Who are We to Judge?

I went to get my hair done at the salon the other day. Done as in–getting my ridiculously crazy amount of  gray hair colored. It is the one toxic thing that I refuse to give up. And believe me, I’ve given up a lot. If I had a few gray hairs—hmmm, maybe. But I have an enormous amount for my age. I would age fifteen years if I went all natural. Not happening, folks. I have enough going on with my body to make me feel prematurely old.

But this isn’t about feeling old or the toxic effects of hair dye. It’s about something the girl who does my hair said to me in light of the fact that I’m a Christian that didn’t sit well with me. My hairdresser knows that I have been dealing with joint pain and asked how I was doing. Initially, I gave her the same answer I give most people, which is–great. Because deep in my heart, I am, and I just didn’t feel like getting into it. But she persisted with sweetness and light and asked how I was really doing. Sigh… so, I felt compelled to be honest.

I kept it short and simple and told her that I was trying out some med.s and was seeing some improvements and experiencing some setbacks, and was taking it one day at a time. She smiled sweetly and said, “Isn’t it great that we have a God that can part a sea and crumble a mountain and it’s nothing to Him.”

(Oh dear God, I thought–where is she going with this?) I agreed and smiled.

And then she finished by saying, “And isn’t it great that we have a God that can heal your disease and it’s nothing for Him to do that if he wants. And it’s not terminal what you have, right?”

Ah, there it is…He can heal me if He wants to.

And what? It’s not terminal? Why not just say–what are you complaining about–at least you haven’t been told you only have a few months to live.

What she said stung a little. It felt as if she brushed aside my reality. And what I heard was–you should be grateful, at least you don’t have XYZ.

But for me, she really dropped the bomb with the healing comment.

I believe the God of the Bible is a God of miracles, signs and wonders. Do I believe He can heal me if He wants to? Why yes, I do. Have I prayed for healing? Yes, of course. Am I banking on healing? At this point, honestly, no. Does this mean that I am lacking in faith? Does it mean that I am not praying and believing hard enough? For me, the resounding answer is no. Of course not.

But I’m certainly keeping hope alive.

I have been trying to figure out why her comment bothered me so much. I mean, after all, I am glad that He is a God capable of healing and I know her intentions were well-meaning. But I can’t imagine saying the same thing to someone else. What if He doesn’t choose to heal you? What if that isn’t His will for you? Where does it leave someone in the eyes of those that believe in God’s healing power when you aren’t healed? This seems to be where the problem lies for me. Unfortunately, it all too often leaves one under someone else’s judgement. And who are we to judge?  Who are we to assume the role of our Savior, God Almighty sitting on the throne?

Isn’t it enough that many of us have to deal with the judgement that a lack of knowledge and understanding of autoimmune diseases brings into our lives? You know the saying, “But you don’t look sick.” Or the idea that we are not willing ourselves to wellness hard enough. (I’ve tried to kick my own butt to get my body to behave! But currently it is still misbehaving.) But some people act as if you are dealing with an illness or a tragedy that they have the right to inspect your life and your faith.

My faith in His perfect plan for my life is what gets me through each day. It’s what keeps me going when the pain is at it’s worst. He is the One I can come crying and complaining to without fear of judgement and receive peace and comfort in return. And this disease has brought me closer to Him. But as a result of what’s going on with my body, I’ve had close friends evaluate not only my faith, but my life.

What also troubles me is that when someone judges one’s situation in life in relation to their faith, they are ultimately judging the will of God as well. I might be in the situation I’m in physically for a million different reasons according to His plan. But He hasn’t forgotten about me. He knows exactly what is going on with my body every second of the day. He is the only One who knows exactly how I feel and why I am feeling the way I do. And He has a plan for my life that is outside the realm of anything I could dream or imagine. And if someone questions why I haven’t been healed, they are in essence questioning God’s will and purpose for me.

I think we all struggle with judging each other in one form or another. I know I do. It’s our sinful, human nature. We just have to be careful how it can impact our relationships, even when we might be well-meaning.

