Caravan Sonnet: Notes from the Porch: Those that the American Church has Forgotten

8/5/13

Notes from the Porch: Those that the American Church has Forgotten

"What is something you strongly believe in but maybe don't speak up about often? Why do you believe this and what causes you to keep quiet about it?"

When I read this question a couple of weeks ago my heart immediately was stirred.There are several topics that are close to my heart that I don't always write about on this blog(fostering children, supporting our military, and changing the reality of sex-trafficking). But there is another topic that has been weaving its way through my heart these last several years and I can keep quiet no more.

What I believe in but don't speak about more often is the lack of resources and compassionate response from the church for those that have serious or chronic illnesses. The National Institute of Health (NIH) states that seven out of ten people struggle with chronic illness everyday. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that seventy-five percent of our health dollars go to the treatment of chronic diseases. With these staggering statistics the church needs to come up with a compassionate response to reach out to their members and the community at large who are hurting behind the scenes, especially those who are in their twenties and thirties.

While there is a small percentage of churches that have a "once a month chronic illness meet up", typically the church is silent on this issue. Overwhelmingly the church is quick to ignore this issue, pretend it does not exist, and state confusion or hurtful remarks for why those with chronic illness are not "regular attendees", and sometimes urge the necessity of having a stronger faith for healing. While prayers for healing are a vital part of ministry and should be encouraged, because God does heal, the church at large needs to be compassionately informed on what to do if those prayers go unanswered for days, weeks, months, and years. 

Unfortunately, through most of this the ill person and their families quietly suffers with questions of the future, intense pain and sickness, shattered hopes and dreams, relationship stress and issues, financial hardship, and questions about the sovereignty of God. 

In many ways I get it. Why, despite the staggering statistics that I listed above, the church stays silent. I get it. I do. I realize now, with humility that I was coming from a very prideful place as I would excitedly share my story of being miraculously healed of severe EndometriosisIn fact before I was diagnosed with Advanced Late Stage Lymes Disease and Cancer I sometimes would look at those with chronic illness and silently think in my head: "if only they would try {and fill in the words: diet, rest, this doctor, more sleep, this essential oil, having a new job, being stronger, "bucking up"}they would be ok". Or I would think, "it really can not be as bad as they are making it out to be- we all don't feel good or get tired at one point or another". Or, and I am ashamed to admit it, I would think, "are they really praying about it?". 

Lord, please forgive me for being so callous. For being so unkind to those who are hurting physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. 

The reality is that whether intentionally or unintentionally the modern American church does not understand or know how to respond to this issue. In the last several years (as my health declined) and especially this past year as I reached out to different pastors (including several well-known ones) and church communities I was often told the following helpful things:

(1) have you really prayed about healing?
(2) I have heard this doctor is really good- maybe you should try him/her
(3) hmm... we really don't have members of our church that struggle with chronic illness- we believe that healing is from Jesus and is for today
(4) You are only thirty-two- how can you be that sick?
(5) Do you really have the faith to be healed?

So why do I keep silent on the blog? To be honest I think that I was coming to terms with some of my own mortality. The realization that we live in a sinful world filled with disease, death, and the things like chronic illness that no one likes to deal with. I was also coming to terms with being told by a few former close friends that I "needed more faith". I was coming to terms with some of the loneliness and isolation that comes with having a chronic illness. Honestly, I also was afraid that I would sound like I was bitter. But the Lord has been doing something new these past several months and my heart is overwhelmed to share God's love with those that are hurting and struggling - especially from unanswered prayers. Because the thing is... whether the church wants to admit it or not it has lots and lots of hurting people in their pews. 

After praying about it, discussing it fully with my wonderful medical team, and having the most wonderful supportive sweet friends and family (who have never once spoken anything but HOPE and TRUTH to me) I am excited for what is coming up. I continue to take one day at a time and physically heal but am continuing to write and accept some limited speaking opportunities! Along with this is an exciting announcement! I now have a personal website that is completely devoted to my writing & speaking. It is in its young stages as I get it up-to-date but I am so thankful for Carrie Loves Design and her beautiful work!! You can click HERE to check it out! And if you would be so kind to click HERE to like my new personal Facebook page I would really appreciate it!! 

