I wrote an article a while back, 18 Steps to Living Better with Chronic Illness. I thought I’d expand on these one at a time to share just how this works and how it has helped me. Sometimes it’s hard to see things with a short blurb without really expanding the concept. So over the next 18 weeks, I’ll be sharing one concept in depth. I pray you can see yourself and your family in these as they are some of the best ways I’ve found to live a life beyond surviving.
I started off with some ideas of attitude. The first was: Be flexible and here’s what I wrote:
“Chronic illness takes twists and turns. No matter how well you plan and/or how faithful you are to your meds/vitamins/diet, you will have times when you won’t be able to do X. Be flexible enough, if your work allows, to be okay doing Y or Z or M.O.U.S.E. If I don’t have the energy to bounce back after a difficult or stressful weekend, I may need to devote Monday to staying in and even taking a nap if need be.“
Any time you or your family is in crisis/survival mode, you will have twists and turns. It can be financial, health, or even family related. Any major issue or struggle in your life will have ebbs and flows, twists and turns. Even if God is working things for your good and the outcome will be deliverance from the trial, I’ve never found the path to be straight up. It’s like that meme on Facebook everyone shares. You may have seen it too. The top shows a stick figure on a bicycle on a path with a slight upward grade and says, “Your Plan.” The bottom shows the same stick figure on the same bicycle on that same slight upward grade but on a rocky path with ups and downs and pits filled with water and precarious narrow bridges. It says, “Reality.”
If you are not willing to be flexible with whatever gets thrown in your way (or flung in your face), if you are not willing to go with the flow when bad goes to worse, you will only succeed in frustrating yourself such that you will not be able to enjoy the in-between times when you are clearly on that slight upward grade with no pitfalls impeding your steps. Frustration only leads to more and there comes a time when too much frustration will bring you to a place of wanting to give up.
First, let me say that life will give you plenty of times when you will need to stop, regroup, gather strength to go on without any help from you. Those times are built for resting, but not for giving up. However, if you heap more frustration upon yourself by not being flexible with your plan, you will come to that place much sooner and your brain won’t listen to your heart for God’s guidance that will allow you to continue. It will lead you to a valley too deep to climb out of on your own. When you are flexible, you flow easily between your plan and reality without benefit of fits.
So what does being flexible really mean? You know how when you’re really looking forward to seeing a movie on TV, but you got the night wrong or the station goofed in reporting its programming? It’s disappointing and frustrating because maybe you passed up an opportunity to go somewhere more exciting than what that channel is currently broadcasting. But, what if just after you find this out, a friend calls that you haven’t been able to see in years and says she’s in town for only that day and has two hours to spend with you? You’re no longer upset about the movie, are you? You’re delighted to be able to see that dear friend and happy you didn’t have other plans that would have made you unavailable when she called.
Life can be like that when you’re in survival mode. You can think that your answer comes from one place and it can be devastating when that place is no longer available to you. That resource is no longer attainable. But where does our help come from? The Lord is always at work and sometimes we need to be flexible enough to appreciate it. Sometimes we are able to see that help right away in the place we expected it to be. Sometimes we are able to see it around the corner from the place we expected it to be. And sometimes it’s a long way down the road from where we expected it to be.
But if we spend our time frustrated that it wasn’t where we wanted it to be, we may not have our eyes on the road and miss it down the road…because our eyes were filled with tears. There are times when we need to our tears to clear out our anxiety and help us focus on what’s next. But sometimes those tears go on for so long that we miss what God has put in our path. It could be the very thing our heart longs for.