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Wednesday Writings

When the New Year Isn’t New: Starting Another Year With Chronic Illness

The New Year can be a time of thrill, excitement, anticipation, and hope as we plan events, set goals, make changes, and look ahead to fresh adventures.

But what about those of us whose daily lives won’t change, whose diagnoses and conditions will stay the same, whose struggles will be just as difficult on January 1 as they were on December 31?

Facing a New Year that promises little to no change in our health struggles can drag our hearts down with discouragement. From several passages of Scripture, here are three attributes of God to encourage us to step into another year of chronic illness with gratitude, joy, hope, and even excitement.

1. God’s Goodness

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.

Psalm 27:13

When the pain continues, when the weariness doesn’t lift, when the darkness stays in our hearts and minds, it’s easy to doubt the goodness of God.

How could a good God let our suffering continue?

But Scripture tells us over and over again that God is good, always (Ps 118:1). That God in His goodness gives all our suffering a purpose (Ro 8:28). That sometimes we have to intentionally look for His goodness in and around us (Phil 4:8), even when we can’t see through our trials (II Cor 5:7).

“God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.”

Charles Spurgeon

God’s heart is only, always good.

Look back at this past year. How have you seen the goodness of the Lord? Do you trust Him to continue showing you this same goodness? Does He promise to always show goodness to His children? Do you believe this promise?

Step into this new year believing that you will see the goodness of the Lord.

2. God’s Mercy

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

Psalm 118:1

This phrase “For His mercy endures forever” appears five times in this psalm. It’s the refrain, repeated every other line, of Psalm 136 and a common phrase in many other psalms.

The Hebrew word for “mercy” also translates into the words “kindness,” “lovingkindness,” “goodness,” and “favor” in the Old Testament.

Another definition of God’s mercy is His withholding what we deserve (while His grace is giving what we don’t deserve).

For His mercy endures forever.

Even in the hardship, even in the darkness, even in the pain, even in the loneliness, even in the questions, God’s mercy endures forever. It’s never ending. It’s always there, always given, always shown. No matter what.

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

When was the last time God gave you what you deserved? Does He keep a record of your wrongs? Do you take time to thank Him each morning for His daily renewed mercy and compassion?

Step into this new year giving thanks to the Lord for His unending mercy.

3. God’s Power

The right hand of the LORD works great achievements.
The right hand of the LORD is sublime;
The right hand of the LORD does deeds of great valor.

Psalm 118:15-16, my translation of the RV 1960

When I recently read these verses, it was right after a friend told me of another setback in her health journey. These are verses that I have prayed for myself, for her, and for all my sisters in The Valley.

I couldn’t help a sense of disappointment as I thought, Where is this valor? Where are these great achievements?

We all ask those questions at some point, don’t we? Where is this great power that God promises?

Earlier this year, God answered this question for me from another passage of Scripture. In these verses, Moses is relating God’s promises to the children of Israel right before they cross the Jordan into the Promised Land: 

“And the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, and will inflict defeat upon them until they are destroyed.”

Deuteronomy 7:22-23

In other words, when they reached the land of Canaan, the Israelites wouldn’t be able to conquer all the Canaanites at once. Otherwise the land would lie fallow and become overgrown and, without regular hunters to keep the population down, the wild animals would become a threat.

My biggest takeaway? The work of God isn’t always dramatic.

We talk about “the work of God” and we often think of the many miracles done in both the Old Testament and the New Testament: the Red Sea parted, the fire on Mount Carmel, water turned into wine, a leprous man healed. 

When we pray for God to work in our lives, in our bodies, we often expect the same kind of miracle: an instant diagnosis, a sudden recovery, a dramatic change. 

But sometimes the work of God is gradual. Small. Slow. Perhaps even anticlimactic. 

But is it any less the work of God? These verses make it clear that the agent of victory is still the Lord–He’s still the one fighting for His people, still the one eradicating the enemies, still the one protecting and providing for His own.

We ask for healing. But maybe God’s healing is a gradual process rather than a bolt-of-lightning experience. 

Or maybe He chooses to simply sustain rather than heal. If that’s the case, let me ask this: Is the IV drip keeping one patient alive any less essential than the defibrillator being used to restart the heart of another?

One is more dramatic, certainly–more commotion, more people, more to see and hear. But in its own, quiet, invisible way, the IV drip is doing the same job: maintaining life. 

As you begin this next year, don’t stop praying for healing, for recovery, for a clear diagnosis, whatever your need may be.

But keep in mind that just because God may not answer in a dramatic way doesn’t mean He doesn’t answer. For you, the power of God may not be the defibrillator–it might be simply (but no less amazingly) the steady, quiet drip of His grace into your soul day by day. 

In what ways, big or small, has God shown His power in your life? Is His work any more or less powerful for its visibility? Would you be content with grace for the ordinary instead of miracles for the extraordinary? Can you do anything without His power?

Step into this new year leaning on God’s power every moment of every day.

What has encouraged you as you look into a new year? Is there something particular you’re looking forward to this year? Any blessings from this past year? Please share in the comments, we’d love to hear!

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