Chronic Illness and Spoonie Life: How to Accept and Love Yourself God’s Way

Chronic illness and life as a “spoonie” is demanding and debilitating. The chronic pain and limitations turn life upside down and hinder us from living the life we once envisioned. Yet there is a path forward. There is a way to still live full lives as we learn to accept and love ourselves God’s way.

Chronic illness and life as a "spoonie" is demanding and debilitating. The chronic pain and limitations turn life upside down and hinder us from living the life we once envisioned. Yet there is a path forward. There is a way to still live full lives as we learn to accept and love ourselves God's way. Join me in this article as I share God's truth about who you are, what it means to be a spoonie, and 14 ways to accept and love yourself God's way when you have a chronic illness.

I don’t always land in the soft place of acceptance and love for myself. I have a hunch you may not either. After all, when everything hurts and you are left to the quietness of broken plans and unmet dreams, it’s hard to keep your mind focused on what gives life.

Has your chronic illness left you feeling unworthy? Is it threatening to take over your identity or steal your dreams? Is it stepping all over your peace, joy, and hope as you battle the chronic pain and the frustrating limitations it’s putting on you?

Friend, you aren’t alone. There are many of us walking a similar journey with you. And even though it may not always “feel” like it, God is with you and will walk you through it.

And in case you are currently heaping all kinds of self-condemnation upon yourself, I implore you to please stop. Friend, Jesus gets it. He sees you struggling and wants to meet you there in the pain.

The truth is that we won’t always walk through this well. We will slip, fall, and make a big mess of things at times. But because we have a good God whose love is unfailing, He gently comes to us right where we are and lifts us out of our mess. He will never leave us where we fall. He wants to take us forward.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentatons 3:22-23

So, today, if a painful mess is what this all feels like for you, I want to encourage you. Come along with me as we learn to accept and love ourselves God’s Way as we live a “spoonie” life with chronic illness or pain.

If you’d like to read more about learning to love yourself God’s way join me for the series.

The Multi-Layered Challenges of Living With Chronic Illness

Living with a chronic illness is both physically and emotionally challenging. Although many advances have been made, pain in and of itself greatly remains a mystery.

Pain is loud. It doesn’t want to go unnoticed so it is hard to ignore. Focusing on other, more hopeful things in our lives is difficult. So, the pain pulls us into negative thought patterns which result in symptoms of depression, anxiety, worry, and/or fear.

In addition, we experience emotional pain from the loss of the activities and purposes that once gave us great joy. The outlets we once used to help manage stress are no longer an option and many of the people that once filled our lives have quietly disappeared. The emotional toll is steep. It only affirms the negative thought patterns and feelings of unworthiness and sadness. Life as we once knew it is gone and our souls grieve the loss.

What Is a “Spoonie”?

A”spoonie” is a term used to describe someone with a chronic illness derived from the “spoon theory”. It is a theory I’ve come to appreciate and one I consciously utilize to help me plan my days and live out this chronic illness journey as best I can. The Cleveland Clinic does a wonderful job of explaining the theory and providing additional resources to help you learn and grow.

“Enter spoon theory, developed in 2003 by writer Christine Miserandino. To explain how having lupus impacts her ability to perform daily tasks, Miserandino created an analogy about having a limited number of daily “spoons.”

People with chronic pain, she says, start each day with a set number of proverbial spoons, each one representing the physical and mental energy it takes to complete a daily task or activity. Smaller tasks, like showering or getting dressed, may cost only one spoon, while larger tasks, like cooking or vacuuming, may take three or four spoons. On days with increased pain, even smaller tasks may require multiple spoons.

“The spoon theory is a self-pacing strategy that emphasizes the need for chronic pain patients to work to a certain quota,” Dr. Tilahun says. “Patients have to be economical in how they spread the use of their spoons in their daily activity.”

Cleveland Clinic

I’m often guilty of doing too much on days I feel good. Then I pay the price by having several recovery days. I’ve found that the better I manage my good days by remembering my “spoons”, the better I feel in the long run. I can have more good days in a row and even though I accomplish much less than I once did, I can stay somewhat consistent and still enjoy so much of life.

