Many people don't understand the debilitating effects of chronic fatigue. But with 3.5 per cent of the population suffering from Long COVID, it's time Christians were more up-to-date. Here's what Lydia Rolley, author of The Fatigue Book, thinks Jesus would have done.
Chronic Fatigue is on the rise across our nation. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that, at the beginning of March 2021, a million people in the UK had reported symptoms associated with long COVID (also known as post-COVID-19 syndrome or Long Haulers). By April 2022 this number had risen to 1.7 million people - 2.7 per cent of the population. Shockingly the latest figures in October 2022 are up again and are now at 2.3 million people, that’s 3.5 per cent of the population. More than half of these people reported that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been negatively impacted by their symptoms. Fatigue is the most dominant and widely reported symptom.
Long COVID is relatively new but chronic fatigue is not. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) has been around for a long time. Countless people of all ages suffer from this condition which has often been misunderstood, overlooked and under-resourced. Both conditions are relapsing and remitting and present with fluctuating, ongoing, profound and debilitating fatigue - chronic fatigue.
Chronic fatigue is nothing like tiredness. The fatigue affects every area of a person’s life and health.
Chronic fatigue is nothing like tiredness. The fatigue affects every area of a person’s life and health. It comes in like an unwanted guest, stays far too long and causes havoc. I have heard countless stories over the years of the trauma and devastation that accompany this type of fatigue. These experiences are repeated thousands of times throughout our present-day world yet are often unheard and unseen.
Amid the enormous needs, there is hope. People can and do recover. I have witnessed numerous adults, young people and children, affected by chronic fatigue, turn their lives around and take steps toward recovery towards being more free and healthy. It takes time, understanding, education, and the right support.
As people of faith, how can we respond to this present-day need? Jesus and the disciples responded to enormous physical needs in the miracle of feeding the thousands, mentioned in all the gospels. The people were hungry and, in one account, Jesus said: "If I send them away hungry, they will collapse on the way." (Mark 8:3)
- What did Jesus do? Jesus looked up and saw the crowd. He didn’t keep his eyes down, focussing on his affairs. He saw the need and was moved with compassion. Compassion always leads to action. The disciples attempted to use earthly, rather than kingdom, resources to fix the problem. They became paralysed by the cost and couldn’t see a way through. How can we lift up our eyes and be moved by compassion for the needs of chronic fatigue sufferers?
- Jesus received the boy’s loaves and fish. "Bring them here to me." (Matt 14:18) In our human thinking, we perhaps join Philip in saying, "But how far will they go among so many?" (John 6:9) Nothing is too small for Jesus. He noticed even the widow’s mite. (Mark 12:42) What can your contribution be? What loaves and fishes can you offer? Perhaps send a text to someone, or seek to grow in understanding?
- Jesus looked up to heaven and gave thanks. Miraculously the food multiplied with plenty left over. "They all ate and were satisfied." (Mark 6:42) Our God is "able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or think." (Eph 3:20) In relation to this worldwide need, what miracles will we believe God for?
I humbly share with you my loaves and fishes in the form of The Fatigue Book as we look to heaven and give thanks.