Faith is another one of those difficult to approach topics. When I refer to faith in this blog, I refer to religion. Specifically, I am referring to faith in G-d. In a 2016 study presented by Gallup.com 89% of people polled in the United States believe in G-d or a “universal spirit.”
Then when you are diagnosed with a chronic condition or scary illness, faith can waver. I’m someone who strongly believes in G-d, yet, there were many times I was angry with G-d for the major life changes that chronic pain and autoimmune disorders cause. I’m sure many of you can identify with this situation. Right now, G-d and I are on pretty decent terms and we have open communication, so things for me in that department are all good.
In an article entitled “Illness Doesn’t Equal Lack of Faith,” Suzanne Stewart, the author discusses that people that may be overzealous or “fundamentalists” (her quotations, not mine) will blame your diagnosis on your lack of faith in G-d, or a higher power. I can identify with this. I was once told, by an observant friend (I wasn’t as observant at the time), that life threatening illnesses are caused by your lack of faith in G-d. I was shocked. I had never heard such a thing. A few years later, I had moved away for graduate school and received a call from this friend. She called to let me know that her father passed away from a brief but terrible illness. My mind started racing. Despite this comment that my friend made, her family was kind, wonderful, and giving. They invited me for Sabbath and holy day meals all the time. Her father radiated nothing but kindness and now he was dead. I, of course, never mentioned what my friend had said in connection with her father, but I knew it couldn’t be true.
I’ve also been sent messages, since I’ve started blogging and posting articles on my Facebook page that I’m ill because I don’t accept Jesus as my savior. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m Jewish. At first I was angry at these people, but then realized it was a level of ignorance surrounding my faith. And, ignorance comes out strong with illness. I believe these people meant well, but their knowledge, biblical or otherwise was sorely lacking.
Stewart ends her article with the following statement: “I’m not here to judge any of these Faiths or beliefs, but I am here to say that nobody is sick because of their belief system or lack of faith. People don’t live with chronic pain day in and day out due to any Religious affiliations or lack thereof. We don’t use a cane, a wheelchair or a walker because we do not pray enough. It does not help a person with chronic pain and illness, to approach them and say any of the words that I’ve stated above. If you choose to pray for someone, then you can do that. But don’t try to push guilt and more pain onto anyone who’s already suffering. That doesn’t help, it only hurts and makes things much worse. Please try to remember to treat others as you would wish to be treated.”
We need to take this information to heart. As much as it feels like a punishment to have Fibromyalgia or any other chronic pain or autoimmune conditions, no one, including G-d, is punishing us. It took me a long time to recognize this, but my diagnosis lead me towards wonderful things including becoming a Fibromyalgia Advisor as well as making incredible friends who just happen to share the same disorder.
We also need to share this information with those who are giving unsolicited advice. Share this article with someone who might be doing this, and they may learn something from it.
I am very connected to my faith, but I don’t push it on anyone. If any of you are interested in learning how your faith can help you get through some of the tougher times with chronic illness, please free to drop me a line. I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon!
I’m Kate Straus and I’m a Certified Fibromyalgia Advisor. I help Jewish women feel confident in their ability to practice their faith while navigating the ups and downs of fibromyalgia. I’m using the disease that at one time knocked me down, to help support others live life to their fullest.