A Ministry or a Friend?

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Gentle Reader,

This post is going to touch a nerve, but I feel that the topic needs exploring. Before you read any further, please know that it is not directed at any specific person.

I recently heard the phrase, “Most people are a ministry. Some people are friends.” The words were utterly profound to me. Most people are going to require you to pour into them, and that’s okay. You just can’t expect them to pour into you – and so you need to find some who understand the give and the take of a relationship. Being able to discern the difference actually frees you up to love everyone you come into contact with, because you’ll have realistic expectations of who they are.

This is especially significant to me right now as I finally begin to face and admit to the changes that have taken place in my life over the last year I have lived under the cloud of Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. (There is now some suspicion that Fibromyalgia is also involved. I have either been misdiagnosed or there’s a whole lot of messiness going on up in this here body). You would think I would have adjusted to this by now, but I haven’t.

Would you like to know why?

I have spent the last year trying to managing other people’s reactions. There have been shifts in relationships that I haven’t been able to understand. I’ve tried to keep the talk about the sickness to a minimum; many people are uncomfortable being around the chronically ill. I’ve tried to keep on going with life as it always has been, the best that I can.

I realize now that this is just a sneaky form of lying.

I need to be able to talk about being sick and the emotional, spiritual and mental issues that come with that. Most of the time when someone asks how I’m doing, I’ll say, “Sleepy.” While that’s a true statement, it’s not the full truth. Other words roll around in there, like “confused,” “distraught,” “in pain,” “isolated,” and “hurting.” Yet I keep my mouth shut.

I think it’s because I don’t know the difference between someone who is a ministry and someone who is a friend. While I don’t want to be the sort who natters on endlessly about every little bump in the road (I do have interests other than this illness), I do need to be able to be honest. That starts with trusting people, which is rooted in discernment, which is found in God alone.

We all need to belong. We all need friends. We all need that place where it’s okay to take off the mask, where we don’t have to be “on” all the time. Unfortunately, that place isn’t always there. Or it’s not in the location we assume it to be. I do thank God that I always belong with Him. I always fit. I never have to be “on.”

I don’t know if this is making sense to anyone other than myself, but chronic illness leaves scars that people just don’t talk about. The bald truth of it is that people often abandon the sick when the sick need them most. Why is that? Can we not get past our own petty problems (let’s face it: a good deal of our problems really are petty)? Are we utterly incapable of reaching out in compassion? Can we not see past the ends of our own noses? Or is it worse than that – are our relationships really all about us? When we stop getting what we want/need from that other person, are we happily willing to walk away?

I’ve been very convicted about this myself. As someone who knows the pain that chronic illness brings, I should be very willing to reach out to those who are suffering – and yet I’m often not.

Who is a ministry? Who is a friend?

I know I need to learn to tell the difference.

My journey to faith. (15)


5 thoughts on “A Ministry or a Friend?

  1. Thank you for putting into words things I have felt for years. People don’t understand, that is for sure. I lost my job because of chronic illness, because people didn’t understand I can’t give 120%, 100% of the time! I did my best, did what I had to do, but at times could not go over and above what was needed because of pain and fatigue. I always, always accomplished the tasks I had to get done and put the required hours in, and didn’t complain. But, when I was expected to work more hours, I could not do that, so was treated very poorly for a few months, then just ‘laid off.’ It’s sad how people can treat those of us who live with fibro/chronic fatigue…they think it’s all in our heads and if we would just go work out, or do something in our lives different, it will all go away. I have, and it doesn’t. Yes, there are times it improves, but it never goes away.

    Like you, it’s not something I talk about. As a matter of fact, I share it as little as possible because I know most people instantly judge me. I was very much left alone when I was the worst in my health a couple years ago. You very much find out who your real friends are when going through chronic illness.

    Thanks for putting a voice to the way I feel, as well. There is definitely a HUGE difference between a ‘ministry’ person and a ‘friend!’ Always here if you need to talk, ok??


  2. Thanks for the post on a touchy subject Marie,

    My best friend has progressive MS and has been in a nursing home now for a year and is not yet 50. I have watched over the years as her condition worsened, as she struggled against every loss. She has lost a lot of friends over the years. Through all this, I guess she has been a “ministry” a lot of the time, but when things are really rough for me she is there to listen to me and to validate my feelings.


  3. Thought provoking, thank you.

    I think that the more successful we are at humility, the more we are filled with His grace and the less we need to be filled by others.

    That’s not to say I’m there yet!

    I’m not sure I can think of a division between sorts of people, though I think I understand what you’re getting at. The longer I live, the more I realize that all give to me and when the gift is unpalatable – it is probably what I needed most of all. The hurtful or distasteful reactions probably offer me the most opportunity to learn, to repent of my own judgmentalism, to question the whys of all my choices and offer the pain of it for the use of God.

    That’s not to say I’m there yet!

    I share your tendency to say little about how I am – and I realize that while it is on the surface a good thing, sometimes it does someone a disservice — how can I think they will understand if I have presented a false picture? That balance between an honest answer and an onerous one is still something with which I struggle after more than 20 years.

    No, I am not there yet nor can I get there on my own.

    The grace of perseverance to the end is one I ask for along with all the graces He will share with me – for I am greedy and do want to do better.

    Sorry for the ramble. See? You got me thinking!




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