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Gail Bones

Harriet Bouchillon

Mary Carver

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Lisa Copen

Erin Davis

Diane Dean

Deb DeArmond

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Melissa Edgington

Debbi Eggleston

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Pam Farrel

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Janice Thompson

Teri Thompson

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Elizabeth Van Tassel

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Entries in Upgrade UPLIFT (7)

Saturday
Sep072013

How to Encourage Someone Who Is Ill

Lisa Copen has more than her share of struggles, but she has still managed - with God's help - to create a ministry to help others who suffer. In this special Upgrade UPLIFT, she explains what not to say to those who are ill, and how to encourage them.

"When friends are coping with a chronic illness or pain, our instinctive way of encouraging them may be more hurtful than helpful," Lisa says.

Ouch. I do want to be an encourager, but I haven't always known what to say.

How about you?

Lisa continues ...

"You look great. You must be feeling so much better."

"I just know God will heal you. You don't deserve this pain."

"Let me know if you need anything."

These comments sound kind and there is no doubt they are said with good intentions. For the one who is ill, however, they "feel" less than comforting.

Being told you look fine feels like the pain isn't believed. What if your friend isn't healed? Does it mean she does deserve the pain? And it is so hard to ask for help.

"Call me if you need anything" is considered a general greeting to one who is ill, like asking, "How are you?"

She will never ask.

Nearly one in two people in the USA live with a chronic illness or condition like back pain or migraines. If it is not you, odds are it is someone you love.

Most people do not have any visible signs of the pain or suffering they experience on a daily basis. And when we say "Well, you look fine," the comment is interpreted as "Since you look fine, you can't really be that bad. You are just making a big deal out of nothing."

Invisible Illness Awareness Week is sponsored by Rest Ministries, a Christian organization that serves the chronically ill. I began this week in 2002 because I witnessed many people growing frustrated about the lack of understanding of invisible illness. Despite finding peace about their diagnosis, the remarks of people around them - even at church - were planting seeds of bitterness.

Invisible Illness Awareness Week (IIAW) is September 9-15, 2013, and the IIAW website features many ways to encourage loved ones with illness, as well as teach those with illness where to find true validation.

Here are a few tips on how to communicate with an ill person:

Don't say, "I am praying for you!"

Say, "I would love to keep your needs in prayer. Is there something that is on your heart that I can pray about? Maybe something that no one else is even praying for?"

Don't say, "Call me if you need anything."

Say, "I would love to bring your family dinner. What would you prefer, chicken or lasagna? Wednesday or Thursday?"

Don't say, "You look fine."

Say, "It must be hard to be in so much pain and not have anyone realize what effort it took to get here. Thank you for coming."

Don't say, "Don't cry. God will work it all out."

Say, "If you need to cry, I will just sit here with you. I'm not going anywhere."

We have all suffered. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, "[He] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in ANY trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God" (NIV, emphasis added).

Take a moment to reflect on a time you suffered and what you needed.

Did you really need someone to give advice or did you just want someone to listen? Did you pick up the phone and call a friend to ask for help, or were you grateful when someone just showed up and offered comfort food or help with a task?

One of the reasons God allows us to suffer is so that we understand how to comfort others when they suffer. Rather than relying on clichés and instinctive responses, take a few minutes to consider what you wanted when you were suffering. Did you wish someone would ask you what you needed, rather than making assumption about how to help? Don't be afraid to ask a friend what they need - and then listen.

Find out more ways to encourage friends who are chronically ill at Invisible Illness Awareness Week where there are specific articles on ways to bring a friend a meal when she may be embarrassed, how to help a friend with errands, or how a church can make a difference.

Who do you know who is ill that could use some tender care and encouraging words? Ask God to show you how to use Lisa's wisdom to reach out with caring words and actions.

Lisa Copen began Rest Ministries to encourage those who are chronically ill through daily devotionals, small groups called HopeKeepers, and other support. She is the author of a variety of books including Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for twenty years and resides in San Diego with her husband and son.

Saturday
Aug312013

Our Comforting God

Are you in need of comfort today? Harriet Bouchillon, who ministered alongside her husband for 40 years, discovered the precious presence of our comforting God in a great time of need. If you are hurting, I pray God will UPLIFT your spirit today.

“Since my husband Jim’s promotion to Heaven,” Harriet writes, “I have learned that unwelcomed and not always healthy thoughts often come during the grieving process.”

Anyone who has struggled through grief, even as a Christian, understands what Harriet is talking about. Confused thoughts and roller coaster emotions are normal.

Harriet continues …

During an especially melancholy day four months after Jim’s death, I was dwelling on what his unspoken thoughts might have been as he lay in his sick bed. What did he remember most about our life together? And what were his thoughts about me?

It so happened that was the day I chose to clean out Jim’s desk. In the process, I came across an unsigned “to my wife” birthday card.

My mind raced back to my birthday the previous year, when Jim was in remission from cancer. Frustration was in his voice as he gave me a lovely gift. He had also purchased a beautiful card, he said, and had put it in a safe place. But now he couldn’t find it!

Oh, my dear Jim—if he could only understand that just having him still with me was enough, with or without a card!

The timing of the card’s delivery was perfectly orchestrated by God.

Only He could know I would need it the exact moment of its discovery. Tears flowed as I read the beautiful, comforting words that I took as coming directly from Jim’s heart to mine.

“The man who finds a wife finds a good thing; she is a blessing to him from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:12, The Living Bible).

There are moments when I catch myself saying,

         Wow, that’s my wife.

They seem to come in the most ordinary times—

When you’re laughing with our family,

When we’re having dinner with friends,

When you and I are together doing nothing at all.

I’m still just amazed that out of all the men in the world,

I’m the one who gets to share life with you.

After all this time, I still don’t know all the reasons why God trusted me

With one of His most amazing gifts . . .

          But I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life that He did.

Happy Birthday. I Love You.

How true is God’s Word when He says, “I, even I, am He who comforts you” (Isaiah 51:12).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).

Can you remember a time when God comforted you in your hour of need? Are you in need right now of God’s comforting ministry in your life?

Harriet Bouchillon has served as a missionary with Camino Global since 1972, ministering alongside her husband, Jim, in Spain, Mexico and Hispanic USA. She blogs at "Blessed by the Grace of God" (English and Spanish versions). Harriet, recently widowed, disciples, teaches, and mentors women. This mother to three and grandmother to six makes her home in El Cajon, California. Read her story about overcoming the fear of death in the tract, "Confessions of a Mortician's Daughter" (also here in Spanish).

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