No one ever said that life would be easy. In fact, the Bible reveals followers of Christ face many trials. I know I’ve found this to be true in my Christian life. Chronic illness has been one of the most difficult trails I’ve faced when I have experienced what it is to be broke, broken, and to face brokenness. It is my prayer that you will be blessed by this entry that is biased toward my Christian view point.
What does it mean to be broke? Websters says “broke” is a state of not having any money. I am broke. I’ve never been so depleted financially than I have in all my life than I am now. Being single only compounds the problem as there isn’t another income coming in the home to offset expenses. At the same time I’ve never been more rich in spirit. God has renewed my love for his Word and has given me hope and peace where there was none during the darkest hours of illness. I am absolutely convinced that if it were not for my faith, I would have given up the fight and let illness consume me. There were many days I did not want to live, but my faith got me through and peace and hope were restored to me as I delved in God’s Word and prayed for His intervention.
Webster’s defines broken as “violently separated into parts, damaged or altered by breaking, having undergone or been subject to fracture, violated by transgression, disrupted by change, made weak or infirm, subdued completely, cut off or disconnected, reduced in rank, disunited by separation”. Are RA patients broken? In some ways yes and in others no. My body may be broken, but my spirit is not! My primary care doctor tells me that I look too well to be a medical train wreck on paper. He means that to be a compliment and not to add the the “you don’t look sick” phrasing we as chronically ill patients hear so much with the implied, so you must not be sick. I hear RA patients say all the time that they feel like a shadow of their former selves and I will admit that I’ve been there, but the wonderful thing about God’s grace, mercy and love is that in my weakness he is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9). He is the potter and I am the clay.
I’ve been broken in some character shifting ways that are more pleasing to God. Until I lost my income and my status as a charge nurse at a well known hospital I didn’t know I carried so much pride in my education, career, and ability to earn a living on my own. It has humbled me to have to admit to others that I am ill to the point that I can no longer work and that I am in fact drawing my social security due to disability. Since I fall into that group of chronically ill people who don’t look sick, I am often judged when I admit I am disabled. I see the other person’s eyes take inventory of my physique which is on the plus size and I see the immediate judgement that labels me as being lazy, fat, and bilking the system. That is humbling! How do you stand up for yourself in those instances? I don’t since my pride has been broken. God knows the condition of my body so what do I have to fear from man? (Hebrews 13:16)
Another way my pride was challenged was by being presented with acts of charity. Prior to being ill, I would have never accepted charity. I was always the giver, but God has taught me there is grace in receiving and allowing someone else to be blessed by giving. I was humbled and grateful when the church paid my electric bill one month, an anonymous person put propane in my tank for winter heating, the church members had a food pounding and I was one of the recipients, and friends sent money just because they knew I had a stack of medical bills. God gave me many blessings in the lesson of humility while reshaping my character and he continues to do so today!
What is the definition of brokenness? Christians speak of being at place of brokenness at the foot of the cross but what does that really mean? Dr. Charles Stanley says, “Brokenness is God’s requirement for maximum usefulness. Through adversity, failure, and disappointment, the Father molds us into people whom He can use.” I do truly believe that God has used my chronic illnesses to shape me so he can use me, but I want to be clear that I do not believe that God caused my illness. (Romans 8:28) Satan likes nothing better than to hear us blame God for our circumstances. The Bible promises that God is with us in our need. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit”. God does not crush our spirit for that is not part of his character. He is our Creator. He loves us and in loving us He gave us free will to choose the world or Him. More importantly, He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, who had conquered death and freely paid for our sin so that we may have eternal life if we accept that free gift so generously offered of salvation.
Being broke, broken, or in a state of brokenness isn’t always a bad thing! For me, it has been as life changing at the chronic illnesses that spurred these states of being. So many people with chronic illness feel lost, abandoned, and forgotten. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can draw strength from Christ. Would you ask Him to draw near you? He understands and He intervenes on our behalf to God, the Father. I don’t expect to be cured of my illnesses, although that is up to God, but I do know the Bible tells the weak and weary to come to Him to find rest (Matthew 11:28), that the peace of God that surpasses all understanding is ours in Christ (Philippians 4:7), and that whoever believes in Christ will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).