So Many Sick People
There seems to be a lot of sickness in my world. Maybe it’s because I have a close-knit church community and everyone’s eager to share their burdens with each other or social media has made such information flow, but certainly sickness seems to surround me. For starters, each week my church prayer list has a dozen names on it and some of those names have been on the list for years.
My own wife Lindsay suffers from food allergies, thyroid issues, and difficult pregnancies. She has been sick in some way, shape, or form, since I met her ten years ago. Many of the other mothers I know can speak to months and months of pregnancy and post-pregnancy-related health issues. And then there’s the rash of cancer diagnoses that has taken the life of many friends at the onset of middle age. Certainly the creation is groaning for this was not supposed to be the case “in the beginning.”
I’m just getting over a few days of sickness myself and now in the light of improving health I feel more deeply for the trials of my friends and loved ones. Because we know that God works all things for good we can rest assured that even in these trials and sufferings good work is being done in us and through us.
Empathizing with Suffering
For my own part, as I suffer, in my weakness, I become more sensitive to the suffering of others. That leads to prayer and service, not just good things but great things. Were our lives to be lived in a perpetual state of 70 degrees, affluence, and health, I’m certain that we would be far more insular in our thinking and acting, not a state of being that is at the heart of a healthy church.
One of my best friends is a great sufferer; the stories of the absurd tragedies that befall him are legendary amongst his friends. But God has used him to be the ultimate empathizer; not just a friend to his friends but a selfless friend to many.
One story that I love to tell is when he was standing in line at a fast food restaurant and the woman in front of him started fussing loudly with the clerk, creating a huge scene and ending with her throwing her ice cream cone at him. While the clerk looked in amazement at the dripping dessert running down his shirt and began weeping, my friend went up to the obnoxious, angry, antagonist, and said: “You seem like you’re having a bad day, would you like to talk?”
She proceeded to dump all her troubles on him without pause for ten minutes and then got up, and without a word of thanks, walked off.
Here is a man who has suffered much and so recognizes it in others and has the courage to step in where others shrink away. To that end, his suffering has been a great blessing on him and those he encounters.
We Easily Forget
Suffering is a part of what taking up the name of Christ requires. Why? Because we earned it in the garden and because ultimately, like all things, it is for our own good and His glory. And it is a great and regular reminder of important truths about ourselves, others, and God, that we would too easily forget were we not prodded in this way.
Sickness quickly brings to mind our human frailty and shows us that we are actually quite powerless thus slowing down the growth of hubris within our hearts.
Sickness increases our dependence on others, giving them an opportunity to minister to us, creating gratitude where it did not exist before, creating acts of charity that did not exist before.
Sickness makes us cry out for relief to the Great Physician who loves nothing more than to care for His children. To be reminded of our helplessness, to point us to the all powerful One, is a state of being that needs to be revisited again and again so thick-headed and hard-hearted are we.
Sickness causes us to recognize how much another might be suffering as well, thus increasing the range of our affections and width of our charity.
Jesus was kind enough to warn us and encourage us in these things: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33b). Overcoming the world means that the things of this world bow to Him, and work for Him, whether we think these things good or bad.
So at the onset of the next sniffle, when the test results come back positive, when the pain in your neck creeps into your head, give thanks. Because in this, as in all things, we are being purified, being made more like Christ, bonding the family of God together in prayer and service and in all this, being a light that shines forth to show that the good life in Christ is good, in sickness and in health.
Have you found ways to give thanks even in the midst of sickness and suffering? Talk to us in the comments below.