Soul care / Chronic Illness / Recurring illness / Use of Church Media / Creative Worship in difficult battles / Serve God / Sermon Topics for Chronic ill Patients / By All Choral Works
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- Definition of Chronic Illness
Chronic Illness affects not only the physical body, but the emotional and spiritual well being of not only the sick, but the families, friends, caregivers, and the congregation as well.
The dictionary defines Chronic as a long period of time or marked by frequent events. When dealing with chronic illness, this can be a single illness that last for a long period of time, or a series of illnesses that recur over a long time. With this article we will refer to those who have been affected with an illness or a series of illnesses lasting greater than one year.
- Experience and research of the authors
Wade Phelps and a friend he teamed up with, are the authors of this article, they are both married to spouses diagnosed with different ailments that fall under the category of chronically ill. As devoted servants of God and Ministers in our Church, we have learned first hand what it is do deal with chronic illness and the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual drain it can create.
On top of the first hand experience, research was done through clinical pastoral websites, psychologists, and a number of conversations with the hospital pastoral services, who have received degrees in providing pastoral care to those with chronic illness.
- Identifying the roles and responsibilities of each party.
As mentioned earlier in this article, chronic illness not only affects the sick, but many others as well, this section will identify those involved and the characteristics of each individual(s)
- The Sick – this is the person who has the ailment. The emotions of someone who is chronically ill are more intense and often misinterpreted. Some of the emotions that overwhelm the ill include guilt, anger, regret, battles of faith, feeling of punishment, hopelessness, mood swings, (both internal and external) and so on.
- The Caregiver – this individual(s) is generally a spouse, parent, or an immediate family member. There may be one or many depending on the individual situations in each family. The caregiver generally picks up the slack when The Sick is ill. This includes many times finances, housework, family care, and communication with others when dealing with the medical emergencies.
- The Immediate Family – This is the Parents or the Children of the Sick. Even if the Sick is an adult, the strain that is put on the parents of the Sick need to be provided for as well. These parents may not be the daily Caregiver, but the parents love and the feeling of helplessness can weigh heavy on a parents heart. Parents generally take the role of providing answers to their children so they may put additional strain of The Sick due to a controlling nature. Parents may have the most difficult time with accepting the illness and that God is in control. With non-adult children, confusion sets in. For teenagers, the rebellion may be heightened due to a feeling of injustice because of a lack of normalcy.
- The family and friends – For those active in a Church, this also includes fellow members of the congregation. These are those who provide emotional and sometimes spiritual support as well. The family and friends react differently to the illness. There reactions may include
- Medical Staff – these people are the individuals who provide care to the sick. They too have not only a job to do, but an emotional interest into the illness as well. The Medical Staff are many times put into a peculiar situation because they are expected in todays society to have all of the answers. They too feel guilt and pain when they cannot solve the illness. They do feel the pain of the family and share in it as well. The Medical staff too may deal with the situation many times like the family and friends do.
- Spiritual Support – this responsibility is sometimes shared by many different individuals. Emotional care and spiritual care is sometimes so intertwined, that both issues have to be addressed at the same time. The spiritual support also may react differently to the illness depending on their experience and characteristics as well.
All of the above individuals/groups are all afflicted and have had to make changes in their lives. The Afflicted – this includes the Sick, the Caregiver, The immediate family, the Family and friends, or anyone who is affected by the illness. The carry different emotional levels and ways to deal with the affliction.
Some include: (but not limited to) —
a. They ignore the situation – either out of fear of what to say, or insecurity over the situation, these people ignore or walk away from the situation as if it never happened. Most times, the sick person and the caregiver are ignored because these people do not know what to say to them.
b. Problem solvers – these are those who has to have all the answers and feel it is their duty to provide advice. To these people they are there when the sickness starts but fizzle out as the illness continues.
c. The Judgmental – they may view the situation as a punishment from God or a challenge due to lack of faith. They may not even know they are reacting this way.
d. The supporters – these are those who even though they may not know exactly what the sick are going through, they make themselves available to them if needed.
e. The relaters – these are those who do know of the situation either because they lived through it or had an immediate family member who went through a similar situation. Not always is their someone who can relate in the congregation or in the immediate family.
- Emotional stages of all of those involved (The grieving process)
- Shock/Impact – The beginning of the grieving process is not always grieving in itself. This stage takes place when an individual first becomes ill, or when (especially for the chronically ill) new information or changes to the process of the illness takes place. The rest of the afflicted also share a phase of Shock/Impact as well. There is no predetermined time frame of this phase. Fear of the unknown causes these people an overwhelming sense of shock. At this time many thoughts are running through the mind of those involved. Rash decision(s), the inability to make a decision(s), or constant changes to a decision(s) takes place. Their thoughts will react faster than their words or actions. The conversation may go in many different directions or their may be a lack of conversation because the mind is attempting to absorb the impact of the situation.