It might be tough at times to accept and love yourself amidst the daily battles your condition presents. But remember, every struggle you overcome adds another layer to your resilience and courage. You are more than your condition; you are a light of hope and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Chronic illness and life as a "spoonie" is demanding and debilitating. The chronic pain and limitations turn life upside down and hinder us from living the life we once envisioned. Yet there is a path forward. There is a way to still live full lives as we learn to accept and love ourselves God's way. Join me in this article as I share God's truth about who you are, what it means to be a spoonie, and 14 ways to accept and love yourself God's way when you have a chronic illness.

14 Tips to Help You Accept and Love Yourself God’s Way When You Are a Spoonie Living With Chronic Illness or Pain

Here are my favorite strategies for living well with a chronic illness. These strategies will help you accept and love yourself God’s way and find purpose in and through your pain.

1. Lean on Your Faith: 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”

Let God’s power work in and through you. Soak in His grace and saturate your mind, heart, and soul with it. He is with you and for you. He is the provider of unveiled hope and the one who can do immeasurably more than we can imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)

2. Biblically Affirm Yourself With God’s Word: 1 Peter 2:9

“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.” – 1 Peter 2:9 The Message

Dig into God’s Word for Scriptures like these that speak LIFE! The more you know His Word, the more prepared you will be to fight negative, life-stealing, thought patterns.

Would you like a whole list of Biblical affirmations with correlating Scripture and prayer? You can find them in this post or subscribe using the form below to get your printable list.

3. Trust in God’s Plan for You: Psalm 138:8

“The Lord will work out his plans for my life— for Your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.”

Remember that God has a plan for each one of us. That includes those who are living with chronic illnesses. Trust in His plan for you and have faith that He will guide you through the challenges you face.

4. Practice Self-Compassion: Colossians 3:12

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

This Bible verse doesn’t only tell us how to treat others, but it tells us how to treat ourselves. God directs us to be gentle and kind to ourselves, acknowledging the difficulties that come with our condition without judgment or self-criticism. We must treat ourselves and others with the same love and grace that God shows us, knowing that we are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image (Psalm 119).

5. Connect with a Supportive Community: Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Connecting with others who are walking a similar journey helps us know we aren’t alone and it gives us a varied lens through which to see our life. Other spoonies who understand your experiences can offer empathy and encouragement. However, be sure the community you connect with speaks a good balance of truth and life. I’ve experienced wonderful support groups, but I have also found myself in situations that were more about negativity than about how to move forward and live well with a chronic illness.

Your support does not need to only come from a group. Stay connected to those who love you. It’s easy to pull away when life is hard. Have people in your life who are going to love you and call you out when your choices aren’t helping you. Make time for those who fill your emotional, physical, and spiritual tank.

6. Focus on What You Can Control: Colossians 3:23-24

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

Do your best and let God do the rest! The things you can’t control? Hand them over to God. Write each one on a notecard or piece of paper. Then symbolically let go of them. Get a little wooden cross and stick or nail the cards to the cross. Then put the cross somewhere you will see each day so that when you begin to go down a trail of worry, you can look at that cross as a reminder that those uncontrollables are in the capable hands of Jesus.

Then, turn your thoughts to what you can control, such as your mindset, faith journey, self-care routines, and seeking medical treatment.

7. Practice Gratitude: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Despite the challenges of living with a chronic illness, take time each day to reflect on the blessings in your life and express gratitude for the things that bring you joy and comfort. Cultivating a spirit of gratitude can help shift your perspective and remind you of the goodness that exists even amid pain and suffering.

If you’d like more resources to help you strengthen your gratitude muscle, try this article with Bible verses and prayer about gratitude, or my free 21-Day Biblical Gratitude Challenge.

8. Practice Self-Care: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

Yes, even your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. God created you the way you are and calls you wonderful. Chronic illness does not make you less valuable or wonderful. Throughout the Bible, we see examples of self-care. Jesus Himself took time away from crowds calling out to Him so that He could pray and rest.

Utilize the Spoonie Theory I described above. As you determine your spoons, you will begin to tune into your body and its needs. You will see what gives life and energy to you and what depletes you. Be sure to take the extra time to exercise (within your given limitations), eat well, and sleep.

