Why Illness Does Not Define Me

John ArmstrongPersonal

I have endured a chronic illness since 1998. At times this illness has forced me to stop almost everything I thought I needed to do. This has been true at different various stages of my life since age 49. Last week I had to cancel a number of appointments and once again found this terribly hard to do. Saying "no" is a very hard thing for me to do. (I think this is a major flaw, not a heroic tendency in any sense of the word.)

I believe some people need to say "no" much more often in order to get to "yes." I am one such person. Maybe you can identify with me in some way. I am a people person, thus I like to get people’s appreciation, and I long to hear "well done" from my peers. I feel the sting of deeply personal opposition when I get it, which is sometimes quite often since I am a public person with public views. 

I reflected deeply upon these personal issues over the days of Lent. I am profoundly impressed that I need to work very hard at not allowing my illness to define who I am or how I think about myself. I am not a "sick" person, but God’s child. I am to live my life with joy one day at a time under his grace and as fully as he has apportioned me strength for that one day. This is not heroic, just wise. I have not been wise and thus I have often defined myself, both to myself and to others, by my illness. I am praying that I will stop doing this more and more in the months ahead.

Someone asked me this evening, at a funeral visitation for a mutual friend, "How are you?" I knew they meant physically but I answered, "You know I am doing well, not in every way, but I am learning to live today by grace and not to take tomorrow, or my health (good or bad), for granted." I cannot change some things. I can change how I respond to these things.