Friday, January 2, 2009

When small is not small

Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy. --Proverbs 14:10

Small problems are not small to the chronically ill. Why? Because their entire lives are defined by and lived within physical and psychological and spiritual problems--that do not go away. So, when a new ailment breaks in, or a little thing goes wrong, or someone misunderstands them, they may breakdown and curse the day of their birth.

For normal folks, this seems uncalled for or absurd. Why the temper tantrum? It only seems absurd to you because you do not live inside that person's body. You have not experienced the aching pains of their soul. Things may bounce off you; they stick and prick the chronically ill.

Keep this in mind next time you are tempted to lecture your Lupus-enfeebled or chronically fatigued, or chemical and environmentally sensitized friend or family member when they "lose it over nothing." It is not nothing to them. "Love is patient and kind," writes the Apostle Paul.

How I need to learn this lesson!


  1. This is so true. I struggle with depression and some unidentified physical health problems, and it can just take something really small to send me over the edge. It's so frustrating - I know it's irrational to react so emotionally to something like getting a parking ticket or some small criticism, but it's often just the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.

    Thanks for this blog, Douglas. It's encouraging to know that I'm not alone.

  2. Dr. Groothuis, I want to say thank you for this blog. I never realized that many sufferers of chronic illness and pain experience similar types of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual struggles. It must be, because every post you've posted feels like it could have been written by me (although yours are written with much more intellectual clarity than I could probably muster!). And the encouragement this blog has brought is much needed and much appreciated. May God bless you and your wife, and may His grace by with you. Both of you are in our prayers.

  3. On the flip side of the coin, the small victories are awesome as well.

    A day spent feeling well enough to cook a meal or go to the grocery store can be a blessing not understood by a person who takes those things for granted.

  4. This Proverb, more than most, speak to the large need for grace extended to others of whom we cannot begin to understand how they feel. I wrote an entire essay on Proverbs 14:10.