Religion and spirituality can be a great source of comfort for people who are going through a hard time or dealing with chronic health issues. They can also be incredibly damaging and harmful if presented in the wrong way.
Sometimes well-meaning people say really stupid things. Over the years, I’ve heard such sentiments as, “God never gives you more than you can handle” and, “This is happening for a reason.” I couldn’t disagree more. Sometimes there is no reason and most importantly, nothing evil or harmful ever comes from God. If your God makes you ill, find a new God.
We sometimes need to correct our mental image of God when we are facing illness. Here are some important points to keep in mind. They have helped me cope and still maintain my spirituality.
God did not make you sick. No matter what your religious affiliation, any God that gives you an illness because he/she/it loves you is the equivalent to the abused partner being told they are being beaten by their spouse because they are loved. If that’s the case, then that’s not love. Toss this image out.
For me, God does not will anyone’s suffering and God does not give people diseases or disorders. I am not a theologian or religious leader, but as far as I can tell, we live in a universe that is free. People are free and so are viruses, bacteria, and the cells in our body– sometimes they misbehave.
God does not blame you for your illness. Since God did not make you sick; God does not blame you for your illness. We get down on ourselves wishing we could do more or be more, ect. The people in our lives might think we should be trying harder or taking a certain course of action that doesn’t work for us. I think God has more compassion and acceptance than humans do.
Prayer can be helpful. Sometimes prayer can cure illness instantaneously, but more than likely, what prayer does is open your mind to guidance. You are lead to helpful doctors or support groups. You come across insightful books and people. You find the inner strength to get through the day when you thought you couldn’t. You find a medication that helps you a little. God is always on the side of good and healing, even if that healing takes place over long periods of time.
Healing is not always going back to the way it was before. Healing does not always mean that everything will be erased and perfect as it was before. Healing can take on many forms. Be open to the different ways it can come.
A toxic religious community will only make you worse. You may have a hard time breaking with tradition, but if you continue to stay in a church or religious community that is very toxic, you will only get worse — mentally and spiritually. Find a place of worship or spiritual group that is kind, loving and accepting of you and your disability full stop. No hidden agenda.
Our universe is a mystery. Suffering is a mystery. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that if God exists, it’s in the form of love, hope, healing and peace. Anything less is not a god worthy of worship.