Chronic illness is one of the hardest things to ever happen to me. It’s also one of the best.
I know, that probably doesn’t make sense. Chronic illness doesn’t sound like a “good” thing. Hard things generally don’t seem good.
I didn’t think it was a good thing when I got sick. But, as time has gone on and my mindset has changed, I’ve realized what a gift it is.
Maybe I just needed to redefine good.
A Kingdom Mindset
My pastor talks a lot about the two kingdoms: this world and heaven. Your heart will live in one or the other—it’s impossible for it to live in both. You cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).
You join the heavenly kingdom when you become a disciple of Christ and everything changes, including your definition of “good.” James, the brother of Jesus, knew this, telling us to “count it all joy” whenever we face trials (James 1:2).
This shift in our definition comes from a new mindset, one that is wholly focused on Christ and furthering His kingdom.
Facing trials is good because it grows our faith, which in turn grows others’ faith as well. Chronic illness is a forever trial for me, but I know it will also strengthen my faith for the rest of my life. And as my faith has grown I’ve been able to mentor and teach others as well, strengthening them in the Lord. My chronic illness furthers the kingdom by encouraging other believers and shining Christ’s light to an unbelieving world, which is a very good thing.
The Effects of Sin
First things first, let’s get something out of the way: all sickness, death, pain, and suffering is a result of the Fall. If Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten that fruit, I would be healthy. Despite being one of the best things to happen to me, my health battles would not exist if not for the Fall.
But neither would the need for them. If the Fall had never happened, I wouldn’t need the lessons it taught me, and neither would anyone else. If the Fall had never happened, I wouldn’t need to raise awareness for chronic illness because it wouldn’t exist. If the Fall had never happened, I wouldn’t need chronic illness to draw me closer to God.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” —Romans 8:28
Sin is bad. Chronic illness is bad. But God is so powerful He can turn a result of sin into a blessing. All things really means all things.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” —James 1:17
When I used to read this verse, I thought it meant things like fun trips or time with friends were gifts from God. And they are. But they aren’t the only things that are.
My problem was looking at this verse with too narrow a definition of “good.” To me, “good” meant “fun” and “easy.”
After fighting chronic illness for over a year, though, my definition of “good” has grown. I’ve learned that suffering can be good, just as James 1:2-4 says:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Why We Need a Good Definition
When the brokenness of this life hits us, when our world crumbles apart, when the scary diagnosis comes, what will our reaction be? Will we question the goodness of our God and doubt the very essence of our faith? Or will we realize that God’s goodness is far greater than the definition of “good” that this world gives us, and that He can turn this brokenness of this world into something beautiful?
So to the person hurting today, let me remind you of two things: your pain and your suffering are real. They are valid. But God is still working, even when it seems like He’s not, and you can always trust in His goodness.