Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

To Help You Understand My Chronic Pain

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HeartBroken-Tears are the Baptism of Soul via photopin (license)

“I feel terrible.”

“I know.”

“You do? Do you really?”

There are some things in life that one must experience to fully understand. Infertility. Rape. Depression. Losing a child. Being abused. You see, we can look at situations and people and have a deep concern, empathy and heartbreak for them. We can see people suffering and try to imagine how awful it would be to experience such tragedies, and yet we can’t fully understand their pain unless we’ve walked in those shoes. For the person in pain and suffering, there is a deep desire for others, especially loved ones, to understand what we’re going through, and yet we wouldn’t hope for anyone to really have to struggle as we do.

My husband recently told me that he wished he could have my pain for a day so that he could better understand. It was a thoughtful thing to say. He makes every effort to understand and I appreciate that. So in honor of his desire to see more clearly what I am dealing with, I’m going to give as truthful an account as possible in hopes that understanding will grow, helping people to minister better to those who suffer with chronic pain.

I don’t like talking about my pain. I am very much the type of person who wants to make people happy and be cheerful and put on a brave face, but too much pretense weaves around ourselves something of a lonely cocoon. If no one knows we are hurting, then we suffer alone. There is no one to talk to or to pray for you. Since chronic pain is often felt but not seen, you are expected to function the way you look on the outside. It’s exhausting. So, I’m going to be honest and my prayer is that this helps others like me and the people who love them.

1, My Diagnosis – Everyone’s pain is different, and there are a variety of causes for chronic pain. To this day, after seeing many specialists and doctors, I am technically diagnosed with fibromyalgia, though I feel confident that there is more to it. Being somewhat “undiagnosed” means I am constantly searching for answers. It means I don’t know what to expect. It means there really is no treatment. I often feel like I’ve no where to turn for help and that going to the doctor is a waste of time. It’s scary and frustrating. I am not really being treated for fibro, though my doctor does ask about my pain on regular visits. I’m not on medication.

  1. My Pain – I go through flare-ups of pain and various symptoms on a cyclical basis. I’m not trying to whine or complain here, but I am going to share some of the pain I experience either on a daily or cyclical basis. Joint pain is top of the list. I always have pain in my shoulders, neck and upper back, as well as various tender points. The pain flares up and those flare ups can last a long time. Right now I’m dealing with one that has lasted about 6 weeks. The pain right now is also in most of my other joints. I have arthritic pain in my fingers, hands, feet, back, knees, etc. I suffer headaches, brain fog and strange sensations. I have had gastrointestinal problems for several years resulting in chronic gastritis (inflammation of stomach lining). I have to be cautious about my diet to avoid horrible stomach pain. I also have very bad reflux. The fatigue can be severe. I get dizzy often. There are times when my pain is so severe that I can barely move. It is worse in the mornings. It wakes me up early because I can’t lay down any longer. This all began around the time I turned 30…so around 4 years now.
  1. Invisible Illness – People with chronic pain understand something that others don’t….just because I look okay doesn’t mean I am ok. There are days when my condition overwhelms me and I wonder how I can make it through the day, yet I can’t slow down. I can’t stop. I have to work, clean and keep up with my responsibilities as if I were healthy. I just know there are people sitting at home collecting disability who suffer less than I do on a regular basis. My disease is invisible to the human eye. As a result, it feels as though the whole world is expecting you to just keep at it. It feels as if no one believes you are hurting and they can’t possibly understand how much.
  1. Feeling Like a Failure – While I am struggling to keep up with my responsibilities, I also know I’m failing quite a bit. I can’t keep up the house like I’d like to or do as much as I want to do. My husband has to help me around the house more than I’d like. I need to say no sometimes to various ministry opportunities and events. I just can’t do it all. I struggle with feeling like a failure as a mother and wife. I know the enemy uses these things to feed lies to me, and so I cling to the Word of God that He will work all of this together for good. I trust Him that He will carry me when I can’t go another step.
  1. Emotional Side Effects – If you think the physical pain is the only part of it, you’re missing something. The emotional suffering is also very much a struggle. You see, there is something emotionally devastating about chronic illness. Each morning, day after day, I wake up to pain. I struggle through pain, and other symptoms, throughout the day. I go to sleep in pain. It’s constant. It goes on and on and on and there is no cure. I can expect to be in pain for the rest of my life, though I do pray for healing according to the Lord’s will and timing. Imagine how awful it feels to be sick and then go on to imagine that sickness is going to be your life for the rest of your days. Imagine never having a day where you feel perfectly well again. It’s heartbreaking, frustrating and so very sad. If not for the blessed assurance I have in Jesus, I’d feel so lost. I don’t know how people survive this pain without Him.

This may seem like a bit of a downer, but I really felt compelled to tell the truth here about what it’s like to live with chronic pain. I know that my husband longs to understand it better, and maybe you have a loved one suffering with pain. Your loved one needs you to acknowledge the struggle and believe in what he/she is dealing with. You know, it’s easy to minister to and care for a person who is suffering with a short term illness. You help out and then she gets better. A person with chronic illness is a whole other deal. This person will need your understanding, love and support probably forever. It’s hard. It’s a big job. So blessed that there are people out there who love God enough to love His people even in these long-term illnesses.