- Denial – The second stage in the mourning process. It buffers initially the shock by denying or refusing the illness or the effect it will have on their lives. Chronically ill people must deal with everyday affairs, such as domestic duties, family matters, school, work, etc. This means that their illnesses cannot always be the centre of attention. In such cases, denial is effective because it temporarily pushes aside the illness and enables those involved to deal with other priorities
- Emotional Confusion (focusing inward) – Chronic illness affects more than the fear over health or the physical pain; it affects every aspect of their lives as well as the lives of those who surround them. To those affected, there is an overwhelming feeling of being attacked. It feels as if you are standing in the center of a room with every trouble and battle attacking you from every direction. Everywhere you turn; there is another battle or challenge that needs attention. This feeling of being trapped drains the emotional, spiritual, and physical aspect of the afflicted. To many of the afflicted, guilt of failure or guilt of failing God can constantly plague them. An inward feeling is then created as if the whole world is falling apart. This is generally the most emotional of all the stages. In this stage, be cautious of a constant transition of emotions. The affected many times cannot reach out or lack the strength to reach out to others. When dealing with those in this stage, you may feel as if you are being pushed away, not trusted, or not needed. In most cases, it is just the opposite. If in doubt, ask.
- Effort at resolution (Focusing outward) –This is the stage at which decisions will be made. Decisions of faith, finances, domestic changes, and medical responsibilities arise in this stage. Attempts to open up to others are made. Just because the decisions are made does not mean that these decisions are ok with the affected. Time may still be needed to accept the new way of life. Constant moving from emotional confusion to an effort at resolution may take place.
- Acceptance – This is the beginning of the healing process. This is an internal acceptance of the changes that were made in the prior phase. When dealing with the chronic illness, acceptance may happen in steps instead of all at once. The pain of everything may still be there, but it is less in the forefront and the afflicted starts to see beyond the pain and make attempts to start living again
These stages repeat themselves continuously and in no particular order for all who deal with chronic illness. These stages also affect not only the sick, but also the caregiver, the family and friends, and even at times the Medical staff and the spiritual support as well. These stages happen at different times for each of them. Conflicts will arise due to the different emotions that take place at different times for each of the afflicted.
- Providing spiritual care
- Identify the roles of each person, their personality, and the emotional stage they are in.
- Prayer – An open communication with God our Father is a must.
- Psalm 66:20 Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
- Remember the Story of The Lord Jesus in the Garden. He prayed that the cup would pass him by but still ended the prayer with God’s will be done. (Luke 22:39-44) The adversity of illness also may cause us to ask for God to take it away. We must remember still that all good thing happen to those who love the Lord
- Apostle Paul and his thorn – 2 Corinth 12:1-10 understand that it is ok to ask for the thorn to be removed, but also be prepared when God provides the answer we seek, even if it is not the answer we were seeking.
- The art of Listening – In grief, advice in not always sought after. Many of the afflicted know what needs to be done, they just need time to adjust and accept the difficult path. When providing spiritual care, allow the afflicted to speak what is in their heart and soul. They may not make sense or may say some things that seem rash. This is part of the grieving process.
- If you do not know, ask. – A minister or any person providing spiritual care is still human and is not expected to know everything. With concern, ask how you can minister unto them.
- Visiting (the little visit) – not always does a minister need to have a 1 to 2 hour visit in order to provide spiritual care. To someone who is grieving, an hour seems like a day, a day seems like a week, a week is like a month, and so on. A phone message, email, 2 minute conversation before or after service goes a long way. A little visit is a key to helping the afflicted deal with the grieving process. Separate little visits for each of the afflicted, not just the sick, is also recommended
- Leave them a spiritual gift. – Spiritual Music, A Worship video, a Bible text. There is no exact science here as each person is different, some are visual learners, some are Audio, and some are researchers. The purpose of this gift is not to solve their problem but to give them a little something to hang on to when they are alone.
- Don’t be judgmental
- Accepting God’s will- when providing spiritual care, accept the fact that this battle has been approved by God. Do not tell God or the member that he (God) will make it go away. It is ok to ask but allow Gods will to be done.
- Acceptance of the sick to the caregiver – advise the caregiver to learn to separate the illness from the one who is ill. Teach the caregiver that it is ok to be upset with the illness without being upset with the sick person. This is a difficult battle for the caregiver to separate the sickness from the sick person.
- Acceptance of the caregiver to the sick – the person who is sick must learn to accept the role of the caregiver and that the caregiver is doing the best that he/she can with the increase of responsibility. Flaws in the caregiver may come out more due to the extra stress and responsibility. The sick must also accept that the caregiver may do things differently or to a lower level of standards than what is normally done.
- Acceptance of the medical personnel – The medical personnel are not perfect. Even though they are trained in their field, they may not have all of the answers. The Medical staff also want what is best for the sick individual and have a emotional investment into this as well
- Being mad, sad, or feel weak is not a weakness of faith or a bad thing – God created emotions and knows our grieving process. It is not a failing faith to have these feelings. Let the emotional stages run their course regardless of how long it takes. Some stages will last longer than others depending on the characteristics of The Afflicted. The longer the illness may result in longer emotional stages as well
- Seeking professional help
- Medical – the medical staff are trained and educated. A time may come when you may need to ask questions on behalf of the family.
