The Phantom of the Illness

“For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 116: 8-9).

My husband calls them phantoms. No, not “Phantom of the Opera.” The dictionary defines phantom as “a nonexistent person or thing, something elusive.” Phantoms can also be called unfulfilled dreams or lost opportunities. For those of us who have or live with someone who has chronic illness, they are our “if only” moments which often cause us to live life with regrets.

My husband was diagnosed 25 years ago with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS). We had two young children, ages 4 and 1, and I really wanted to have a third child. Prior to his diagnosis, we had no idea what disease was beginning to rob his body of his health and whether bringing a third child into our family was wise. We didn’t pray about decisions at that time, and we decided that we would not have a third child.

That is one of the phantoms, or unfulfilled dreams, I live with. Our children are now young adults pursuing their own lives. There are days when I think several times about that phantom–the third child. What I would be doing, where I would be, how my role as a mother would be different. If I play it out too long, I find myself in a state of sadness, regret, and sometimes depression.

Some of you may have elusive phantoms such as having a different house, having more income, or having a better career.

God does not want us to live a life of regrets wondering “if only”. . . (you fill in the blank). He wants us to be in the land of the living. He wants us to use our pain and struggles to encourage, reach out, and pray for others with chronic illness as only we can. He wants us to trust His wisdom, to ask Him to remove the phantoms created in our human minds, and to look for His many provisions in our lives.

Today, I know the decision not to have a third child was directed by God, even though we weren’t pursuing His answer. All four of our family members live with at least one chronic illness, and God knew we wouldn’t have the physical energy or financial resources to support more than the family He designed for us. Yes, my heart sometimes still aches, but God is in the business of healing the brokenhearted and binding our wounds.

Prayer: Lord, please help us to focus on what You have provided in our lives, not what has been taken away. Heal the pain and heartache of unfulfilled dreams, and show us a purpose in our pain that will be to Your glory. Amen

How many phantoms or unfulfilled dreams do you have in your life as a result of your chronic illness? How would your life be different if you gave those to God, asked him to heal your pain, and see His provisions in your life?

2 thoughts on “The Phantom of the Illness

  1. Your post today really convicted me. I was reflecting on all the things I’ve missed out on due to my husband’s illness and our circumstances yesterday and feeling pretty darn resentful and sorry for myself, basically. I had gotten my eyes off The Lord once again. Your words changed my focus. So, I wanted to say thank you, Jackie. I’ve subscribed to your site for both my husband, Vinny, and I knowing that there will be more wise words showing up in our emails now. Vinny is from the East Coast like you, so I’m sure he will receive your words of encouragement with open ears from a fellow Easterner. Love & Prayers for you and your family.


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