Our God is a BIG God filled with power and healing in His wings and I will never stop believing for myself or my friends for Him to work in miraculous ways. But in the moments where people are hurting and are struggling I will not keep quiet. For God's love is never quiet and it shouts to us through our pain and sickness and reminds us to never stop believing in hope. God's love reminds me that like the American church I have the opportunity to reach out and love some of those people who make up that staggering statistic that I mentioned at the beginning. 

Friends, if you are struggling through the dark night of suffering I urge you to hold fast to the story and find hope in the story of the Israelites. We see in the book of Exodus that the Israelites held on to the hope that God was still at work. As they limped out from under the hard yoke of slavery they carried their tambourines through the long trek of the desert believing that there would still be a song yet to sing. They didn’t know when the song would come, but held onto hope that God would show up. Despite the fact they had no assurances or promises of what their future would look like, they walked with their tambourines. They were fully prepared for the celebration that they did not yet have a time frame for. The celebration that only lay hidden in their hearts as they walked mile after mile in the desert. The same hope of celebration that the woman who was ill for twelve years was also expecting as she reached out her hand for Jesus’ cloak(Luke 8).

Grab onto Jesus, follow Him, and change your world. 

I have friends who are scattered around the world serving AIDS victims in Africa, sex-trafficking victims in Nepal, and crying orphans in the heart of Haiti. Maybe you are like them and can venture to far off countries to rescue those that the world has abandoned. Or maybe you can quietly and powerfully write your story by showing up, and learning like I am to take one day at a time and minister to those that the world has forgotten. Either way we can all come to the cross and take His love into our worlds- no matter how big or small that might seem. 

God is at work friends. 

Hold onto truth:

So now I ask you friends: "What is something you strongly believe in but maybe don't speak up about often? Why do you believe this &what causes you to keep quiet about it?"

22 comments:

  1. Wow, that's a powerful eye-opener. So maybe we can't change the whole church, but we could make a beginning with individual people like me who would be willing to reach out and be helpful within the church context to people who are struggling with chronic illness. What tips/solutions would you offer for making this a reality?

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    1. Rebekah,

      FIRST, thank you so much for your sweet heart and your love for God that always illuminates in your words. TRULY you are an encouragement.

      Second, I really think that there are SO MANY THINGS that one individual in the church can do. Throughout this entire process and journey of mine I have had dear dear dear friends who have faithfully and lovingly walked this long dusty road with me. They have faithfully listened, made financial sacrifices, put me first in numerous occassions, come to visit me and have never once given me doubt that the Lord is anything but faithful and true in HIS love for me. They also have faithfully reminded me through their prayers and their willing spirits that they are in this for the long haul. Their love and their constant sacrificial acts have been the greatest blessing that I could have ever imagined in life. In many ways the individuals have come along side and shown me in tangible ways (whether it is a large sum of money for treatments or a weekly text that says "I'm thinking about you and just wanted you to know" to various other things) that the Lord loves me and I am NOT forgotten.

      Several weeks ago I wrote a blog post on 26 things that someone can do for their chronically ill friend. Here is the link: http://www.caravansonnet.com/2013/06/thursday-health-thoughts-26-ways-to.html.

      In the next couple of weeks I plan to write a follow up post on different and specific ways that the church can reach out and tangibly and practically help those who are chronically ill.

      Thank you so much friend for your incredibly sweet words, your heart, and your love for Jesus.

      With lots of thankfulness,
      Rebecca

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    2. Wow, thank you for this helpful, thoughtful, and detailed response. Your list of 26 things was amazing, too!

