Spiritual Care RX for Diabetes

I still remember my brief encounter with a middle-aged healthcare worker in Senegal, West Africa. She sat at the edge of a group meeting, weeping. Public emotional displays were rare in this culture, so I was surprised. I sat beside her and asked what was wrong.

“I was diagnosed today with diabetes,” she replied. I was only able to be present with her for about 5 minutes, with no opportunity to pray. In that time, several persons came by to tell her not to cry, that she would be all right, but their words held no consolation.

I never met up with this woman again to learn how she was coping with her chronic illness. What support did she have to help with dietary changes atypical for her culture? Did she have resources to regularly monitor her blood glucose? Would someone help her process her fear and encourage her to make significant lifestyle changes? Who was walking alongside her on this journey with diabetes? This woman's storm of tears demonstrated that people with diabetes may feel overwhelmed and fearful and may have a significant spiritual needs to cope with and manage their illness.

Distressed People, God’s Intervention

Numerous Bible narratives describe distressed persons: Moses and the Israelites stuck at the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army advancing (Exodus 14), the widow in Zarephath running out of food for herself and her son (1 Kings 17:7-16), and Jairus pleading with Jesus to heal his dying daughter (Luke 8:40-56). In each narrative, God’s directive was “don’t fear” and he intervened in miraculous ways.

Hearing of God's power to rescue, provide, and heal can give hope to people dealing with what looks to them like an impossible situation. Recognizing God's presence can calm fears and offer great comfort, as David beautifully expressed in Psalm 23:4: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Researchers have documented positive impacts of spiritual components on self-care management for persons with diabetes. Participating in church life and having spiritual beliefs—which implies belief in God—can help decrease one’s stress levels and improve glycemic control.

Incorporating Spiritual Care for People with Diabetes

  • Offer to pray with the person.
  • Share Scripture as appropriate.
    • For worry and stress:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

  • For inner resolve to change diet or increase physical activity:

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

  • For help to understand medications:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

Margaret De Jong, MS, MDiv, RN, is a JCN Contributing Editor.

Was this blog post encouraging or useful? Excerpted from a larger article in the current issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing, it represents JCN’s mission to help nurses, students, and educators integrate their faith with their nursing practice. Get JCN online and in print, along with a bevy of other benefits, with membership in Nurses Christian Fellowship.



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