10 Ways to Reach Out to a Family with Chronic Illness

By Rachel Lundy

Does one of your clubbers come from a family that is affected by chronic illness?  Even though the Christmas season is busy, take some extra time to reach out and give of yourself … to encourage someone else.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2, ESV

Christians are called to bear one another’s burdens, but when people have burdens that we do not understand it can be difficult to know how to fulfill this calling.  A debilitating chronic illness is one of these difficult burdens.

Life with a chronic illness is challenging for the one who is chronically ill and for the family that lives with, and cares for, the ill family member. Those who are affected by chronic illness need their churches to reach out to them with the love of Christ, practical help, and encouragement.

Perhaps you know people in your church who are affected by chronic illness. You probably want to help bear their burden, but might not know how to do that. Here are 10 practical things you can do to reach out to a family that is affected by chronic illness:

  1. Bring a meal to the family. This will ease some of the physical burden on the family while also communicating sincere kindness and compassion.
  2. Send a card in the mail. This simple gesture is a meaningful way you can give encouragement. It is a tangible reminder that someone cares. A card can be kept, held, and read again and again when encouragement is needed.
  3. Visit the one who is chronically ill, especially if that person is not able to attend church regularly. It is helpful to call ahead of time to schedule a good day and time for a visit.
  4. Invite the family to your home for dinner or dessert. This gives them a break from cooking, and it provides a time of fellowship for the whole family. It also provides a time for you to talk with the family, encourage them, and pray with them.
  5. Offer to bring the children to church when the parents are unable to do so because of chronic illness.
  6. Ask if there is a way that you can make attending church easier for the one who has a chronic illness. Adding more handicap parking spaces may be necessary. A recliner in the church may be helpful. Building modifications, such as adding a ramp or making a handicap accessible bathroom, may also be helpful.
  7. Ask if they need help with yard work, house cleaning, errands, or transportation. Once you learn of their needs, help to meet those needs by finding volunteers who are willing and able to help, or by volunteering yourself.
  8. Prepare for questions about suffering and sickness. You can find helpful resources at Joni and Friends and Eternal Perspectives Ministries. Be ready to listen and to give biblical counsel when needed.
  9. Be sensitive to the child who has a sick parent or sibling at home. Be especially patient with young children who may be hurting, or scared, and not know how to explain what they are feeling.
  10. Pray for the family. It is common to pray for healing and for successful treatment for the one who is chronically ill. It is good also to pray for things like spiritual growth, grace, strength, peace, comfort, and that the family’s needs would be met.

Reaching out in practical ways to a family affected by chronic illness shows the love and compassion of Christ. When you reach out in such ways, you come alongside the family and help to bear their burden.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10, ESV