Note: This is entry 12 in a study guide series called “Four Seasons of Healing: A Pathway for Those Living with Chronic Illness.” For a list of entries click here.
Part IV: Fall: Caring for Others (September to November)
November: Empowering Others
And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Many health bloggers I know started writing to process their experience. Over time others began reading their story, noting their courage and boldness. Their willingness to personally share what most people want to hide sets them apart. Eventually, writing a blog led to more opportunities to speak up for a disease state community in the media or with government authorities.
Their journey mirrors the seasons of healing outlined in this study guide: from questions and loneliness to speaking up for and helping others. What strikes me about their stories is how they reach out to others while still living and managing a chronic illness.
The call to empower and serve others does not mean one is free of struggle. Indeed, those who pass on God’s love to neighbors often need the support and love of others at the same time. Jesus’ greatest commandment reflects the notion that loving your neighbor is akin to loving yourself—something everyone naturally does.
James directs believers to also look after the needy and forgotten in society such as the widows and orphans. In addition, Paul tells Timothy to teach others what he has learned from his mentor. In doing so he ensures that future generations benefit from his hard-earned wisdom.
As the fall season ends those experiencing healing look to empower others who are still in the darkness of winter with God’s love and mercy. Passing on wisdom and support marks coming full circle in the four seasons of healing.
Identify people in your communities who currently need support and care. What are potential barriers to reaching out to them?
Observe how the authors stress an outward focus in meeting the needs of others both now and in the future.
- Interact with the following statement: “Those who pass on God’s love to neighbors often need the support and love of others at the same time.”
- What might be the advantages and disadvantages of reaching out to serve and empower others while going through difficulties yourself?
For Further Thought
As you look the following questions think about the importance of focusing on others and building sustainability into reaching out.
- How is loving God and loving neighbor related to loving yourself? Who is considered a neighbor (For reference see also The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37).
- James talks about widows and orphans needing practical care in his time. Who are the people in your community and spheres of influence that currently need support and care?
- Paul’s exhortation to Timothy includes four generations starting from Paul as the initial mentor. How could this model of passing on learning from person to person multiply efforts to bring healing and wholeness to those who are hurting?
- Optional: Brainstorm ways the to care for individuals and families undergoing a crisis or experiencing long-term trials. What are some effective ways to pray for them?
Close in Prayer
Pray for a person you know who is going through a difficult time. Ask God to show you how you might be able to serve them in a practical way and commit to doing so.
Four Seasons of Healing Conclusion
I look back on a lifetime with psoriatic disease and am in awe. As a school-age child applying messy treatments on my skin overnight I could not imagine where I would be today. My health blogging and advocacy efforts have taken me all over the country, including the halls of Congress and a conference room at the National Institutes of Health. In 2021 I was named Volunteer Leader of the Year by the National Psoriasis Foundation. The emotional and spiritual healing that God initiated in college led me to become an advocate for others.
However, my journey through the four seasons of healing has been more cyclical than linear. I wish I could say that I always experience the fall season of helping others. However, during a psoriasis flare or setback with my medication I can find myself lonely and withdrawn once again. The darkness of winter falls on my mood with force. I do in those times, though, draw on my experience over the decades of walking with God while living with a chronic disease. The cycles become easier to endure as I pass through the seasons over and again.
Wherever you are on your journey with chronic illness, or a longstanding trial, know there is a God, who suffered in Christ, who goes with you. With him, loneliness can give way to acceptance and healing. Connections that form with God in prayer and others in community can lead to redeeming your experiences for a godly purpose. As the seasons turn year after year, God makes beautiful that which was painful and unbearable to look at—even an unrelenting health condition.