Here are a few other comments I think only the person suffering should be allowed to say:

1. It is part of God’s plan/purpose for your life.

2. He is using it to make you stronger.

3. God is going to use this for good someday.

4. I know how you feel. My so and so is a Christian and has (fill in the blank).

5. At least it’s not as bad as (fill in the blank). (Err, um, a terminal illness?!)

6. At least you’ll get a new body in heaven one day.

7. You can use your experience to minister to someone else.

Although many of these statements are true, and are often said with good intentions, they belittle what a person is going through. I’ve often struggled with what to say to those who have been diagnosed with a disease, lost a loved one, lost a job, experienced a tragic accident, etc. I’ve often been at a loss and have probably said the wrong things at times. No, scratch that. I’m sure I’ve said the wrong things at the wrong times.

I’ve since concluded though that usually the best thing to say is simply, “I’m so sorry.” And then just listen. People usually like to talk about what they are experiencing if your heart is in the right place and you simply listen.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. -Romans 12:15 (NIV)



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18 thoughts on “Who are We to Judge?

  1. I am not a religious person, but I have always admired your devotion. I believe we are all where we need to be and if we accept that, it makes the journey so much easier. That doesn’t mean we don’t wish it was different at the time. I know for me that RA coming into my life has been a struggle, but I am also thankful each day for its presence because I have grown and learned so much about myself, my family and our world.

    You are doing a great job! I always enjoy reading your new posts and learning from you. And I agree. I think the best thing to say is “I am sorry.” I think just knowing people care is enough.

    BTW, your hair is gorgeous.

    • You are too sweet, Cathy. Thanks for the compliment. You make such a great point about all of us being where we need to be regardless of our beliefs. It’s so true that walking the walks we are on causes us to grow and learn so much about ourselves. So, so true. I’ve seen the best and the worst in me come out as a result of my body going on hiatus. But I’ve also seen the best of my family and friends come out. I always love hearing your insights. You are such a blessing! Hope your weekend is wonderful.

  2. I totally agree. This is why I have so much trouble telling people. I know that they will judge. I appreciate comments that are supposed to make me feel better (coming from a healthy person) but often they don’t.

    • It’s sad, isn’t it? That we often don’t tell people because of how they will judge us. I have trouble telling people too. It’s usually easier to keep what’s going on to myself.

  3. I’m so sorry for the thoughtless comments that came your way. And thanks for taking on such a sensitive topic. As a Christian, we are in the in-between place of the Kingdom of God. It’s here in part but the perfect is yet to come. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom into people’s lives…forgiveness, healing, etc. But we still live in a fallen world where suffering continues. Yes, I believe that God can heal and I’ve seen first hand a few dramatic healings (cancer, stroke and diabetes). But I’ve seen many (actually most) situations where people weren’t healed including myself (trust me, I’ve been prayed for many times). I’m so thankful that most of the fellow believers in my local church don’t get so caught up in judging people for what happens or doesn’t happen to them. That is the fruit of the Spirit evident in the life of a believer.

    I’m mourning with you. Andrew

    • Great to hear your perspective, Andrew. I always appreciate your comments. I like that–“the in-between place”. It certainly gives one hope to know that something perfect and beautiful is in store for our bodies. But it doesn’t always make living in our current fallen world any easier. You make an excellent point about the fruit of the Spirit being at work in some more than others. Something for me to remember in regard to the judgements I struggle with myself.

      Thank you for your compassion. Blessings to you and your family.

  4. I confess to telling you what and what not to do.
    Please, pray that I will be a better listener and I pray that you will continue to find the words to express yourself. Thank you for helping me see through your eyes and ears. Love, Mom

    • Mom,

      Your comment just about broke my heart. I almost didn’t know whether to even post it. But it showed such a precious and beautiful spirit that I had to.

      You have nothing to confess. You are THE BEST listener. You are one of my biggest cheerleaders and prayer warriors. I can’t imagine walking this path without you in my life. I have been blessed beyond measure by your love and support. I know you would do anything for me and there is nothing more a daughter could hope for in a mother.

