Don’t Discourage Your Hurting Friend’s Faith
When things fell apart, I screamed at God to glue me back together again. I’d been struck deaf, and putty clogged my lungs — airways literally gurgled when I inhaled. I puked several times daily between the panic attacks that ripped my mind to shreds. My whole body ached constantly. I was on the cusp of graduating college, and I wondered only if I’d even get to taste a career before I suffocated in some frigid, drab hospital ward.
Torment, dread, regret. Unbearable.
Everything seemed meaningless: all the anxious striving and the late-night projects and the moral compromises and the sacrifices for reputation and ambition … meaningless. The writer of Ecclesiastes compared life to vapor, short-lived and prey to the ever-shifting winds. I felt that. And like Jeremiah, I cursed the day I was born. I told God that I loathed him.
In that moment, I realized I was treating him like he was actually there with me. I’d grown up thinking a lot about God, but abstractly. He wasn’t really real until then, you know? And I swear it, he puffed me full of this intense peace that I couldn’t put words to, could only experience.
I hated it. Because I knew that peace was him, and I despised him.
Eventually I came around, stopped yelling at him about my agony and instead asked how he could pull me out of my pit. I’d end up surviving after a series of freaky coincidences seemingly orchestrated by intelligent design, but what really weirded me out was my joy intensifying counter to my waning health. Why, when caked in ashes, did my smile stretch bigger and bigger?
Many friends couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t continue cursing God, couldn’t understand why I’d cling to something as silly as an “imaginary friend.” I got that. After all, I had my cursing and disbelief days. But I also wish they’d spent less time trying to turn me away from my source of joy and hope, and instead joined me in celebrating that at least something carried me through my darkest periods.
I’m not writing to convince you that the Judeo-Christian God is the bee’s knees. Rather, I want to convince you that when someone is hit by catastrophic crises, it’s OK to let them dive deeper into a faith. Skepticism is unwelcome when we’re on our last legs. It’s tough to live with a disease; we need all the help we can find.
When the world is violent, we need purpose and control
When I felt small and thrown to the unpredictable winds, I desperately clawed for any semblance of control and yearned for spiritual answers as to why all things hurt. It’s hard not to consider questions of purpose when your own body tries to murder you.
Faith can help with answering these questions. Studies demonstrate that religion’s provision of purpose can help a person cope while also boosting their sense of control over their situation.
This is a great comfort for those who feel stripped of their autonomy while hospitalized or when faced with the evil of towering medical bills.
Spiritual health can mean improved emotional health
People with health conditions experience higher rates of anxiety and depression than the healthier population. Medication and therapy are wonderful, and they can synergize with faith to further emotional stability in both obvious and overlooked ways. Additionally, extra care invested into emotional health leads to more rest and sleep quality, which translates to improved physical health.
Prayer reaches beyond our own strength
Even some of my irreligious friends say they’ve found themselves praying when poo hits the fan. It comforts. Whether someone really is listening on the other end or not, prayer can calm a person’s nerves, dampen anger, and make them less reactive to negative circumstances. Meditation has similar effects and can boost pain tolerance. That’s a lot of bang for barely any energy expenditure!
It can compel us to care for our bodies
Many religions believe in caring for both the physical and spiritual. Beliefs promoting bodily health can drive a person to care for themselves in ways previously neglected. I was a noncompliant patient until my pastor’s wife reminded me that my body is a temple, and should be treated with that dignity. Suddenly, my treatment adherence and diet were about something bigger than myself.
Community is essential to thriving
Dedication to a particular faith can open up community opportunities that previously didn’t seem appealing. My church has been a huge family of extended caregivers who ensure I take my medicines, stay away from germs, rest, have rides to appointments, stay well-fed, and always have visitors when hospitalized. They’re also always the ones to care for my parents when I’m in sticky situations. I’m deeply grateful for the ways they’ve sacrificed for my family.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.