If you are married to someone with chronic pain, I know you are suffering too. It’s hard to watch your spouse hurt and not be able to fix it. I encourage you to be understanding and supportive. You will have to help pick up the slack around the house and help take care of your beloved. You will have to understand when he/she can’t keep up or must decline an activity. You will have to be there to hold things together when his/her world seems to be falling apart. Hang in there and trust the Lord.

As I write this, I am aware that publishing it is going to make me look weak and that it exposes to others something that I’ve tried to keep hidden. You see, I don’t want to be known as the lady who’s always sick. On the other hand, I need support too. I need friends who pray for me. I need help from time to time when it gets bad. My husband needs to understand, and my guess is that other spouses need this too. While it all seems pretty disheartening, please know that it is the hope and grace of Jesus Christ that keeps me going. I know God has not forsaken me and that He will get me through. I believe He has a purpose for allowing it. I do pray for healing and trust Him. I’ll never give up hope. I’ll never stop praising my Lord. He gives me strength day by day to endure this thorn in my flesh. I pray that all who suffer with chronic pain and illness would know that hope and love of Jesus. We need Him to get through this.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’m happy to answer questions and I’d love to hear your stories too. God be glorified and may He bless you abundantly!

* * * Added: have asked me if I take anything for pain. I wanted to share that I am taking Plexus products for pain, better health and weight loss. I am noticing that my flare ups seem to be less intense most of the time. The longer I’m on it, the better I feel overall. I’m not saying this to sell it, but because I believe it is helping people. If you’d like to know more about Plexus, let me know. You can also check my website… Radiant Health

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When You Have a Mystery Illness…

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Historias Visuales via photopin cc

So many people around the world suffer with “mystery” illnesses that have, for one reason or another, stumped the medical profession. There are so many difficulties in having to live with an illness that is either: impossible to diagnose, misunderstood by doctors, controversial in nature, or simply incredibly rare. Many of these illnesses have no cure – at least not yet. People are expected to just get on with it, soldier through and try to hold their lives together. Odds are you or someone you know suffers in this way, so please take a moment to read this so you can understand better what people like myself are going through.

When you have a mystery illness…you feel like no one takes it seriously. You have pain and other symptoms but, without a diagnosis, people don’t seem to think it’s a big deal. They can’t see the pain going on inside. If you say, “I have cancer”, loved ones are immediate to show deep concern, offer prayers and help you any way they can. With a mystery illness, they have no way to relate or gage the seriousness of what you’re going through.

When you have a mystery illness…you have no proof of your illness so people sometimes treat you like a hypochondriac. They may not flat out say it, but they make subtle jokes about how much you complain or how often you are sick, as if it’s a choice or just in your mind. They have no idea how much this hurts those who are suffering without proof of their condition.

When you have a mystery illness…you see doctor after doctor and each time feel a little less hopeful that anyone will be able to help. You see GPs, specialists and are even referred to mental health specialists when the doctors stop believing you too. Many times they run the basic labs and then tell you that’s all they can do. It’s extremely frustrating and disappointing. It’s difficult to continue seeking help.

When you have a mystery illness…your pain is often invisible so people expect you to do more than you can. Sometimes you can barely get out of bed. You struggle to get chores done. You attend events but it takes all of your strength to maintain pleasantries. They just don’t see how badly it hurts.

When you have a mystery illness…you feel cheated. You watch other people being able to do the things that you can’t, and it’s sometimes very difficult to be content. It takes prayer and submitting daily to the Father’s will just to keep from sinking into depression and bitterness. It can seem like you are unsuitable for every role you feel called to: wife, mother, ministry, etc. It can seem very unfair. Yet, you love the Lord and know that His ways are perfect. You know pain is the result of a fallen mankind, and that God does love us, even though He does allow us to suffer. You look forward to a day where there will be no more pain or suffering.

When you have a mystery illness…you feel like no one understands what you’re going through. You feel awfully lonely at times. You are afraid to talk about it for fear of sounding like a complainer. You worry that people are judging you or simply sick of hearing about your health problems. Pretty soon you just stop talking about it. You just struggle alone in silence.

When you have a mystery illness….you struggle with fear. It is so hard to deal with health concerns and various symptoms without any answers. While hearing that you have an illness is no fun, at least those of who have a diagnosis know what’s happening, what’s going to happen, and can make a plan for treatment. When you have no diagnosis, you have symptoms that can be scary. You never know what to expect. There is no cure. There is no real treatment plan other than to manage symptoms. You have no answer to give friends and family.

For those of us who suffer from mystery or misunderstood or mistreated illnesses, day to day life can be a challenge. Let me just assure you that the pain we are going through is both real and sometimes intense. The fact that we don’t have answers means that we feel no resolve. We can’t come to grips with it except to accept that we may never have explanations or the help we desire.

