How to Build a Chronic Illness Support System

As you endure chronic illness or the illness of someone you love, where do you find support? Who helps you to keep going and persevere? We all need someone to turn to when we feel like we’ve reached our end.

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Family Support

For us, we receive tremendous support from family. I’m so grateful for this because I know it’s not the case with many others who are consumed by ongoing sickness. Many chronic illness sufferers have been abandoned by exasperated spouses or let down by family members who have written them off as hypochondriacs. Some just don’t want to be affected by someone else’s suffering. It’s a devastating experience for many who feel forsaken by those they need most.

On the other hand, sometimes family members show a commitment to you like no one else. There’s something about the bond of blood and history that gives a sense of responsibility to get in there and do what needs to be done. If this describes your family, it can be very beneficial to pursue honest conversations with them so they can better understand  the nature of your illness and how they can help.

Church Support
We also appreciate the support and solid theology of suffering provided by our church. Are you plugged into a church family somewhere? Even if you cannot attend services, many churches offer a homebound ministry to keep you connected and to address your specific needs.

Unfortunately, all homebound ministries are not as proactive as they could be. I would encourage you to contact several Bible-believing churches in your area to see which one might be the best fit for your situation and needs.

Fellow-Sufferer Support
In recent days, I’ve been reminded of how significant it is to find friends who are experiencing a similar chronic illness journey. So many aspects of the chronic illness life can only be understood by those who are in the midst of it.

We recently connected with a precious couple who share a similar story to ours, but they are further along in their journey. What valuable advice and encouragement we’ve gleaned from them!

While we’ve tried many times to build relationships with other people dealing with long-term illness, it has certainly been a challenge. People who are sick are very, very busy.

“Doing what?” the world may ask. But if you’re living it, you know. They’re very busy just trying to survive. That can make it challenging to have a consistent growing friendship. But don’t give up!

If you can find someone else in a similar situation who desires friendship as well, you can agree ahead of time to give each other grace in your ability to remain in regular contact.

Healthy Friends Support
And finally, we don’t need to box ourselves in to only befriending others who are sick. We went to lunch recently with a group of people who don’t share our situation at all. It was enjoyable hearing lighthearted stories of their families. There’s room for friends with illness and for friends whose lives seem more simplified. Hold onto both if you can.

Supernatural Support
And what if your support system is close to non-existent? Your illness may have isolated you to the degree that family and friends have moved on and left you behind. Even churches can sadly let their chronically ill members fade into the background.  If so, I’m so sorry for your loss of support during the time that you need it most. Jesus understands loneliness and rejection like no one else. If you doubt it, consider this passage in Isaiah 53 that refers to His life here on Earth:

 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6)

The best encouragement I can offer you is this: God is drawn to hurting people. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things about Him. Psalm 34 says that “He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” If we draw near to Him in times of discouragement, depression, or despair, He is always there as “a friend which sticks closer than a brother” (Proverb 18:24).

If we can be of encouragement to you, pray for you, or help you find the support you need, please feel free to post in our comment section below, on our Facebook page, or send us an email at michael[at]chronicencouragement.com.

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