Coping, Acceptance, Recovery, and New Purpose


Every person throughout history has had to cope with life. Whether that life is easy or hard, it is never perfect. Contending with life can get exponentially harder when you factor in unending physical challenges, especially invisible disabilities or unpredictable conditions.

Let’s define coping with physical challenges by adapting the dictionary meaning:

1) to struggle or deal with the problems with some degree of success;

2)to face and deal with responsibilities, problems, or difficulties in a calm or adequate manner.

Cooperation with your body helps. What can you do? What can you not do? How can you adapt what needs to be done to your new abilities?

Answering these questions aid you in dealing with your new life in a calm, adequate, and somewhat successful manner.

Coping with physical challenges

Can I really cope?

Coping and Acceptance

Coping does not equal acceptance! You can cope without truly accepting. I did for many years. I cooperated with my body because it didn’t hurt as much. Maybe because it took so many years to diagnose my problems, I don’t know. But, I was always looking for the next doctor to find a way to take it away, or for God to heal it. I didn’t like my life this way (although there was fun along the way) and I wanted it to change.

Acceptance takes coping a step further. How in the world can we accept a life radically different than what we had — or what we had planned? We have to admit and acknowledge our losses - that life is different for the remainder of our lives. (This assumes that you’ve explored any possibilities of improvement or change.) Give yourself permission to accept your new life.

CRITICAL to remember: Being able to cope well does not equal acceptance of major losses!

Coping and Recovery

Do you - or others - say, “All I have to do is recover?” Jerry Sittser proposed an answer that really spoke to me, helping me to come to a fuller acceptance. He had to recover after a drunk driver caused the deaths of three family members. He concluded: “. . . I believe that “recovery” from such loss is an unrealistic and even harmful expectation, if by recovery we mean resuming the way we lived and felt prior to the loss. Instead, the book [A Grace Disguised] is intended to show how it is possible to live in and be enlarged by loss, even as we continue to experience it.”

Redefining recovery puts one well on the way to finding new purpose, and that is a large part of acceptance which makes coping with your losses easier.

Coping and Finding New Purpose

A starting place is to examine your previous life. What did you do? Did you enjoy it? Can it be adapted to your new capabilities? What were your hobbies and interests? Maybe they were endeavors you never had time for, but now you do. Maybe you have to find a completely new purpose. But always remember: you are important just because you’re you. Look around for the positive results that come from your being alive.

For real-life examples of people who are on their way to finding new purpose, see the Activities and Re-Purposed Lives pages.

Object Lesson: Ability to Cope Never Fully Learned

Grocery shoppingToday it seems a joke that I’m writing a page about coping. I had “have-to” shopping still to do long after I had drained my strength. I could tell my strength had departed by the difficulty of coping with other shoppers. When it hurts to move my muscles, I get very grouchy and touchy. Toward the end, my right leg refused to work. So, how did I cope? By getting upset when things didn’t go exactly as I wanted when I wanted. Not being nice to strangers. Even by griping at my very loving husband. An object lesson showing that coping may be learned but can be hard to practice!

Exploring Four Main Areas of Coping

Emotionally, see Emotional Help


It's too hard to cope alone!

Spiritually. see God Connections

Relationally, see Relational Issues

Practically, see Practical Ideas

Missing out When You Have a Chronic Illness (Part 1)

Our note: Below, find parts 1 and 2 dealing with the painful subject of how to cope when you can’t do what others do. See coping from a Christian angle. This article is written by Ally, of Chronically Constant, a teenager with serious chronic illnesses.

Last week a lot of the students in my youth group went to New York City on a service trip. They got to minister to the homeless and share the gospel with people who need Jesus. I, on the other hand, spent most of my week in bed. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. My Chronic illnesses frequently cause me to miss out on things my healthy peers are doing. Honestly, missing out on so many things is the absolute HARDEST part of my chronic illness. Everyone around me seems so energetic and active, while I often feel like I am not able to do much at all. I’m sure that everyone living with chronic pain and/or chronic illness has felt like this at least once. I know firsthand how difficult and saddening it is to miss out due to my illnesses, but as a Christian I don’t have to stay in the sadness and heartache. Neither do you. Keep reading and join with me in exploring how God calls us to think about and react to missing out.

  1. Run from jealousy

It is natural to feel sad when we miss out. It is also natural to desire to be able to do things that others are doing. God doesn’t call us to stop feeling anything, but to follow Him (and not our emotions) with the strength that He gives us. The danger arises when our natural grief escalates into sinful envy.  When we think of jealousy, we usually think of coveting other peoples’ money, social status, or appearance. But as chronically ill people, our jealousy can be directed toward other peoples’ health. Again, it is normal to want to be healthy. That is not a sin. However, it becomes a sin when we idolize health and grow resentful toward those who are healthier than us.
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God never intended for our pain to send us into lock-down mode. Our suffering should not be a hindrance to ministry, but a springboard for serving others. Our pain should not blind us from the wounds of others, but help us see them more clearly. Looking past our own hurts in order to reach out to others is a challenge, but it’s so worth it! And who knows, maybe you’ll make some new friends along the way. I pray that God will give us all the ability to notice the opportunities we still have, the grace to be content, and the strength to reach out to others as we deal with the difficulties of missing out.

©Ally, 2017. Follow Ally at Chronically Constant. Missing Out: Part 1, Part 2

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