      Now, let's go beyond the individual level to the alerting-the-church level. Is there anything we can do to raise awareness of this issue on a church-wide level? For instance (I'm just dreaming here, just throwing out a hypothetical solution), let's say you are not a church leader, but you can get up and make an announcement. So you announce a dinner and invite everyone to come and hear about a massive opportunity to serve the Lord and be His hands and feet to a group of people right in your community. People come,and you serve the dinner, and perhaps show a video (IS there such a video?), and then have a person speak for like 10 minutes about the difficulties chronically ill people face, and then you offer 3 or 4 (or 26) ways to get involved, and then you all do a project together for some chronically ill person that you want to bless. It could be really fun, like a baby shower.

      You know, people automatically get together for projects like baby showers, because everyone knows that the expectant mom needs the community to gather around her and be supportive as she brings this child into the world. People automatically give financial and practical gifts at weddings because they know what it's like to be starting life from scratch and they realize the couple needs it. People automatically give meals when there is a funeral, because everyone knows what it's like to have someone die in your family. BUT--if someone has never been sick, they DON'T KNOW what it's like to be chronically ill, so therefore they don't recognize how the whole community needs to come together to support that person and get them through this. We have this huge gaping lack of involvement due to a certain level of blindness and oblivion to the fact that there even IS a problem here. Your article serves to open our eyes to the problem. It's a good first step. Let's make this more than a beginning. Any other suggestions? Dreams? Hypothetical situations? Wish lists? Practical ideas? Tips?

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  2. Oh my goodness I NEEDED THIS. I didn't even realize I needed this, and I didn't even realize the church was so silent - but GOSH you're so right! I attend an amazing church where the Spirit of the Lord is so clearly present each and every Sunday, and have been anointed and prayed over for healing countless times, but have never been reached out to... not really, anyway. And it's painful and feels lonely! LOVE THIS!!! and you!!!

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  3. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this. I don't know if I had already shared, but God has REALLY changed my life the last two months, teaching me about his healing power. All because of a girl I met at the airport, we have been going to a new church that believes in the power of COMPLETE healing, spiritual, physical, emotional. It's amazing. Healing services twice a month, and every week they are laying their hands on people who need healing. The same God who healed all over scripture is the same God who heals us today. I want to jump for joy over this post! yes, Lord! Heal us!!! And as far as your question, this is it! The topic of healing, the power of the holy spirit, etc. So passionate!!!! Oh, and health too :)

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    1. Thank you so much sweet lady for sharing with us about your church and their lovely way of remembering those that are forgotten in the church! May the Lord raise up more and more individuals and churches to proclaim the power of healing and the loving nature of our precious Lord in the times of waiting!

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  4. PS CONGRATS, just went over and liked your FB page, can't wait to hear/read more. Ok I'm done now!

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  5. Wow! What a powerful stance! I had NO idea that it is 7 out of 10 people! It is an area that the church needs to be reaching out not shutting out. Illness and pain is not the result of a lack of faith (John 9).
    “[God] is able to take your life, with all of the heartache, all of the pain, all of the regret, all of the missed opportunities, and use you for His glory.” (Charles Swindoll)
    Thank you for the way you are loving those around you and using your story for HIS glory. God is at work indeed! Your faith, even in the midst of chronic illness, is a strength that displays the light of Christ in you. Keep pushing forward friend! You are such a beautiful and strong woman :)

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    1. Thank you so much for your BEAUTIFUL words and the lovely quote that you shared with us!! Your encouragement is such a gift to me and to others that read your comment!!
      :) Rebecca

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  6. Wow I totally love this post. Through this post I am reminded that all of are the church so it's wonderful to see that you are moved go do your part. I totally believe in the healing of God but like you said there needs to be something to encourage people while they wait for that healing. They should not be ignored, I deal with infertility and it's one of those things people don't understand. I am so grateful to God that he's been urging me to she's light on it to help hurting hearts. This was an awesome post.