      Please let me make something very, very clear. This post was not in any way shape or form directed at anything you have ever said to me. You never crossed my mind for even a nano second when I wrote this. Several people did, however. It was good to write this post (as much as I didn’t want to) because it brought a lot of people and situations to mind and helped me process all of it and turn it over to God.

      I value your suggestions and insights because I know your heart and the love you have for your daughters. So keep them coming! Epsom salt baths–you were the first to suggest! Love ’em and I’m lovin’ my new jar of shea butter. Doesn’t do a lick for my joints, but my skin sure loves it. πŸ™‚ And now that I have psoriasis to add to the list, I am so glad to have my hands on this creamy concoction. And since you were an OT, I really want to hear all that you know about keeping stiff joints mobile. I think of you every time I stretch my fingers and toes. Oh, and I need to get some of the pepper cream you were mentioning. I keep forgetting. Recently read that it can help take the edge off. And Lord knows, if I could stay off my feet during the day it would certainly help with inflammation. πŸ™‚ I hope you get the point. Don’t stop the helpful suggestions. You are only trying to make my life better!

      Thank you for loving me and showing me in countless ways.

  5. I just had to write when I read your post. My husband Tom has had RA for 14 years, and the last three have been a really, really difficult struggle, so much so that Tom no longer works full-time.

    I completely understand what you’re saying about people judging you and your illness; I have struggled both this type of judgment and with the big question of why God allows my husband’s suffering and or anyone’s for that matter.

    I struggled so deeply with this question, and why my prayers for Tom’s healing seemed fruitless, that I stopped believing in God for a few years. My wonderful parish priest, however, gave some great advice. He told me that I should continue coming to mass and continue to in my various church ministries: lector, Eucharistic minister, and music minister. He said it was even more important now to stay close to God through these ministries.

    He also told me that even he struggled with the question of why God allowed suffering in the world, but that in his long experience with those who suffered, he had seen grace in the lives of those who suffered and those who cared for them. He also shared some specific stories of people who endured great suffering who many years later came to realize how that suffering had worked in their lives to effect change in them or those around them.

    At any rate, I just wanted to tell you that I understand how you’re feeling. I have learned to tell people what I need and don’t need from them where Tom’s condition is concerned. I appreciate their concern always, but I will often acknowledge and thank people for their concern, then tell them that I’d rather not discuss it. This keeps me sane because only those of us who have this disease and those of us who love and live with those have this awful disease truly understand the difficult path we’re on.

    My husband’s illness has humbled me greatly, but it has also taught me some wonderful lessons: greater compassion for all those who suffer; the true meaning of the commitment I made to him 21 years ago; and gratitude for every minute and every day.

    Perhaps these realizations are some of the fruits of grace I have received through my husband’s suffering.

    • Mary Jo,

      This is so beautiful, what you’ve said. It is so wonderful to hear from someone who is suffering alongside a loved one. I don’t think we hear from the other side enough. You are a precious testimony to what devotion and love look like.

      Thank you for sharing your struggles and your realizations. We have a lot to learn from someone who has walked the road you have for so long. You often have to be the pillars of strength when we are not and I can only imagine the burden that must place on someone spiritually and physically. Praise God for the words and encouragement your priest gave you.

      Thank you for letting me know you understand. It’s so wonderful to hear from people that do. I am still finding my way when it comes to who and what I tell people. Some days I want to tell everyone and just get it over with. Other days, I am so glad that I haven’t shared my condition or my blog with everyone in my life.

      How is Tom doing lately? Any signs of progress?

      Many blessings to you both. You are in my prayers.

  6. Ooh, that comment would have made me fuming mad.

    I would say I am a religious person, although I don’t always know for certain what I believe. I spend a lot of time thinking and wondering, especially about the intersection of faith and illness. The idea that God could heal you if he wanted to and “just doesn’t feel like it”, or that you could be healed if you just believed “properly,” seems terribly cruel to me.

