chronic illness, Living with Psoriasis, Personal Faith

September: Redeeming Losses (Four Seasons of Healing)

Note: This is entry 10 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)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

(2 Corinthians 1:3-5)


Fall brings new opportunities to reach out and care for others. In 2014, I moved back to Davis, California where I had attended University of California, Davis as an undergraduate student. Davis is a quintessential college town in the Sacramento area. It’s a place where anticipation grows throughout the summer for new students to return for the fall quarter. 

Some students seek assistance when settling into town and becoming acclimated to their new surroundings. The church in Davis where I pastored seeks to support college students, especially international students coming from abroad. As a campus minister, new student outreach during the fall is a wonderful time to offer hospitality to new students.  The fall season is a time for those who enjoy strong friendships and community to care for those in need and transition.

I observe a similar dynamic in situations where a disparity of experience exists, including dealing with life challenges. The Apostle Paul, among many difficulties, wrote about a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Earlier in his second letter to the Corinthians he shared how the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (1:3) comforted him. He then passed that comfort empathetically to others in their suffering. Indeed, his comfort empowered him to comfort others. 

In this season, consider ways losses become meaningful in their ability to shape one’s maturity and capacity. Think about ways you can be a blessing to others as you draw from the spiritual friendships and community developed in previous seasons and months.


September: Redeeming Losses

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

1 Peter 1:6-7

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Romans 5:3-5 

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.


Devotional

I carry scarred memories from when I sat for hours as a teenager covered in a treatment paste that burned my skin at the Psoriasis Research Institute. Back then I could not see anything good coming from what I considered was wasted time. I only wanted relief from my psoriasis symptoms. I longed to hang out with my friends without worrying about bystanders asking, “What’s the rash on your hand or arm?”

In time I came to understand that something good can come from my suffering. Suffering itself is not good—it stems from brokenness and the Fall in the Garden of Eden. But God can redeem it. One way is through developing a person’s inner character and compassion for others.

Psoriasis has taught me endurance in many areas of my life. My capacity to push through discomfort grew not only for skin flares, but also for other life difficulties and roadblocks. I became a more compassionate person in the process. When I see others with life difficulties, I empathize with them more than before. My desire to redeem an otherwise bewildering situation with my health led me to write a psoriasis blog for over a decade and get involved in patient advocacy on national and local levels.

God is about redemption. He can turn the harshest of experiences into meaningful ways to impact yours and others’ lives for the better. 


Opener

Share one way you, or someone you know, has grown personally through an unforeseen difficulty. What were the circumstances and outcomes of the situation? 

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chronic illness, Living with Psoriasis, Personal Faith

August: Be Devoted to Others (Four Seasons of Healing)

Note: This is entry 9 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 III: Summer: Making Connections (June to August)

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it

(1 Corinthians 12:26-27)


Romans 12:10, 13, 15

10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 

13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Even life forevermore.

James 5:16 

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Galatians 6:2 

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ

 


Devotional

Jesus established the family of God at the Cross where he brought his mother and the beloved disciple together for mutual care: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home (John 19:26f.). God’s family finds its basis in the mutual fellowship and support through Jesus’ last words. Paul points to this level of family love and care when he writes, “Be devoted to one another in love” where the word for “devoted” is a family-kind of love.

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chronic illness, Living with Psoriasis, Personal Faith

July: Sharing in Community (Four Seasons of Healing)

Note: This is entry 8 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 III: Summer: Making Connections (June to August)

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it

(1 Corinthians 12:26-27)


Psalm 133

Look! How good and how pleasant it is 

when God’s people live together in unity! 

2 It is like precious oil poured on the head 

running down on the beard— 

running down on Aaron’s beard, 

and down on the collar of his robe. 

3 It is as if the dew of Hermon, 

were falling on Mount Zion.

For there the Lord bestows his blessing

Even life forevermore. 


Devotional

Making a connection with God during my freshman year at college led me to join a campus Christian fellowship. I made new friends there and even began to share my psoriasis story with them. One night I poured out my pain to a Bible study leader as I recounted a decade of struggles with skin inflammation. I truly experienced the power of being a member of Christ’s body as others suffered along with me. That evening revealed God’s presence and healing power through others to me. 

Psalm 133 eloquently describes how God bestows his blessings on the community of faith. It’s where God sends the refreshing dew of Hermon and oil of Aaron that spreads from one person to another. As spiritual pilgrims journeyed together to Jerusalem for the annual feasts, they undoubtedly thought of how they needed God’s refreshment when they sang Psalm 133. 

Mt. Hermon is about 10,000 ft. above sea level as the tallest peak in Israel. It is well known for its lush greenery even in hot, dry summer weather. Each morning the mountain waits expectantly for the next dousing of dew. The dew of Hermon would not fall on Zion, or Jerusalem, directly though. The distance between the two locations precluded it. But the psalmist sought to convey the idea that gathering in faith is like Hermon’s Dew falling among God’s people who gather there. 

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chronic illness, Living with Psoriasis, Personal Faith

June: Presence of the Divine (Four Seasons of Healing)

Note: This is entry 7 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 III: Summer: Making Connections (June to August)

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it

(1 Corinthians 12:26-27)


Summer is a season for making connections. Winter symbolizes a season of isolation, while spring represents a season of personal healing and renewal. Summer, in contrast, epitomizes the relationships that positively address isolation. This season spurs on the friendships that provide a place for sustained healing and growth. 

I enjoy hosting groups at the house for gatherings during this warm season. Out in the backyard, where I grill, a small group often forms around the barbeque to converse and exchange ideas. The time spent together is as much about the joyful fellowship as it is about good food. 

Summer provides contexts to make these connections: break from school, exercising in the evenings with a friend, auditing classes and reading books, family vacations, walks in the park with the dog, day trips, and church retreats. Relationships flourish with lighter schedules and longer days.

In this season, focus on your relationships both with God and others. In particular, consider the role that these connections might have on your healing from chronic health conditions or other difficulties in your life.


June: Presence of the Divine

Matthew 1:22-23

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.


Devotional

Jesus makes fellowship with God possible by removing the distance and barrier of sin that separates people from God. Paul declares that Jesus became the peacemaker even as humans made God their enemy: For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10). His amazing work on the Cross allows people to humbly receive grace, mercy, and healing before His throne. Indeed, at his throne God reconciles relationships that become the vital source of nurture and strength like a branch connected to a vine (John 15:1-6).

This deep-seated connection with God energizes and empowers in this season of light, warmth, and gladness. During Christmas celebrations, Christians remember “Immanuel,” which the Gospel writer tells us means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23). Immanuel reminds us what Jesus said to his followers before leaving them. He declared in the Great Commission that he would be with them to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Indeed, the Good Shepherd leads us out of the dark valley into green pastures and right paths (Psalm 23:4).

God’s presence is a powerful force in dark times. When I first moved into my university dorm I teared up after my parents dropped me off. I felt alone and afraid. I didn’t easily make friends at that age, partly due to the isolation I felt with a stigmatized and visible skin disease. I ate alone at many mealtimes in the dorm dining commons. One day I imagined that Jesus sat next to me in the empty chair. He didn’t care what my skin looked like. Jesus’ comfort overwhelmed me as I no longer felt by myself in the corner of the dining commons.

Believers over the millennia have engaged in spiritual practices and disciplines to enter God’s presence. This month’s focus is on prayer that connects you with him.


Opener

Share a time when you experienced God’s presence in the “dark valley.” What happened and how did His presence help you?

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