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    1. I am so sorry (again) sweet new friend *smiles* to hear of your struggle with infertility. (This is another area that I do feel the church needs to be much more sympathetic on!!) Thank you so much for your encouragement and your lovely words!
      :) Rebecca

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  7. WOW. SO good! I totally agree with you. As Christians, it is often so much easier to blurt out some Christian-ese saying regarding healing instead of just listening and being there for a person dealing with chronic illness. We often kick them while they are down by assuming that they are not praying enough, having enough faith, or not content enough with their present trials. Instead we should be covering them with compassion and walking alongside of their suffering.

    I LOVE that you relate this to the story of the Exodus of the Israelites. How comforting that Jesus is a BETTER Moses. He leads us out of the depths of our own Egpyt and walks us through the waters. He leads us through the dry wilderness, making us more like him through the trials and lonely times. He keeps us in the wilderness for months, years, decades ... sometimes it seems like it will never end. But it is out of His love and for our ultimate good that He keeps us there. He is with us when we are bitter and complain. He shows His power in our lives and brings back our wayward hearts. WHat hope in this redeemer, whether we are healthy or sick. And what a beautiful picture of how He calls us to minister to those in present "Egypts'.

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    1. Elle,

      Your comments and your words of wisdom brought tears to my eyes and has not only encouraged my heart but the hearts of many who read my blog. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave me such an encouraging word filled with scriptural truth and encouragement. Your comment has blessed me so much. Thank you again for your beautiful and lovely comment.

      With lots of love,
      rebecca

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  8. Wow. Beautiful. You have such a heart my friend. Thank you for sharing! I agree, this is certainly an issue in the church. About a year ago now, after they had found a tumor in my thyroid, I felt the same way - that there really was no place for me in the church and depending on the results of my surgery that I wouldn't really have the support I so desperately needed. I was given the same responses - you're only 26, you'll be fine. Grateful for your post, and for this space of yours. Praying for you!

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    1. Lauren,

      I am so sorry to hear of your health issues with your thyroid. I know it is not the same but I do empathize with you and the frustration that you experience when you hear "your only 26, you'll be fine". I am so sorry that you have heard that. In many ways , while it is difficult to be ill at any age, I think being sick when we are young "when we are supposed to be healthy" can be extremely discouraging and trying. Thank you so much for sharing with me and I will be praying for you and your thyroid. Thank you again for your heart and for sharing with us your encouragement!
      :) Rebecca

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  9. I love that you are choosing to speak up about this! "Grab onto Jesus, follow Him, and change your world." Amen my friend. :)

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    1. THANK YOU so much sweet friend for your encouragement and for listening to my heart! Your words were such a gift to me!! Thank you so much!!

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  10. What a wonderful and well thought out blog. This really opened my eyes to how true it is that there are people and situations which I care deeply about, but I do not hear addressed in the church. I am sure this is a matter of the head and not the heart. However, I do acknowledge that I need to do my part and pray for such people and/or situations. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you so much Shirena for stopping by and for your sweet comment on this post! This was definitely something that came from my heart and I appreciate your thoughtful and kind words!! Thank you again for stopping by and taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment!!
      Blessings,
      Rebecca :)
      p.s. I would have loved to email you back directly but unfortunately you are a "no reply blogger" and I was unable to email you. I look forward to hopefully connecting more in the future!

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  11. this is a huge topic here, I don't see a lot of church or others getting involved , or though they say they are but most of the time I find it to be chatter in the back of my head.. I know for myself I am constantly reminded to pray not so much for myself but for others and pray that they not only heal but hear.............

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    1. I would definitely agree with you that this is a HUGE topic and one that I am hoping and praying that SEEN Gathering (www.seengathering.org) can help facilitate a fruitful and practical discussion in the coming months and years ahead! There is such a need for the church to reach out to those that are hurting within its walls and within their communities. This is a mission field in itself right before them! Thank you so much for your thoughtful and compassionate heart and for taking the time to leave such a sweet comment!
      Blessings,
      Rebecca
      p.s. I would have loved to email you back directly but unfortunately you are a "no reply blogger" and I was unable to email you. I look forward to hopefully connecting more in the future!

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