Then it has secondary effects. These are not symptoms of the disease, but problems caused by those symptoms. A good example is that a change in gait can cause physical problems with knees and hips. Poor balance results in falls. Poor bladder function leads to UTI’s, urinary tract infections.
Then there are secondary benefits. I’ve discussed some of those in a previous post, not all in complete seriousness.
An even further abstracted issue can manifest itself as either a problem or blessing. That’s an MS patient’s relationship with himself. (Forgive the sexist pronoun usage; it’s just a matter of practicality, not an inference of value. It also makes it more personal since I am, after all, a Guy.) When living with MS – and probably any other serious illness – we tend to become either more selfish or more selfless.
Being sick, there is tremendous temptation to make it all about me. I think about dealing with and treating my condition. I want others to understand, so I tell them about it, i.e. talk about myself more. I need accommodation so I seek people and situations to bend to my needs.
None of this is bad in moderation. Chronically ill people need accommodation, compassion, care, and treatment. The problem is that such a self-centered attitude, if allowed to run rampant and become a permanent character trait, is not only emotionally unhealthy, it can – from my personal experience – make matters worse physically. Self-obsession, if I may be more blunt, makes people unhappy. (There’s a whole ‘nother post coming on that topic.) As I’ve said at other times, this is not only scientific truth, it was described as such in scripture ages ago.
Somehow, though, others manage to turn that situation on its head. Instead of giving in to selfishness, their trials help them develop selflessness. You might have met these people. They have no interest in talking about themselves or their conditions; they’re interested in you. They deal with their condition through service to others.
Just recently, I heard someone describe a study that showed service brings more benefit to the helper than the helpee. Sound familiar? Jesus said it a couple thousand years ago: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It’s another truism that happens to be true. Science, as it so often does, is just catching up with Divine Truth.
If you’re suffering through chronic illness or anything, ask yourself this, “Am I happy?” If you are, great! If not, take a soul check: Are you obsessed with yourself? Are you a me-monster? Are you serving only yourself?
Take a look around. There’s a whole world out there. It’s bigger than you and it’s waiting to be known, experienced, and served. Living in and for yourself is no fun. We were created to be part of a community of love, acceptance, and service. Jesus taught it and lived it. It still works.