Celebrating Today Despite Living with Illness
by Lisa Copen
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A friend of mine is fond of saying, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” This quaint little saying seems to be not only an outline of the recent turn of events in my life, but also words of wisdom.
How much I like a plan, a clear set of expectations, something solid that I can look forward to. God, however, wants us to trust him, not our plans. And that should be enough. My struggle is often over letting go of searching “God’s will” (ie. my action plan approved by God) and rather just seeking God. For what God desires is not to be my consultant of my business partner, but my friend.
Celebrating today and being content with what we have been given is not only a wise suggestion but a commandment from God. “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life?... Instead you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will we will live and do this or that’” (James 4: 14,15).
My great-grandmother used to add the words “Lord-willing” to the end of every plan she made. She never said, “We’ll have a picnic” without adding the words “Lord-willing” to the end of the sentence. What a wonderful, comforting perspective for life, for it assures us if it does not happen it is because it was not in God’s will!
Living just for today can be difficult when we have an illness, because we are put in the position of trying to predict what a medication may do to us, positively or negatively. We must plan for our financial stability and we have concerns about who will care for our children or aging parents, if we are unable to assist.
Chronic illness is often degenerative, which can throw us into a lifetime of going through the grief cycle every time that we lose another ability. Just as we must not look too far forward, however, we also must not dwell on the past. This is why we are told “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions’” (Ecc. 7:10).
God did not simply tell us not to worry about tomorrow and then let us be, however. He promised his strength for all of the days of our life. As the hymn says, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone...” Although we may feel as though our bones are growing weak and the affliction is overwhelming (Psalms 31:10), “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (2 Samuel 22:33).
Lastly, we must remember that God is always in control. Everything we encounter in life has been “Father-filtered.” “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other...” Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future” (Ecc. 7:13,14). When God is in control, we can surrender our plans and know that He has promised us his best for our lives.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries (http://restministries.com) a Christian organization that serves the chronically ill and is an affiliate of Joni and Friends. Lisa is an author and speaker, encouraging those with chronic illness and assisting churches in beginning an outreach to those who live with chronic illness in their church and community.
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Lisa, I had a friend send me your profile and I am so glad:) This is the first article I've read so far. Your last paragraph really glared out at me. "Lastly, we must remember that God is always in control. Everything we encounter in life has been “Father-filtered.” “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other...” Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future” (Ecc. 7:13,14). When God is in control, we can surrender our plans and know that He has promised us his best for our lives." I like that, "Father-filtered," so true and on the other hand, so painful. Laury