I honestly don’t know how people who don’t have Jesus Christ in their lives go through these types of chronic health problems. All I know is that the hope I have inside me lives on despite the pain of the physical body. While others may not understand or take my pain seriously, I know that my loving Father in Heaven knows of every tear that falls and every pain I go through. He cares. He knows. He sees it all. He allows it but has promised to turn what is evil to good. He has promised to make beauty from ashes. He loves me and will not leave me to suffer alone. Someday He will give me a new body without pain. Praise Jesus!

I pray for healing. I ask you to pray for me too, and to pray for the countless people who suffer even now with an illness that modern medicine can’t cure. As for me, I give glory to God whether He heals me or not. I know His ways are far above mine. I long to be healed. I long for a day when my body isn’t consumed with pain. I long to be free from these restraints. Until that day, I just need to look up. I need to remember the sufferings of my Savior. I need to remind myself daily that this suffering is but for a moment and that an eternity of glory awaits.

If you suffer, please know you’re not alone. Know that Jesus hasn’t abandoned you. Don’t lose hope. God has a plan and He will deliver you. If you don’t know Jesus or haven’t committed your life to Him, I pray you will do so right now. Until you know Jesus, the sufferings of the physical body are not your biggest concern. You need Jesus now and He wants you. He wants to bring you comfort and hope that cannot be shaken by illness and pain. Cry out to Him and He will not turn from you, dear one.

If you have someone in your life that suffers from a mystery or chronically misunderstood illness, please be there for them. Show them that you care and believe them. Pray for healing. Offer help. They need it. Try to understand. Don’t treat them like it’s all in their head. Offer grace. Offer mercy. Offer support. Know that it may be a lot worse than it looks….probably is. You will never know how much your love and concern means to someone who is suffering and feeling alone.

God bless!

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Physical Pain for the Wife & Mother

“When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” John 11:4

This is a topic that’s been on my heart quite a bit lately. Due to my own health issues, I’ve come to identify with the struggle of our sisters who deal with chronic pain and disease on a regular basis, and how difficult it is, particularly as a wife and mother. My own battles with chronic pain began almost two years ago, and the symptoms I face get stronger and more challenging to deal with day by day. I am, as of yet, still undiagnosed and currently awaiting testing at a hospital known for superior diagnostics, so praying to get some answers there.

The calling of wife and mother is no easy one, even for the healthy-bodied woman. On any given day there is laundry, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, meeting the needs of the children, meeting the needs of the husband, schooling, ministry and anything else that may come up. There is hospitality, discipleship and ministering to the lost. Then there are those of us who also need to make an income. Some women work outside the home, and others (like myself) work from the home so that I can home-educate my daughter. Let’s face it ladies, our plates are overflowing with activities, tasks and projects. The truth is, we don’t have time to be sick.

We don’t have time to be sick; not even with the flu. At least with the flu you can safely assume a few days of down time and then a recovery. This is not the case with chronic disease and pain. A woman with painful medical conditions, such as Fibromyalgia or Lyme Disease, can almost count on waking up each morning in pain. While there are generally good days and bad days, there is no expectation of complete recovery, except for through miraculous healing from Jesus. While we pray for healing, we also accept God’s will, and sometimes His plan involves allowing us to experience pain and sickness for His glory to be revealed.

In the verse above, Jesus is talking about his friend Lazarus who is very ill. Jesus says this illness is not going to lead to death, but to the end result of revealing the glory of God. His disciples are quite perplexed indeed when Lazarus does die, but our Lord Jesus Christ knew that the death was but a mirage. He would raise Lazarus from the dead. Even knowing that, Jesus wept for His beloved friend.

To my beloved sisters who share in my struggles with pain, let us be encouraged. Sometimes we may wonder by God isn’t healing us now or why He allows us, His daughters, to suffer. My heart has posed these questions as well. We see that sometimes God allows sickness, suffering and pain because somehow in the big picture it brings about a good result. Sometimes it draws attention to God’s glory. Perhaps when people see us persevering through pain to serve our families and minister to the lost, they see God’s mighty hand carrying us through. God gets the glory. Be further encouraged to know, sisters, that Jesus’ words are true for us too. This sickness is not to death. Even though this life is a constant struggle and there is much pain, we are promised an eternity with our God in new bodies that will be untouched by pain. We are alive forevermore with Him who gave His life for us. The pain is for a short while, but our life eternal with Christ is what follows. We have to press on as best we can and trust the Lord to lift our weary arms and hold us together.

As I write this blog, tears fill my eyes because I know there is hope. I’ve definitely felt hopeless at times. I’ve felt defeated when I didn’t have the strength to finish my housework, or when I couldn’t chase my daughter in the park. I’ve cried out to my Lord, begging Him for answers. We will have those days of inner conflict, but we must admonish ourselves to remember Jesus’ words. This sickness is not to death. We have victory in Jesus and He will help us through every hard day, hold us when we are week and weary, and mend our hearts when they are broken. I pray sisters that today you know that your sickness is not to death. If you know Jesus and He knows you, you will one day be pain free. Hallelujah!

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