Monday, November 10, 2014

Chronic Illness and the Need for Grace in Friendship

Friendship is a gift to be cherished. Friends provide us with help, advice, love, and camaraderie. They bring a richness and joy to our lives. Trusted and faithful friends are a treasure, but there will be times when our friends disappoint us. We need to be ready to show them grace, patience, and forgiveness. We need to treat them the way we want them to treat us (Luke 6:31).

Dear friend with a chronic illness…

There may be times when your friend says something hurtful to you about the way you live life with a chronic illness, the way you look, or the treatments you take. She may make comments that she intends to be helpful or encouraging, but that in reality are hurtful. She likely isn’t trying to be hurtful or inconsiderate; she simply doesn’t fully understand life with a chronic illness.

When this happens, give your friend the benefit of the doubt; she probably has good intentions. Be gracious and quick to forgive. Be patient with her in your friendship, gently helping her to understand what life is like with a chronic illness. In time she will come to understand you and your chronic illness better.

Dear friend of someone with a chronic illness…

There may be times when your friend doesn’t understand what life is like for you. If she has had a chronic illness for a long time, then she might have a difficult time understanding the hardships faced in life by those who are healthy. Your life and your struggles may be very different than hers. When she doesn’t understand, be patient with, and gracious to, her.

On the days when your friend is in a lot of pain or feeling especially down because of her illness, she may be grumpy, frustrated, or sad. You can show her love on the days when she is especially unlovable. You can show her grace and forgiveness, gently helping her through those hard and painful days.

Exhortation for us all…

There will be challenging days in friendship. We are all sinners, and sometimes we will miscommunicate, treat each other badly, and become frustrated with one another. On the challenging days, we would be wise to follow the commands in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

The hard days in friendship give us wonderful opportunities to work on developing the fruit of the Spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23).

Let us seek to show these qualities in increasing measure to our friends. Let us be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. In our friendships, let us give the world a glimpse of the grace that Christ has so lavishly given to us.

Let’s hear from you!

If you are healthy, what is one of the most challenging things about friendship with someone with a chronic illness? How can you show your friend grace?

If you have a chronic illness, what is one of the most challenging things about friendship with someone who is healthy? How can you show your friend grace?

Photo credit: "Friendship" by Stefano Corso is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This post is part of the Chronic Illness and Friendship series.


  1. My biggest problem is my speed and it effects when I am with others, also that i need need to dink more water.
    There issues with me, are that I am always needing some help with either my wheelchair (getting out of my car) and the oxygen I have to carry around. I do NOT have an electric scooter right now/or lift, so those things are very strictly confining. Without a lift and wheelchair I am dependent on everyone else

  2. It's really hard to not take things personally. I think we have to try our best to see comments through their eyes and their character to know if it's meant as simply not understanding or being mean spirited.
    I've been noticing that I have lost a sense of what it feels like to be normal. Like how can anyone make dinner at once & then eat? Or walk through a store, do their legs feel like they are about to give out and like they are about to pass out? so it makes sense how hard it is for healthy people to understand.

  3. Mobility issues can be such a challenge. I hope that someday you'll be able to get a scooter and lift so that you can get around easier. Not having the right mobility equipment can really hinder the time you are able to spend with friends. I don't have a scooter either, but it is on my "wish list."

  4. It is very hard not to take things personally. I have struggled with that. The words I wrote in the post are meant for me as much as anyone else!

    I know what you mean about losing a sense of what it feels like to be normal. A few years ago I watched an episode of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" with Meredith Vieira. They had changed the way the show was done. It used to be that the host and guest would sit during the questions, but then they changed it so that Meredith and the guest stood the whole time. As I watched the show, I was thinking, "Wow, she has to stand for the whole show! Why did they change that? She really has a hard job now. I can't believe they are making her stand for the whole show." I felt so bad for her for having such a hard job. I think it was hours or days before I remembered that standing is easy for healthy people!

  5. Tonya, you said exactly how I feel. Sometimes, I take it so personal, that it causes other issues, and I need to learn, that God is in control of it and I am sure, that no one is personally attacking me. Thank you again Rachel for your blog. I love it!


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