Coping with Disability & Chronic Illness in the Quaker Faith

Hello All,

I am very new to the Quaker faith, and have a question I was hoping someone might be able to answer.

I am wondering if anyone within the community knows of literature that exists on the subject of Quakerism and physical disability/chronic illness? I have found the British Friends network to be developing accessibility improvements for their local meetings, but nothing on applying the Quaker way of life to coping with disability and/or chronic illness.

Any information you could provide is greatly appreciated! Thank you!


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Hi Sarah,

Your post has me thinking about Quietism.  This has been underrated and frequently misunderstood in its great potential, I think.  I know less than some do about it, but have been moved deeply by finding it naturally out of a time of great suffering.  Let me look for that post and the name of the person who brought this focus to my awareness...

It only took a minute to find so I'm adding that information to this post:  Jim Wilson's post on "The Heresy of Silence".

It's heavy reading in places but you can see if something in that stirs you in any way that's needed.



Hi Olivia,

Thank you for your post! I have never heard of Quietism, so I would really love to read about it if you are able to find it. I think Quakerism is naturally a wonderful, healing faith for individuals who are dealing with chronic illness or disability so I am surprised to have had such difficulty in finding literature on the topic. I appreciate your help! :)

I do not know of writings but can speak from my own experience.  I was born with a hearing disability.  In the last few years, my hearing as disintegrated I've started other symptoms (sporadic vertigo & constant tinnitus). With tinnitus, I feel like it's the Spirit...always there but usually ignored.  So, during silent worship, I tap in to the tinnitus while settling in to worship.  It's focusing, reassuring, and not distracting.

For my sister (who has the same thing but her hearing is better than mine and her tinnitus is much worse), she can be overwhelmed by her symptoms.  She does not think of tinnitus as positive so it's very difficult for her.  

Hi Sonja,

Thank you for your comment! I do not have a hearing disability, but I can relate to experiencing challenges as a result of sporadic vertigo, which I experience as a result of a secondary condition related to my primary diagnosis. It can be very scary at times! I do not know much about tinnitus, but am inspired to look it up because of your comments about the Spirit.

As an individual with a disability do you see value in literature being available on the subject of Quakerism and chronic illness/disability?

Hi again Sarah,

Sorry to interupt your question to Sonja but while I think of it thought I'd share a couple links in case you didn't know about them.  Maybe you've already found though that there's not anything out there that you're looking for??  (this on out of print Pendle Hill Pamphlets)

And from among the current Pendle Hill Pamphlets, I wonder if there is anything helpful for you from those that deal with yoga, counselling, or the inward way through whatever you are suffering.   Likewise I wonder if anything written by Douglas Steere would be helpful to you.  He has several pamphlets on working with those who are suffering including this one

And I found that this one below deals indirectly but deeply with the topic -- is on how the nurturers and healers and bring their Quaker faith to their work, might lead you toward some particular approaches or people.

I agree with Sonja that I have found great value (and the only value to have) in walking INTO that which is so troublesome.  It opens up great possibilities, at the very least changing our relationship with the thing that was previously like "a demon hounding us" and allowing that thing to be more like "a chance to let God into the middle of even this."   I feel like the most difficult part is to not try to Overcome or Get Away From the condition but to sit with it in love and light.  And that's where the magic can be found, in time -- as well as more pain and suffering!

in peace

Hi Olivia,

You are not interrupting at all! Thank you for these links.  The Quaker Perspective in Healing is definitely somewhat related to what I am looking for. And, although the other two are not necessarily, they may lead me closer to what I am looking for. :)

I also agree with your insight on sitting with our difficulties in love and light. That is one of the most effective ways to cope, in my opinion.

I am wondering...were you ever able to locate those articles or discussions on Quietism that you had mentioned?

Thanks again!

Hello Sarah,

Oh -- I'm sorry that wasn't clear.  I had been able to edit that link into my original post above since I found it within about 15 miniutes.  So my first post above has this link

This is the discussion of Quietism I am referring to.  It takes some pages but what I found helpful in it (being somewhat of little brain compared to the other folks writing) was that there were books recommended and some link or links provided in the course of the discussion.  And then I'm an anecdotal case of of what a person can happen on without knowing this stuff but just from hurting a lot and "giving it to God" during a certain period of my life.  So I was thinking that it might serve as a variety pack related to Quietism ultimately.  

