Activist with Chronic Illness

Amy Carmichael was born 100 years before me. She was an activist in every sense. She established an orphanage to rescue children in India. Some of the children were trafficking victims or those who were at risk to be prostituted in the temples for the benefit of the priests. Of course, it wasn’t called trafficking until recently, but that was the situation.

She also had neuralgia, chronic illness that caused her great distress. It actually sounds a lot like Lyme Disease. Terrible headaches, generalized pain and weakness that put her in bed for weeks at a time did not stop her. She wrote numerous books and articles. She went to great pains, literally, to rescue others.

I read her story to my children. I may have been impacted more than any of them. Despite her chronic illness, she served God with a focus I can only hope for.

When I was rescued, I promised to serve God and Bring my child(ren) up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. I poured everything I had into them. It wasn’t all good, but it was my very best. We provided home education with a strong emphasis on a Biblical worldview. The power of the Scriptures to change our lives was central.

There are teachers of the Word whose entire message is that by using Scripture anyone can get healed of anything, including Lyme Disease and chronic illnesses. With enough time, attention, and recitation in the Word, you get healing. It’s a profitable formula. I have seen many testimonials of God’s miracles. I believe He can do anything. I believe He sent His only begotten Son to fulfill the law and grant us Salvation.

Though some may call themselves “spiritual scientist” and see evidence of His miracles, I am not convinced that it is our working the Word that makes it happen. Would they say Amy Carmichael was ignorant of His Word or of His ability to heal? The idea that He would heal some and not others is certainly distressing and I do not have one platitude for you. It is what it is.

What then? Should we focus all of our energy on ourselves and wait for healing before we fulfill the call on our lives? I know I would have done nothing, ever. I do not remember any significant stretch of time when I was not in pain. That might have to do with memory as much as Lyme Disease and the child abuse, but in my experience, pain has been a constant. It often becomes overwhelming. It is often debilitating.

At times, cancelling plans is in order. Most often, it means careful evaluation of my calendar, so the plans are not made that cannot be fulfilled.

Most importantly, we must carefully prioritize. It is difficult to do, when all you want is a little relief from your suffering.

Amy Carmichael made the most of the times when she was well enough to get stuff done. She taught those around her how to take care of things when she wasn’t able. She got as much done as she could, when she could. There was no social media to distract her. She wrote books and letters and communicated directly with people at every opportunity. She inspired many people to set their own desires in second place to the call of God on their lives.

We have it so much easier than she did. We can write online and reach out to many people. It is important to note that nothing can take the place of direct human contact. You and I cannot be activists at home in our PJs. There are definitely important reasons to write, blog, podcast, vlog, and all of that, but to be an activist, we must do what we can, when we can, with whatever we have at the time.

There are lots of reasons to stay home with chronic illness and sometimes it is absolutely impossible to go out. When you can, though, do. At various times with Lyme we can plan. We plan to rest and recover around appointments or events. We plan restorative self care or interventions.

Last night, I committed to do a short talk to a small group of volunteers who work with youth.  It was extremely difficult. I had been suffering with a severe headache for days, vision disturbances, tremors, sleeplessness, temperature regulation problems, and frustration that the few commitments I’d made were still impacting others. I had to ask for a ride. There’s no telling if anyone would have been negatively impacted if I’d bailed, but I’m pretty sure I would have.

It also made me think of all the other activists with chronic illness. I know you’re out there… making a difference when you can with what you have. You are in good company. To all of the Amy Carmichael’s of the world, I solute you.


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