9. Learn to Pivot and Adapt to Change: Ecclesiastes 3:1

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

My first experience with chronic pain was as a little girl. I have a disease called Cystinuria. It creates a rare form of kidney stones. I began passing these stones when I was around 8 years old. Only we didn’t know what the disease was at the time. The pain was debilitating, but I was able to pass the stones and then feel better for a chunk of time. That allowed me to live an active and athletic life for the most part.

Then in my 20’s things intensified. Instead of passing the stones, they’d grow in my kidney and obstruct it resulting in multiple surgeries, nephroscopy tubes, and life-threatening kidney infections. I was in and out of the hospital.

I had to learn to pivot. To find other passions and ways to be productive and engaged in life. I once found great joy in athletics, especially running. But now that all had to change. I could choose to pivot or remain stuck in a pit of victimhood.

Later, my disease improved again thanks to a new medication. I pivoted again to reengage in the sports and things I loved. However, it wasn’t too many years later that a new set of medical challenges developed and I once again pivoted. It was in that season that I began to write more and this ministry was born.

When we surrender our plans so that our hands are open to receive God’s plans, we discover new and wonderful passions and possibilities.

10. Know You Are Loved: Romans 8:38-39

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is difficult to grasp God’s deep love for us because we see love through the lens of our world. We understand love through the love we experience at the hands of our parents, siblings, family, friends, and partners. Sadly, those experiences are often marked with brokenness and pain which skews our thinking.

God’s love far surpasses any earthly love we have or will experience. Once we grasp that truth and we live loved, we see victory in our lives.

This Bible Study I wrote, You Are Loved. Now and Forever, is a resource to help you untangle earthly love versus God’s love and begin to embrace God’s unfailing love for you.

11. Discern Feelings From Truth: Romans 12:12

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Feelings and emotions are not a bad thing. They are indicators that alert us to something that needs attention. It may be something in ourselves that we need to adjust like jealousy or bitterness. Or it may be something in another that we need to acknowledge and address like a toxic person or behaviors.

But often, we confuse feelings with truth. Just because we feel something doesn’t mean it is true. We may feel things or experience thoughts like:

  • No one likes me.
  • I’m not good enough.
  • I don’t deserve love.
  • My spouse doesn’t love me.
  • I’m a bad parent.

But when we take a hard look at these feelings, we can see they are not true. For example, there may be a conflict of opinion with someone, but it’s not that they don’t like us. Or, our own struggle with confidence causes us to show up guarded, resulting in others being distant from us and us then feeling unlikeable. The truth is that we may have some issues to work through, but others like us. We just haven’t let those walls down.

Going to the Bible to see what God says about you is the way to contradict these untruths and to untangle the symptoms of the feelings from the facts that are actually creating the feelings.

12. Find a Therapist for Chronic Illness: Proverbs 24:6

“So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers.”

Navigating life with a chronic illness or chronic pain is complicated. Seek wisdom from a qualified Christian counselor. My counselor has helped me overcome so many struggles. There is no shame in seeking counsel. In fact, it is wise to do so!

13. Allow Yourself to Grieve: Psalm 34:18

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”

When chronic illness comes calling, there is deep loss. And wherever there is loss, there is grief. Grief isn’t something we can ignore or stuff. We must walk through it as it comes in waves. But the Lord knows and He is close to you in your grief. He promises to rescue you and God never goes back on a promise.

14. Pray: Philippians 4:6-7

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Friend, your hope is in Jesus. To access that hope, you need a relationship with Him. You cannot have a relationship with someone you do not talk to. The same goes for Jesus. Talk to Him about everything. Talk about your frustrations, praises, hopes, confusions, and anything else that comes to mind. That’s what prayer is — talking to Jesus. Connect deeply with Him through prayer, praise, worship, and time in His Word.

Join Me for the Series: Loving Yourself God’s Way in All Seasons and Situations

How to Love Yourself God’s Way: Biblical Affirmations Inspired by Jesus

Finding Hope in Failure: 7 Uplifting Bible Verses to Find Strength in Failure

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  1. Gina Weeks says:

    Your words encouraged my heart and spirit today, especially as a fellow spoonie and sister in Christ. God bless you, my dear friend.

    Gina 🦋