How My Chronic Illness Has Helped My Kids

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Melinda Means shares how God used her illness to grow her character as well as the character of her children.

“You’re tough, Mom.”

My 17-year-old daughter voiced that assessment of me last night. It’s been a rough couple of days for me health wise, but I’ve been powering through. Resting when I can. But we all know that rest is hard to come by for moms.

My struggle is something I don’t often talk about.

At least not outside my very close circle of friends and family.

After all, I look perfectly normal and healthy. Who would believe that I struggle with some level of pain every single day?

But it’s true. 

I don’t often feel sorry for myself. So I don’t want or expect anyone else to.

It is simply a reality. One that I’ve learned to fight and accept at the same time.

Besides how it affects my husband, I’ve worried so much about how my illness has affected my kids. If they had a dime for every time I’ve said, “I don’t feel good” over the years, they could skip college and retire now.

I hate that. I’ve cried many tears over that fact alone. I don’t want that to be the memory of their mother: Laying on the couch or staying behind while the rest of the family enjoys an activity that I simply don’t feel up to. Or not being able to be fully present with them because I just can’t mentally move past the pain.

I’ve prayed for healing so many times that I sometimes think God will surely heal me just to shut me up! I can so relate to that woman in the Bible who reaches out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. But my reality remains. I don’t completely understand why. And I’ve decided (for the most part, I have my days) that I’m okay with that.

Chronic illness can make you bitter. And I’m determined not to do that. I may not know why, but I do know a few things without a shadow of a doubt:

1. I serve a good and just God.

2. He would not allow me to endure pain without a purpose.

3. He has and will give me what I need to press on in the midst of it.

4. My kids are better for it.

It took me a long time to believe number 4. But now that they’re both in their mid to late teens, I can see more clearly how God has used my illness to grow their character, as well as mine.

Here’s a few things they’ve gained from my chronic illness:

Compassion and Gratefulness

Micah battles his own chronic illness. Molly has her unique struggles. Together with observing my illness, this top-of-the-mind awareness of pain has given my children a tremendous capacity for empathy toward those who are struggling. They demonstrate compassion and regularly commit to pray for those who are battling disease or illness of any type.

Neither one takes their health for granted. Especially Micah, who has to fight for it each day, just as I do. They thank God for it sincerely and regularly.

Perseverance

It is only through the supernatural grace and strength of God, but I believe I’ve been able to model perseverance and positivity in the midst of mine.

This is a character trait that can be applied to any type of struggle they will face in life. And we all know they will face many. They have seen up close and personal that it can be done. Not perfectly, of course. I’ve definitely had my moments of complete meltdown. But somehow, miraculously, and certainly not on my own strength, God has enabled me to keep going over and over again.

A Mom Who is Deeply Dependent on Jesus

We all want God to just come in and “fix” our problems. Wave a magic wand and poof! they’re gone. But I know my relationship with Jesus would not be nearly as strong as it is if I’d had a pain-free life. That fact is the one of the only reasons that I can thank and praise God for my illness. He has been so sweet and faithful to me in the midst of this valley that never seems to end. I’ve developed a deep dependence on Him that I’m not sure could have been achieved any other way.

My kids have benefited from a mom who is dependent on Jesus. They have seen how faith is lived out — sometimes in very messy ways — when there’s no magic wand in sight. When there are no answers. When relief doesn’t come.

Do I wish I would be healed right now? Amen, sister. But until then, my prayer has been this: “Please God, bring good from this, let it finish its work in me and please don’t let it continue one more second longer than it needs to to accomplish Your purposes.”

And I’m reminded of at least some of His purposes whenever I look at my children. 

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