    You’re right – there are some things only the person with the illness can truly understand or say.

    • I think I was too stunned by the comment to get upset initially. You know? But then, the emotional wheels started to turn. Writing about it definitely helped.

      The onset of my illness has certainly caused me to do a lot of thinking and wondering as well. I used to wonder why God, why me, why now and what in the world are you going to do with this. One of the things that He spoke to my heart in a quiet moment once was that I don’t need to know why. I just need to trust Him and know that He loves me. One thing I do know is that Christ has already endured the ultimate pain through death so I don’t have to. It has given me great peace.

  7. First off, I would be finding a new salon if I were you. That would be much easier than punching her the next time you see her (and you wouldn’t have that pesky police record from punching her).

    Secondly, she should live just one day with what we have. Healthy people have no idea about the pain we endure even on a good day.

    Thirdly, and most importantly, was she challenging God or your faith? I’m nowhere near where I should be as a christian (I still drink a beer occasionally and need to clean up my vocabulary), but it’s not just about asking God to heal me and if you’re living right, bam, you’re healed. I initially prayed to die, I had never hurt so bad in my life day after day. After I started getting better, I just prayed for God’s will to be done with me. Since then, I have been approached by several people, mostly co-workers, who know someone who has just been diagnosed with RA and want me to talk with them. I always do, most recently, 3 weeks ago, I talked with a girl who was just diagnosed the week before I talked to her. This may seem stupid to some, but I feel that this is what God wants me to do since people are approaching me.

  8. You are too funny, Terry. I’m thinking a rap sheet might not be a good thing for me right now. I can just hear the reporter on the six o’clock news–crazy mother of four boys unhappy with her hair….

    You asked a good question about what she was actually challenging.

    That’s so awesome, I pray the same thing now. Lord, your will be done. If it means that I live in pain the rest of my life–your will be done. If it means healing one day–well, party at my house!

    I think it’s incredible that you have been able to share your experience with people. I’m sure you are a huge encouragement! God is definitely using you! And you are also an incredible testimony to people that life goes on through your blog.

    Great to hear from you as always, Terry. And to be honest, I’m just tickled to know that my brother is a Christian too. πŸ™‚

  9. This hits close to home. The other comment that stings is the one, “well maybe you’ve done something and God is punishing you…”

    I believe God isn’t finished using us yet. Maybe we’re doing something right because He has chosen us as the ones to be challenged by this disease? Something I often wonder.
    HUGS!

  10. Hey- I know I’m months behind, but I’m just getting caught up in my blog-reading and read this post. Thanks for sharing, both your frustrations and your alternative ways of thinking, for lack of a better description.

    I got diagnosed with lupus a few years ago, after months of having “nothing wrong.” A few weeks later, I was praying and I told God, “I know you can heal me, and I have no doubt in my mind. But I don’t know if you will. So if you choose not to, please use this part of my story for your glory.” Leaving room for faith and hope while also not banking on it.

    When people give me a hard time about it, I remind them that the apostle Paul also had some unknown chronic illness, and he prayed earnestly for healing three times. What was God’s reply? “My grace is sufficient.” If it was a good enough answer for Paul, I guess it’s good enough for me!

    Again, thanks for your honesty and testimony for Christ, even when it’s a little harder to explain.

  11. Jami,

    I am so glad to meet you! (And you are not the only one behind. I’m right there with you!) You have quite an incredible testimony and more to deal with than I could possibly imagine. There’s a fashion blogger that I follow that is in her 20’s that has lupus. In her “about” section she says something to the effect that she began her blog in part to give lupus the middle finger. Nice.

    Thanks so much for your comment. It was wonderful to hear from you and I love what you said about Paul. It sure is comforting to know that a man that walked beside Christ was not relieved of his illness. And what a precious reminder of what we have already been relieved of. I’ll take being relieved of the gates of hell over being relieved of a chronic disease any day. Praying this finds you in good spirits today.

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