Recently, and not for the first time either, I was grilled by a church member about my husband’s health. I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt, and say they were making well-meaning inquiries. However, the specifity of the questioning, such as — “how many hours is he in pain a day?” — followed by the comment, “but he looks so good” (which many, many chronically ill people hear with great frequency), gave me reason to doubt his motives. This man was digging for information and not making a helpful inquiry. It has happened before. It will happen again.
Walking around your church are chronically ill friends. Unlike a cancer diagnosis, symptoms may be confusing and irregular. Autoimmune diseases can go into temporary remission and lay low for a while. Or a treatment may provide regular relief. But individuals are like snowflakes with no two alike. And sometimes, even their disease can behave differently for a time. What you as a friend need to do is listen, pray, and believe your friend when they tell you they have miserable pain or their immune system is really wiped out at the time.
Don’t be a chronic “investigator” or “commentator”. While you may hear of a potentially helpful treatment, feel free to mention it. Please don’t be offended if your friend doesn’t choose to try it. You have no idea how many treatments or diet plans they have tried in the past, and it is NOT your job to make sure they try yours.
While a chronically ill friend may look good, be assured they went to special effort to do so. My husband loads up on pain meds to be able to travel and fellowship with our church family, and especially to enjoy the means of grace. I do most of the driving so that he can relax and try to enjoy the day. He is a people person and is enlivened by great fellowship. I am the one who gets to see his “poopy” side and the crashes that often happen after travels.
As the wife of a chronically ill husband, I do not want to have to deal with detailed questions from people who are not my closest friends. Most often I will answer general questions generally. I very much appreciate those who do ask how we are doing and quite simply state they are praying for us.