A week ago at this time, I was in the throes of a horrendous bout with some sort of flu-like funk. I honestly think it was the worst I have ever felt in my life. Tobey tells me I say that every time I’m sick ... but this time I mean it! And I’ve heard of two others, who seem to have had the same bug, speaking similarly. It really was a worst-ever kind of virus! And so for the better part of four days, I did very little besides lay under the covers, read a few things here and there, and generally feel wretched. Some of you have been there in the last two weeks, too!
But in the moments of clarity (which were often brief), a few spiritual lessons began to imprint themselves, ever so gently, on my mind and heart. In these few lines, I have a little time and space to try and press them even more indelibly into the memory – both mine and yours. So here are three lessons that occurred to me because of my sickness.
1. Compassion. Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that, as awful as I felt … there are people in the world who feel physically shot and in significant pain day after day, and week after week, and year after year of their lives. The symptoms may be different. And, without the fever, maybe some of them can, in some minor way, be ‘gotten used to.’ And yet what must it be to wake up every day and know that you’ll have almost no energy to do anything; or that you’ll be in pain from morning until night. What must it be like to go to bed, night after night, knowing (like I did last week) how long the night was going to be? Being as sick as I was gave me, I hope, just a little more sympathy for those who walk in such uncomfortable shoes every day.
2. Provision. I’m a type-A. Surprise, right? I like to get my stuff done, be responsible, not have to slough things off on other people, check off everything on my list, and generally feel like I’ve done my duty. Not necessarily bad things … except that people like me don’t often know when to stop. But this past week, I simply had to stop. I couldn’t do otherwise, and I knew it. And so I called a handful of people to fill in here and there for me, and God made provision. And one example of that provision was remarkable. When I heard about Justin’s sermon (delivered in my place), I realized that it fit very snugly into the scripture and songs that had already been selected for Sunday’s service – even more so, I think, than the message I was planning! And on top of that, I heard very good feedback about the message! And I rejoiced that our congregation hadn’t missed a beat with me being gone … and had perhaps had a better Sunday meal than if things had gone according to plan! And isn’t that just like our Romans 8.28 God?
3. Glorification. Simply put, suffering helps the believer long for eternity. And in that way, it is a faithful messenger to us. Because we can be so easily intoxicated with the sights and smells and pleasures and agendas of this life … and forget that the very air we breathe is under a curse; that this world is not our home; that “here we do not have a lasting city” (Hebrews 13.14). But sickness and suffering have a way of bringing us back to earth a bit … and (if we know the Lord) of making us long for “a new heaven and a new earth” where “there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (see Revelation 21.1-4). When you’re well, and life is moving apace, that sounds pretty nice. When you’re laid up in bed, absolutely miserable, it might even make your mouth water!
So praise God for sickness.
Or … well … praise Him, at least, for the lessons that it can teach us!