Finding Hope When Suffering with Lyme Disease
5 Ways to Develop Positive Thoughts and Words for Physical Health and Emotional Well-being
Imagine the frustration and hopelessness of the woman described in Dr. Saunders’ article. She had already visited 79 doctors and still had no diagnosis, much less relief from her pain and suffering!
Perhaps you (or a loved one) find yourself in a similar situation. In this article, we seek to give you hope.
People who suffer from a chronic illness like Lyme disease quickly discover that battling their illness is as much a battle of the mind as it is the immune system. The medical community has long since recognized the connection between our thoughts and the health of our bodies.
When we’re sick, it’s very easy to fall into a pattern of negative thinking and negative self-talk. We find ourselves saying or thinking things like: “I’ll never get better!” Or, “Every day it’s the same old thing.” Or, “I feel terrible.” Or, “I can’t go on like this.” Or, “Nothing is working.”
There may be a legitimate thread of truth in some of those thoughts or words, but when we rehearse them over and over again, we unwittingly establish patterns that are hard to break. We become habitually negative and thereby resign ourselves to a life of misery by our thoughts and language even though we might be getting better. These patterns begin to control our lives and our destiny.
We’ve all heard the grumblings of an old grouch, “It may be sunny and warm today, but you just watch. Tomorrow will be cold and stormy!” Such an outlook becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We set ourselves up for a “bad day.” And when the bad day comes, we morosely “rejoice” knowing that we were right!
I’m not suggesting that we naively put on a Pollyanna-like attitude that everything is okay and ignore stark reality. What I am saying is that our thoughts and words are very powerful tools. We can either use our words and thoughts to help us cope with suffering and assist us on our way to recovery, or to make our lives and those around us more miserable.
A Prescription for Hope
Below are five suggestions for developing positive thoughts and words. You’ll be amazed at the powerful impact these can have on your physical health and emotional well-being.
1. Find something to look forward to.
Make plans. Those who believe they are about to die make no plans. So make plans. These plans don’t have to be anything grandiose. They may be as simple as planning to get your hair done today, or spending time with your grandchildren tomorrow, or calling a friend to go out for coffee. Simply make plans, look forward to them and carry them out.
2. Find something to laugh at.
Laughter truly is the best medicine. Rent a classic comedy like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or some other goofy movie. But be sure to watch it with someone else. The comedy quotient rises exponentially when we experience something funny with others. Don’t deny yourself this pleasure!
3. Find something to be grateful for.
Some old sage once wrote, “I complained because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” As bad as your situation may be, you’ll find others much worse off. What do you have that you can be thankful for? Who is in your life that you’re grateful for? Tell them how thankful you are for them. Express your gratitude to God for the things He has given you.
4. Find someone whose presence you can enjoy.
Typically, when we are feeling sorry for ourselves, we crawl off into a corner and mope like a dying animal. Don’t give in to that tendency. Spend time with those you love and who love you. You don’t even have to do anything profound together other than simply enjoy one another’s company. But beware of negative language! No one likes to hang around people who are negative all the time.
5. Find hope and joy in God.
Someone very close to me has suffered from an incurable chronic disease for nearly 20 years. His illness cost him a career he loved and indescribable physical, financial and emotional agony. But in spite of his pain and suffering, he has found peace, hope and joy in trusting God. This man is one of the most joyful, positive people I know—in spite of his illness.People constantly seek him out to discover his “secret.” But he’ll tell you that it is no secret, simply a daily reliance on God’s grace and love to keep him going.
Find Hope and Joy in God
How do you find hope and joy in God? Begin by reading His Word, the Bible. The Psalms are powerful in this respect because so many of them are written out of the groanings of an individual experiencing suffering. Psalm 40 or 42 offer a great examples of what I’m talking about. As you read the Psalms, you’ll often find yourself thinking, “The writer is expressing the very things I’ve been feeling!”
Then, after reading from the Bible, spend time in prayer with God. Prayer is simply conversation with God. The “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:9-13 offers us a great pattern to follow. In that prayer we take time to:
- Acknowledge and declare who God is
- Express our longing for Him and His rule in our lives and on earth
- Request His provision in our lives, showing that we look to Him and rely on Him for everything
- Confess our sins, assuring Him that as He forgives us, so we forgive others who have wronged us
- Express our desire to live rightly and seek His protection from the evil one
A few years ago, I wrote a short, fictitious account of two men that graphically illustrates what we’re talking about here. I hope you enjoy it and take it to heart.
A Parable of Two Men
For 40 years God led Israel through the barren wilderness of the Middle East. In spite of their repeated grumblings and rebellion, God continued to love, lead and provide for His people. Even when they were unfaithful to Him, He remained faithful to them. In all those years, God sustained this massive company of people by miraculously providing them with manna. Manna was a food substance that God caused to appear on the ground each morning. The people of Israel gathered manna as their staple food through all those 40 years.
In year 39 of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness two men woke up one morning. One man got up, put on his outer garment and lifted the flap over the door of his tent to step out into the desert morning. As he ducked under the tent flap it dumped a load of sand down his neck. He cursed under his breath and angrily shook out his clothes muttering, “I am sick and tired of this infernal sand! I’ve got sand in my bed, sand in my hair, sand in my food! Everywhere there’s sand! I hate this life of constant moving and upheaval. And guess what’s for breakfast? Manna—again!”
This man’s mood was no private matter, but spread unmercifully like cancer to his wife and children. With his incessant bitterness, anger and complaints he poisoned the minds and attitudes of his family and friends. His poison took its toll on his relationships replacing intimacy with isolation, trust with suspicion and love with self-centeredness. This man truly lived out the miserable life he envisioned for himself. By making much of himself and his circumstances, he lived as though God were puny and others insignificant.
Across the vast camp of the Israelites that same morning another man awoke. This man’s circumstances were in no wise different than the first man. But as this man stepped out of his tent that morning shaking the sand from his clothes, he stood up and filled his lungs with the fresh, cool desert air. He looked to the east watching the glory of the sun as it began to dispel the night. He thought to himself that the sunrise was but a tiny reflection of the magnificent glory of its Creator.
He expectantly looked out over the hillsides around their camp and saw the familiar blanket of manna in the receding shadows. Suddenly he was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s presence, faithfulness and love for him and his family. Without inhibition he raised his hands and looked up into the sky and worshipped out loud, “Thank you, my God, my King, my Shepherd! Thank you for another “manna-day”, a day in which you show yourself faithful and loving toward me and your people. Thank you for providing for us, O gracious Lord!”
This man’s mood was no private matter either, but spread to others like the warmth of the rising sun. His humble gratitude made him a delight to be around! His family and friends found his faith and joy contagious, so that they too gave God glory. By making much of God, he saw more of God and His greatness and love. And by experiencing God’s love, he could not help but love others around him on whom God had also poured out His love.
Which man are you?
Whether you’re suffering from Lyme disease or some other chronic illness, you may not have a choice in the fact that you’re suffering, but you definitely have a choice in how you respond to your suffering. I encourage you to find hope in God and to establish patterns of positive thinking and speaking in your life.
Your thoughts and words are powerful weapons to assist you in your battle against your illness. Practice using these weapons and learn to wield them well!
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