Hope when it won’t get better?

Last night we ended our counseling & physiology class. All semester we have been looking at counseling through the lens of the body and its problems. All counseling problems are physiological since all counselees come with a body. But of course, some problems have more complex etiology and require counselors to understand how the body is part of the problem and solution. This semester we looked at a wide variety of problems: trauma, anxiety, addiction, sexual problems, bipolar disorder, autism, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, and much more. In addition, we explored how insomnia is the “mental illness multiplier” and some basic self-care and mindfulness provides much relief across all problems. And yet, we barely scratched the surface of the physical stuff we’d like to know.

But last night, we considered the problem of chronic illness, illnesses like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome. Here’s the question I posed. What gives us hope when we no longer seek the removal or end of an illness? Most people come to counseling because they want to make their marriages better, end depression, find a new career, etc. But would you go knowing that all you can do is find marginal improvement and new ways to accept a chronic condition?

We discussed the unique problem of receiving endless advice (“Have you tried this? Have you considered that?”), the tendency to resist new ideas even while hoping a miracle will come along, and the fear that others will believe that your chronic condition is, “all in your head.”

Back to the question we asked, “What gives you hope when you don’t hope it will get better?”

Some answered that they found hope in finding other similar sufferers (though some danger in connecting with someone who only wants to vent). Others found hope in those who would be willing to listen and validate and help articulate lament. Still others found hope in those who would help them find just one more thing they can do to cope.

What would you find helpful and hope building?


Filed under christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, counseling, counseling skills

4 responses to “Hope when it won’t get better?

  1. Throughout the worst stages of my condition I did not pray for it to be healed (Even though I have enough faith to believe it could be done) because I knew I was learning something too important about myself in the process, and would miss out on it if a miracle occurred. Lifting our eyes above the physical situation and seeing the bigger picture gave me much hope during the lowest of lows. Blessings to you!

  2. Heather Evans

    I personally have struggled with fibromyalgia for the last 11 years. I remember within the first few months of receiving my diagnosis when I was at my worst, a sister in Christ and mentor sent me a note with this statement: “I encourage you to radically accept this from God so He can do in and through you as He desires.” This continues to impact me and I often pass it on to others who are experiencing chronic illness. The Lord has certainly used this “thorn in my flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10) to remind me of my limitations and sinful tendency towards self-sufficiency–that I may be driven to Him for rest and dependence.
    My hope is found in Him–He is using this to conform me to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29)

  3. debbie

    I agree. I have recently suffered through another “attack” of a chronic condition and although I would have loved to have been cured, I was helped in remembering Paul the Apostle’s prayer of removing the thorn from his side. There is a reason for our suffering, but in it we can feel God’s presence the most significantly.

  4. Julie Kong

    I have a bit of a different take on this topic since I’m coming from the background of being married to someone with Asperger’s who refuses to acknowledge or accept the condition. I’m in a very large support group of other women in the same situation. For a long time we continually hope for change …… when there is little or no grounds for hope. Consequently, many women can get stuck in despair and/or harmful relationships. It’s a very challenging dynamic. We need people helpers who understand this dilemma and who can walk with us in compassion and understanding care. The biggest problem we have, by far, is that this dynamic is so little understood even by professional counselors that we are left isolated and traumatized, with nowhere to turn to for support.

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