. I go out in the ministry regularly and serve as a ministerial servant in the congregation. It doesn’t even occur to me that I need to ‘cope.’ In serving Jehovah, there’s always something to do and to look forward to. Ultimately, I look forward to God’s new world, where I will ‘climb up just as a stag does.’”—Isaiah 35:6.
[Box/Picture on page 75]
“When I was just four years old, the doctor told me: ‘You’ll have to take insulin injections for the rest of your life.’
Controlling blood sugar levels is challenging for a diabetic. Often, I can’t eat when I want to, and when I don’t want to eat, I have to. To date, I’ve had about 25,000 injections, so I have callouses on my arms and thighs. But my parents have helped me to make the best of my situation. They were always cheerful and positive, and they raised me to appreciate spiritual things. Jehovah has been good to me. When my health allowed it, I decided to show my appreciation by taking up the full-time ministry.”
[Box/Picture on page 76]
“People don’t know how to respond to someone who’s out of the ordinary, and that’s just what I am.
I have a rare form of dwarfism. People put a lot of emphasis on appearance, so I’m always trying to prove that I’m not a little child with a deep voice. Rather than mope over what I’m not, I try to focus on what I am. I enjoy my life. I study the Bible and pray to Jehovah for support. My family is always there to encourage me. I look forward to the time when God will eliminate all ailments. In the meantime, I live with my disability, but I don’t let my disability become my life.”
[Box/Picture on page 76]
“I knew that something was wrong when even picking up a simple glass of water hurt so much.
Having fibromyalgia is a pain, literally and figuratively. As a teen, I want to keep up with my friends, but everything is more difficult for me than it used to be. Even falling asleep seems to take forever! Still, I’ve learned that with Jehovah’s help I can work around my problem. I was even able to spend extra time in the ministry as an auxiliary pioneer. It was hard, but I did it. I try to do my best. I have to ‘listen’ to my body and stay within my limits. If I forget, I’ve always got my mom to remind me!”
[Box/Picture on page 77]
“I used to be an A-plus student. Now reading a simple sentence is a challenge, and that sometimes makes me feel depressed.
Chronic fatigue syndrome makes simple activities difficult. Even getting out of bed is often impossible. Still, I’ve never allowed my illness to define who I am. I read my Bible every day, even if it means only reading a few verses or having a family member read to me. I owe my family a great deal. Dad even gave up a privilege of responsibility at a convention so that he could help me attend. He never complained. He said the greatest privilege he could have is to take care of his family.”
[Box/Picture on page 77]
“Suddenly, in a panic, I’ll scream and shake violently, even throwing things around and breaking things.
I’ve had epilepsy since I was five years old. My attacks have occurred up to seven times a month. I have to take medication each day, and as a result, I tire easily. But I try to think of others, not just myself. In my congregation there are two full-time ministers my age who have been a big support. When I graduated from school, I increased my share in the ministry. Epilepsy is a daily struggle. But when I feel down, I make sure to get my rest. By the next day, I’m in a better frame of mind.”
[Box/Picture on page 78]
“It’s difficult to gain the respect of your peers when you don’t fit their definition of ‘normal.’
I would love to play sports, but I can’t. I have cerebral palsy, and even walking is difficult. Still, I don’t dwell on what I can’t do. I immerse myself in activities that I can perform, such as reading. The Kingdom Hall is a place where I can be myself without having to worry about being judged. It’s also comforting to know that Jehovah loves me for the person I am on the inside. In fact, I really don’t view myself as a disabled person. I see myself as a person with an extra and unique challenge to overcome.”
[Box/Picture on page 78]
“I used to be able to play sports. Then, while still in my teens, it was as if I suddenly grew old.
I was born with atrial septal defect—a hole in the heart. The symptoms became manifest when I was a teenager. I underwent surgery, but now—six years later—I still tire easily and get chronic headaches. So I set attainable, short-term goals for myself. For instance, I have been able to serve as a full-time minister, much of which I accomplish through letter writing and telephone witnessing. Also, my illness has helped me to acquire qualities that I didn’t have, such as long-suffering and modesty.”
[Picture on page 74]
A chronic health problem can make you feel as though you’re locked in a prison—but the Bible provides hope of a release