I am glad that we have each discovered the mercy that comes from sitting with our difficulties instead of running from them.  It is a profound mercy in my impression.  Is perhaps the only way to "find God" -- since God is probably that which is knocking real hard on those particular doors and causing us these symptoms.   Or whatever...     I don't want to limit God to one role or another in all this.  But certainly the mercy is there to be found....

Sarah this is premature to say but just so you know the context I'm coming from, I'm wondering if you will find that you FIND what you are looking for... and I'm feeling that if you don't find what you are looking for, that's good too and it may be that you are going to be very good at creating it yourself!

I remember that the author of Yeshu (click link here)  Charles David Kleymeyer, shared that when telling us about his book.  His early stages with that leading were to be completely convicted that there HAS to be a book that comes from X__ sort of perspective and why couldn't he find it yet!    Then he began to realize that he was going to have to write it and that Way was being given to him, slowly. 

:-D   ha ha    "tag you're it"   if that applies....


Hi Olivia,

Thank you for explaining--I never would have noticed you edited your original post!

I think I understand what you are saying about finding what I am looking for. More than once I've thought that perhaps I could be the one to fill this gap in the literature--but it never goes much further than that since I still have so much to learn about the Quaker way of life.  I can't possibly "fill the gap" when I don't feel that I could call myself a true Quaker! Which is partially why I think I am looking so much for someone else to have already filled it, so that I can feed my desire for further knowledge of the faith.

I will keep on, keeping on and hope to continue to learn more as I go! Thank you again for all your help. I am going to review the links you shared with I have more time to give them all of my attention. :)


I have not looked for writings on this so I would have to sit with the idea to see if it is a yearning of mine.  My tinnitus has been lifelong but just recently louder so I'm not really distracted by it.

I think any leading to dwell deeper is something to investigate.  You may be experiencing something that could be very revealing to a whole segment or generation of Quakers.  Persevere.  You will find similar writings in the subject you're looking but your explanation may really bring it closer to what is your leading.  You might find writings that are very different but perfectly explain your leading.  Bolding take these on.  Share with us.  Write about it.  


This comment of mine may be a little too late but it occurs to me to share.  I find value in "conservative Quakers" as much as I do in "Liberal Quakers" and the two perspectives are very, very different.  Liberal Quakers and others that are very Light-oriented may be less inclined to give you something concrete on this subject but it doesn't mean that it's not out there in the wider Quaker world.   The conservative Quakers have this gem... I have forgotten her real name at the moment but she goes by Quaker Jane too and has posted a lot of solid material on Quakerism at her website (click here).    I also find that the Liberal Quaker page on QQ here has some links that are very helpful as to getting a sense of the Liberal Quaker community.  More helpful and accurate than what I've found at some other sides that define us Liberals. 

This link I've just sent includes "strength in weakness" by Elizabeth Stirredge, published in 1795, in which the forward says about about her "She was sound and savoury in her doctrine and publick ministry and tender and affectionate in Christian advice and counsel, to the comfort of the afflicted and exercised in spirit; declaring that the way to the kingdom of God is through tribulation; agreeable to the ancient account we read of in holy scripture."

I am continuing to read from it in my ADD sort of way... ha     There may be the historical -- if not present -- expressions of what we are talking about when we say that being present to the difficulties and sitting in silence with them is the best thing we've found so far.   I know that Liberal Quakerism is always evolving, always on its way somewhere.  I have begun to wonder if it's next expression may turn toward Quietism more.

Hello Sarah and Sonja,

Here is my testimony of the healing in Presence. I suffer from tendonitis, resulting from years of working with my hands. My partner has suffered from severe migraines for many years. I am so blessed by the workings of Presence within me in the context of illness or dis-ease. Giving dis-ease over to Presence with intention and watchfulness is simply resting into silence. I mean simply, while sitting or walking or working, opening to the Presence that is always there, but dimmed by dis-ease or drowned out by so close contact with physical pain. In this silence, Presence fills the space and an opening happens wherein physical dis-ease is acknowledged, but consciousness is no longer consumed by it.  Resistance to the pain is given over to Presence in silent rest. The Quaker testimony of the sufficiency of the personally experienced inward light is medicine even in the midst of pain. 

Wishing you peace, even in the midst of dis-ease.

Keith speaks to my condition.  The resistance and dis-ease are my closing off the Light or Presence.  Opening up is both so natural and so unnatural for me.  It's similar to giving birth.  The first time was an experience of being closed.  The second time was an experience of opening to the Light. It was extraordinarily painful yet opening to the Light was the only way to release the pain.


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