The Grief of Chronic Illness


I love going to church.

L-O-V-E with capital letters and exclamation points. Not because our church is perfect, but because I love being surrounded by God’s people.

His bride.

After all, the church was God’s idea, and it’s not like he didn’t know we’d all be imperfect.

All of us.

Yet still he chose to partner with US–self-centered, fickle, and prideful as we are–to change the world.

But since I’ve become chronically ill, going to church has changed for me. And it saddens me.

You see, I’m a people person. A talker. A connector. The lady who had to be shooed out of the auditorium so the maintenance staff could lock up.

I love worship–standing with my hands raised and singing harmonies–sweet or off-key–with my brothers and sisters.

I’m addicted to taking notes and listening for life connections. I dedicate my books to my pastors because they inspire me with my best writing ideas.

But illness has made church a different experience for me.

My attendance has dropped significantly because of pain, fatigue, and other disease-related complications.

Simply dressing for church, driving, and navigating my way to my seat can exhaust me. I often don’t have the strength to sing, much less stand.The chairs in our auditorium don’t have arms, so I lean on my husband or my cane to ease the aching in my arms. I typically “ration” my energy for note-taking, which can be difficult because of vision complications and migraines.

I often pray my way through the service for the most basic of reasons. My illness causes bladder problems, and the restroom is too far for me to walk to with my cane.

By the time the service has ended, both my bursting bladder and aching body are screaming. Dan and I usually attempt our exit during the final prayer because I fear that a prolonged conversation with a well-meaning friend could mean my demise.

But even though church is a challenge for me, I’d rather be uncomfortable there than more comfortable at home.


  • “Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place. I can feel His mighty power and His grace.”
  • I can hear the Word of God openly preached–a freedom that may be gone before my grandchildren are grown.
  • I’m inspired by the stories of my brothers and sisters who are also struggling in a sin-cursed world.
  • Because the church is God’s idea, and I’m privileged to be part of his story.
  • Because my story is one thread in the tapestry of love in my local body.
  • Because my church needs me and I need them.

am allowed to grieve for my losses and my pain. God grieves with me. But I also rejoice for life experience that keeps my eyes fixed on the cross. And in the grief of chronic illness, there’s no sweeter place to be than in my church.

Has suffering changed YOUR experience of church or worship? We’d love to hear your story.


3 thoughts on “The Grief of Chronic Illness

  1. That is a Real Lovely post, my Dear Jean. Touched.

    Before I go further… Practically everybody I meet asks me to pray for them. As such I have found it Impossible to even remember for whom All I have to pray. …Upon coming to Your site I remembered that You are carrying Your Cross of malady, and as such started Praying for You and Yours.

    To share my pains, they are all in the past. In particular I have had severe Lower Back ache, a Cold that lasted 17 months, and three attacks of Typhoid. But I would call my worst malady as the Rejection I have to suffer, particularly at the hands of my fellow priests. As such, I terribly miss the support of Community.

    In all this, have been able to see that HE is not only With me, but IN me, and taking up my suffering. You must have Realized this too.

    End with Lots of Love and Prayers.

    • Thank you, Heather. You are appreciated more than you know. ❤ right back at you.

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