CFS Some have encouraged me to not talk openly about my struggle with CFS. Their intentions are right. They suggest that many people will not understand and that some might even conclude that my ministry is finished because of this illness. This will not inspire donors to support a work led by a sick person. These are all reasonable points. But I have chosen to err on the side of candor, hoping to serve some who struggle with chronic illness and to invite prayer and support while I press on in this wonderful work of “equipping leaders for unity in Christ’s mission” (The purpose statement of ACT 3.)

The truth is that I am still more active than a lot of people my age. But I do struggle every single day to remain as active and healthy as possible. The most important part of my health regimen is to take breaks, find ways to refresh my body, mind and soul, and to engage in activities that build me up. I am, in this instance, often my own worst enemy since I have always been an active over-achiever in personality. This is because of my lack of understanding about the inner life combined with my God-given ability. But God has taught me again and again that "his strength is

[being] perfected in my weakness.” For this I am, at least on most days, filled with thanks.

While various CFS advocacy groups battle in public I choose to privately bear the burdens I have been given and ask God to help me do so as well as possible. The fact is that many of you, my dear friends, have helped me far more than you know. You do not need a detailed account of my health when you ask me, “How are you doing?” I can give a short answer and know that you care and that you remember to pray for me.

I do not believe illness is a good thing. I would much prefer to be completely well. I believe God still heals in his own time and way. I am not sure that a cure for CFS will be found in my lifetime thus I no longer have great hope for that cure. (If it comes then that is wonderful but in the meantime I want to live well with what I have to deal with day-by-day.) I do know that Christ is my companion and that with him in me, beside me, behind me and ahead of me I can face tomorrow. This has allowed me to find great peace.

The person who has the most to deal with in regards to this illness is my wife. She sees me at my best and my worst. She gets my emotional weakness and my lack of patience. She sees when I am down and she knows how things work with this illness and my coping, or lack of coping, with its harsh implications. Anita is the best I could hope for in this context and shows me great love and encouragement.

So, what does this mean for my ministry? It means things like the following:

1. I must pace myself and allow for breaks during the day and for whole days. Things like a baseball game become a huge blessing in the warm months.

2. I must travel in a smarter way. I am grateful that I can still travel but I must find quiet places to rest and recover when I do. My first overseas trip in 12 years was the March 6-15 trip to Rome.

3. I must trust God each day in a new way with my well-being. He never fails me.

4. I can still see people in person, serve leaders one-on-one, and write. In fact, I believe I can write even more if I am smarter and wiser about this. I believe God uses this illness to keep me home more and thus I can write more than I otherwise. would

5. I can still teach a class, just not as many and as often as I once did. I love teaching and mentoring students and will still do what I can in this area.

6. I preach a lot less than I did a few years ago and choose my preaching dates more carefully.

Whether this illness is a retrovirus or not I am really unsure. Whether or not we can ever explain it I am sure that I have it. Whatever caused it I have no earthly idea. I am done “beating myself up” about the past. God is gracious and good. I believe that regardless of my past or future. Chronic illness is not fun. But by his grace I have found that I can cope and somehow, not always triumphantly, I can live freely in his love and grace. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

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  1. Rick Apperson May 18, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I believe people can’t understand unless they have struggled themselves. My wife was gluten intolerant for years and many just couldn’t get it.
    I will be praying for you brother!
    Rick Apperson

  2. John Metz May 19, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I appreciate these two posts and the struggle you have with CFS. As you know, a sister in our office struggles with the same thing. Your initial post was an encouragement to her — I need to point her to this one as well.
    You summed it up well by saying that all in all you would rather be healthy in all respects but this is what you have in your life. Our weaknesses allow the Lord’s grace to be magnified.
    2 Cor. 12:9 – And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly therefore I will rather boast in my weaknesses that the power of Christ might tabernacle over me.

  3. Coleen Sharp May 21, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I want to thank you for talking openly about this. For the last three years I have suffered with chronic illness also. Not CFS but an illness that causes me to be tired, in excruciating pain and many other symptoms that have had a great effect on my everyday life. I have to confess in the mid ninety’s I was a bit of a John Armstrong fan. I heard you speak at conferences, read your books like The Compromised Church, The Coming Evangelical Crisis, Subscribed to the Reformation and Revival journal et cetera. You even spoke at my home church in Corona California where David Hegg was pastor at that time. I even still have those books and some of the cassette tapes with your messages. They had a great impact on my life. I love reformed theology and have a passion for the church and a clear understanding of the gospel
    Chronic Illness is a very difficult thing and something that is difficult for others to understand. Many of my close friendships have changed drastically through this journey. I am the mother four boys. They are now between the ages of 8 and 14. Until this last year I homeschooled all of them but because of the situation was unable to do so any longer.
    In the beginning I had a very difficult time spiritually. I kind of went between asking God why He would allow this to happen to me a mother four children to then feeling guilty that it was a punishment for my sin. One positive aspect of suffering though is that we draw closer to Christ in ways that we may not have before. Sometimes it feels lonely because people around us do not understand to the extent that our suffering has on our everyday life. Having to cancel plans we want to be a part of and not take part in activities that the other wise enjoy. And I use to be so active and outdoors person and I just don’t have the energy to do those things as much. And also not knowing how I will feel from one day to the next. I get very worn out easily. Even at this moment I am laying in bed writing this on my phone using a voice to text application.
    In the last several months things have gotten a little worse for me physically. I have spent time in the hospital and even had to have surgery. My situation is not such that I am in danger of dying anytime soon, from the illness at least, but I may suffer with pain and other symptoms for the rest of my life. Medications do help in a lot of ways which I am thankful for. Unfortunately one of my issues is gastrointestinal so I have lost a lot of weight and have a hard time eating. My other situations are neurological and they think possibly autoimmune.
    In theast couple of months I have gained such peace in Christ. I never stopped believing in God’s love for me and care for me but I have learned to really trust that God uses all things for His glory. I have also learned to live better in my current situation. Learning to pace myself just on a practical note.
    Because I have so much down time it gives me a lot of extra time studying scripture and reading that I did not have before. I have so many blessings. My husband deeply cares for me and so do my children. My parents and grandparents live a mile and a half from me. And while my grandparents are in their ninety’s now their minds are still sharp and my grandfather was a minister and my grandparents were missionaries for most of their lives. They are of great encouragement to me in the Lord. So is my very godly mother.
    I think the hardest thing for me at this point is to watch my family suffer because of my suffering. I do have hope, peace and rest like I never have had before in Christ. My husband is emotionally physically and spiritually worn out though. That is probably more difficult for me than my own physical suffering.
    Thank you for your ministry. It has had a great impact on my life. I appreciate the things you have to say about the modern evangelical church and your emphasis on true biblical theology.
    Sorry if there are any grammatical or spelling errors or missed words. That can be the 1 of the downfalls of using the voice to text app. Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing, and also your ministry for the sake of the Gospel. We will be praying for you.

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