Days of Grace: Meditations and Practices for Living with Illness by Mary C. Earle. 

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Day Two

You Will Have Pity on Me

Written By Mary C. Earle

Practice Note

Meditation: <listen>

Have pity on me, O LORD
Psalm 9:13

When illness has come to live within your life, not as a guest, but as a permanent resident, you may feel singled out. We have inherited a strange and punitive way of thinking about illness. Often we are told that it is our fault. If we had only eaten the right food, meditated sufficiently or been less anxious, we would not have become ill. 

On one level this is true. If I have smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for years, I have compromised my lungs, and it is more likely that I will develop lung cancer. If I have overindulged in alcohol for most of my life, I might develop some malady of the liver. And then again, I might not.

On a deeper level, there is no simple formula for cause and effect when it comes to living with illness. The fact is that all bodies eventually fail. Bodies wear out. The inner processes of cell division can go awry. The amazing capacities for transformation of food into energy can be disrupted. We all eventually die.

The assurance that our tradition and experience offers is this: whatever suffering and disorientation the illness has brought, God is present in and through that suffering and disorientation. In the words of Paul Claudel, “Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with his presence.”

God of Mercy, grant me eyes to see and ears to hear, that I may recognize your presence in Christ through every hard passage as I live with this illness. Amen.

Practice: <listen>

Using your journal, start a running list of moments when you have known the presence of God in and through your illness. Possible times of knowing that mercy of presence might include: 


  • through the skill of doctors and nurses,
  • through the prayers of family and friends,
  • through deep silence in the midst of recovery. 

Return to this list from time to time, especially when you are feeling abandoned or neglected by God. Add to the list as you are led.

REFERENCE NOTE: All psalms are from the psalter in The Book of Common Prayer, 1979.