In South Carolina, the winters are mild, at least compared to some of the places I used to live (I'm looking at you, Indiana). However, each winter, without fail, I still get sick. And though we don’t get a lot of snow we do get an avalanche of pollen which gets everyone sneezing and coughing again as winter comes to a close.
We all get sick. No one is past it. Everyone will experience sickness though some only ever get a cold and others walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We’ll all feel this part of the curse. But it's purpose isn't punishment but rather to make much of the Healer.
Whether our sickness comes from the enemy (as was the case with Job), our own poor decisions, or the freezing temperatures outside, sickness is always a reminder of our deepest need and the fact that our deepest need has been met. We are given illness and healing of the body to show off Jesus' ability to save the soul.
Jesus and a Blind Man
In John 9 Jesus and his disciples pass a blind man. The disciples take note of him and ask Jesus a most interesting question. “Jesus, who sinned? This man? Or his parents?”
Jesus answered his disciples and said, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus then healed the man of his blindness.
Jesus' ministry as the Messiah was being revealed. This miracle was a foreshadowing of the ultimate cure that he would bestow upon man by becoming infinitely sick Himself, waiting to be healed three days later. The reversal of blindness was a picture of the salvation of mankind. Now many say along with that blind man, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”
What's the Point? Why Me?
Rather then pretending that sickness is nothing, or ignoring it, or seeking only to rid ourselves of it physically, we must allow sickness to remind us of our frailty and the brevity of life. We must let it compel us to reach out for the healing hand of God and become Christians. If we're already Christians, we must use it as a chance to praise God for our salvation which may, at the time, be the only part of us that is working. This brings glory to God and this is the point of being sick.
It may sound like I’m trying to make light of suffering. That I'm trying to take the immense pain of all of those sitting in the ER or the Children's Hospital or the ICU and funnel it down into a Sunday School lesson. I assure you I am not.
I’m aware of the devastation the sick are facing. As a pastor, I’ve found myself in the hospital more times than I can count in the last year. More than once I’ve prayed over folks who weren’t able to discern that I was in the room because they were steps away from death. And if they could see me they couldn’t have spoken because of the tubes in their throat. All they could do is squeeze a hand once for yes and twice for no.
I'm aware that blogging on this topic isn't the best way to help the sick. Christians must be there for the sick at all times like Christ is, making them as comfortable as possible. If we're theologically able to explain sickness, but haven't gone all out practically for the sick, we've done nothing.
What I am doing is helping some think through the question all sick people have: Why?
Why me? Why my loved one? Why now?
What answer would you give? Without God in the equation your sickness is random, it’s by chance, or you’re unlucky.
Or perhaps your answer to some would be, "It's a result of unhealthy habits and you're to blame." To be sure, there are times where our sickness is our own fault, and it's a wake up call to begin taking care of ourselves. But even still, there are always others with those same unhealthy habits who seem to be unscathed. So, again, why me?
The truth is you’ve been given sickness so that the works of God may be manifest in you; So that you will give all your attention to the Healer and that others will learn to mimic the healer as they stand by your side.
Sickness isn't a waste. It's a chance.
First, Cancel Everything
When we get sick, we have a chance to humbly embrace our humanity and need to do so. That means freeing ourselves from the weight we carry. There are times when we may choose to power through, or rather feel like we have no choice but to continue as normal, but in general we must strive to choose the work of rest. This will require trusting God to work for us. This will aid in our healing.
When I was in college I would often get sick at the same time as my roommate. One time, we both got hit with terrible head colds at the same time. I continued going to class, finishing homework, and showing up for tests. My roommate, on the other hand, just slept. He slept for three days. Straight.
Out of nowhere, after his three day coma, he got up out of bed, put on his clothes and went out to eat. It was like watching Lazarus rise from death. He was almost back to 100%. I, however, was sick for several more days because my body wasn't given a break.
Rest. Trust Jesus will do the rest.
Always Accept Help
But what about those who physically cannot rest? What about those that are in some situation where rest is impossible? What do you say to them?
I've thought about this question a lot and I don't know that I have yet found an answer. But here's what I've been thinking:
God never rests. When you cannot rest, God stays up with you.
Drawing from the example Jesus set for us, if someone cannot rest, then we as God's people should not be resting either. We should be taking shifts, working around the clock, praying around the clock, and sharing the burden of the sick in our family and church.
Healthy people, it's your job to help the sick. For those with sickness, it's your job to accept help. This glorifies God.
Recover Mentally Too
Physical health can easily affect mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health so it too cannot be ignored. Counseling, either professionally or pastorally, is a must for the sick as they battle through depression and anxiety.
Jesus doesn't consider it a win if we recover bodily but live in fear from here on out. He is looking to heal our whole being. Our thoughts, emotions, and our mind are just as much a part of our body as anything else is. Assured of his healing, you will be strong enough eventually to minister to others who need Jesus' healing.
He indeed heals all that are his. Even those Christians who eventually are taken by their sickness are simply taken home, where no sickness is. They will glorify him forever, and if they could speak to us from there they’d encourage us to glorify him today even in the midst of sickness and the chaos that comes with it.