- Mental therapists – advise all those afflicted that seeking professional therapy is not a weakness in faith. They are trained also in dealing with grief and can help in the healing process
- The Hospital pastoral staff – each hospital is equipped with a professionally trained person trained in clinical pastoral care. They do not teach religion or try to convert. If you are providing spiritual care and am confused, visit the hospital pastor for advice in dealing with the situation. They may also help with the spiritual care of the sick person in the hospital by providing follow up visits during the day to the sick individual. In such a dark moment in the Afflicted souls life, do not feel solely responsible to solve their situation. Not only is this impossible when you ponder the amount of time it takes to be there every time they need you, but in turn, you may portray that YOU (not GOD) are all that they need in their life.
- Promote, Promote, PROMOTE
- Faith – a promotion of keeping the faith given to the afflicted can go a long way. Sharing experiences of faith grants strength to continue to fight.
- When decisions are made, promote the afflicted when they make the decisions. Support them in the decisions they make. Making a decision during a conflict can be scary or more difficult in such a stressful time. The consequences of some decisions may be life threatening and need support. Their decision may be the wrong one or may change. Though you can advise them to seek medical attention in this decision, you can cause a lot more harm than good if you challenge them here. Be very very careful. In the middle of the crisis, you are not helping them by redirecting them, and they will not see that what you are doing is out of love. If the decision needs immediate medical attention, get the medical/psychological staff involved. Let them be the bad guy as they are much better trained to deal with this than you are.
- Positive steps – Chronic illness has a way of causing people to feel like they are trapped in sorrow. Any small step of a positive nature needs to be supported and complimented. These little positive moments helps the heart and soul begin the emotional and spiritual process of healing. The afflicted may feel overwhelmed at all of the things that must be done. Teach them to take it one step at a time and prioritize what needs to be attended to.
- Prayer and that God hears your prayers – Constantly promote an open communication with God and that he hears every prayer.
- The willingness to endure – We know that God does not give us anything we can’t handle, but some battles are too great for us to handle it on our own. Continue to promote the willingness to endure and support and compliment their endurance.
- Love and support – constantly let the afflicted know that God loves them and that they are loved within the congregation.
- That strength comes from God – promote Godly strength and that our endurance is not in vain. This requires a continuous reaffirmation because hope is generally the first thing to go. For the afflicted, hope is the main source of strength.
- Promote the Lord’s return – The afflicted individuals need to hear about God’s greater plan for us. Chronic illness attacks hope in the future and the worthiness of the individual to be prepared for the Lord’s return.
- Additional advice
- Taking emotional breaks – it is ok to take a break from the illness. This is therapeutic and provides a sense of humanness. To all of the afflicted, taking an emotional break from each other is not a bad thing either. Watch a spiritual movie or video. Listen to a Christian CD
- Identify the guilt aspect – so many aspects of guilt and regret may come out. Teach the afflicted to lay even their guilt into the hands of God and ask him to deal with it.
- Accept the emotional roller coaster – Don’t take it personally even if you as a spiritual supporter feel like you are being attacked. Do not stop the emotional cycle to defend yourself, there will be time in the future for that. . Let the stages of emotions run its course.
- Please do not use We missed you, I didn’t see you, or Where were you comments. Instead, just tell them they were loved and fill them in on what happened. Some comments add to the guilt and the stress instead of showing love as you intended. Imagine if you missed an event that was out of your control and then everyone came up to you and said they missed you? How much more to some with a Chronic Illness.
- Recognize the emotional investment of all involved., Look at the heart more than the words or actions.
- Visit the Immediate family as well – If the Sick is an adult, take a moment to visit the spiritual needs of the parents. Make a separate phone call or visit. With the children in the household, recognize that the emotions of growing up as a child may be heightened. Take a moment to visit them as well. Speak to the Sunday School teachers or others to provide assistance with the children.
- Silence is OK – Do not fill silence with advice. Most of the time, the sick know the answer but need time and attention in order to accept. Some of the greatest spiritual visits are made when nothing is said. You are even providing spiritual care by being there in these moments of silence.
- You are there for spiritual support, not to take away all of their problems – Some people may feel that spiritual support for the afflicted is to help them fix their problems. The battle is in God’s hands. Don’t try to solve their problems.
- Do not attempt to be their only spiritual provider – Some ministers are protective in the way they care for their members. The afflicted require more spiritual care than any one person can provide. Why does it take 20 to 30 medical personnel to take care of one person who is sick? With spiritual care, it is no different. It takes a Family/congregation to care spiritually for the sick. This is the work of God not the work of man, get others involved.
If you need material Worship Videos, Music, Custom videos, Advice, please do not hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer plenty of material to the chronically ill at no charge. It is so much more important that they feel the love of God more than any opportunity we could have to make a profit, and where possible, we will drop everything and give this our top priority.
All Choral Works
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