Part 1: Pre-quel for Christians and Illness

So I promised on Twitter that my next post would be on Christians and Illness.  Well, I’m finding it a hard one to present properly–it’s a tough topic.  My friend suggested to me that perhaps I should split it into 2 posts, which was a great idea.  I’m not sure that this is exactly what I’m really doing…I think this post is more of a laying of the foundation for the next post.  A pre-quel, shall we say.  Yah.  Let’s give it a try.

So why illness?  Of all the trials in our lives, I think illness brings us to our knees the most painfully because it hits so close to home.  Think of Job.  God allowed Satan to attack his livestock, his servants and his family but his health was off limits.  22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.  (Job 1:22 NIV)

But Satan knows our failings…

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”  Job 2:4,5

So our health is a compelling weakness.

Even Christ had to overcome trauma to his body prior to and during his crucification.  In fact, this was part of the Plan.   8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9 And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”  Hebrews 5:8,9  He did suffer more than physically (betrayal, separation from God on the cross, etc) but I think it is evident that he must have suffered greatly from the physical abuse alone.

The suffering is what revealed his perfection to the world.  And he is our example…it’s not too surprising, therefore, that we also will find our health attacked.

Paul showed that he understood this in Colossians.  24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church.”  Colossians 1:24 NKJV

Really, to be honest, C.S. Lewis does a great job discussing why Christians have illness and suffering in his fab book, The Problem of Pain, so if you want to dig deeper into this issue and just can’t wait for my next post, this is where I would start.

Alright–3 things to remember:  1.  our health is a weak spot for us and Satan knows this.  2.  Christ experienced severe physical pain himself.  3. Christ walks through every minute of every day, through every painful moment, with you.

By Margaret Fishback Powers

One night a man had a dream.
He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
one belonged to him and the other to the LORD.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life
there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened
at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it.
“LORD, you said once I decided to follow you,
you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when I needed You the most
You would leave me.”

The LORD replied,
“My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you.
During your times of trials and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”


The Flower Duet

One of my favourite pieces of music to listen to is a famous aria from Lakme, the Flower Duet.  Lakmé is an opera by Léo Delibes to a French libretto (written in 1881–1882).  Yes, I speak a little French but I have NO idea what these two ladies are singing about…and I like it this way. (please persist–the first bit is just part of the libretto).

Quite frankly, I’m afraid to find out what they’re singing.

Why am I afraid?  Part of me is afraid because Lakme is an opera and so who knows what what kind of things they may be saying to eachother!  I would just rather not know!  The other part of me is afraid because sometimes the beauty I see is in not knowing, but in hearing the haunting melody, making up my own idea of what they are saying.

Now, this may be OK with an aria (especially when what they’re saying is as inane as this one [yes, I did look into it–curiosity, a family trait!]), but this is not a good way to be with God.  We singles may be used to thinking our own thoughts, kind of being in our own heads most of the time and we might like it this way.  We might like to hear the words being sung and spoken at church, we might like reading the Bible and thinking of it’s beautiful poetry, but when you get right down to it (if we are honest with ourselves…) there are times when we don’t really want to know what God is saying to us.

What if He wants me to be a missionary and I have to move to Africa?  What if He wants me to quit my job and go into the ministry?  What if he wants me to join a Baptist convent and move to Siberia (or Canada!) and sew baby caps until my eyes grow dim?

What if He wants me to talk to that fellow sitting next to me?  What if He wants me to talk to my co-worker about Him?

Hmmmm….I’d just rather not know what He wants for me sometimes.  I can handle what’s on my plate right now.  Cheers to inertia!

Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.
— James Belasco and Ralph Stayer Flight of the Buffalo (1994)

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desire not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, we are like ignorant children who want to continue making mud pies in a slum because we cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a vacation at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
–C. S. Lewis

We would rather play in a mud puddle than journey to the ocean side with God.  Funny, isn’t it?  Even though we know that God wants the best for us.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11  NIV

If  only I could get my silly human head to understand this, my silly human heart to believe it!

Prayer:  Father, please give my the courage to face up to what it is you want to say to me, the faith to trust that what You want is the best (and the ability to have these two things for more than the next five minutes!) and the patience to wait on You.