Sickness is something that none of us like to experience. Whether it is the common cold, or a severe disease, sickness seems to get in our way and puts on display attitudes that do not honour the Lord. Sickness debilitates, bring weakness, and just plain wears us out. It is a result of the curse, and it is a clear sign that everything in this world is headed on a one way path to destruction.
This past week, I had the chance to be plagued by gastroenteritis (a variation of the stomach flu), and was bed ridden for several days. Eventually I lost a considerable amount of weight, and had to head to the hospital to get IV fluids. (This is the only way I can get medicine into my system). I ended up spending Monday to Friday down and out for the count, either in my bed or on the couch. While I was sick though, the Lord was teaching me many things.
Sickness, (even if it is just the flu bug) has an amazing ability to show and teach you truths that you may not have considered before. The Lord uses sickness in the lives of His children for many reasons, not the least of which is to conform us into His image. I thought I would take some time to share what the Lord taught me this past week through Scripture, and through meditation as I lay in my bed.
1. I Take My Health for Granted.
Yes, although I was sick with a minimal virus, the weakness that something even such as the stomach flu can bring to your body is a great reminder of the many things one takes for granted. I found that my health (especially as a young man) is one of these things. Being young, healthy, and strong can cause one to easily deceive themselves into thinking that they are invincible (or close to that). The activities and feats that we accomplish while healthy can boost our pride. We can all to easily become self-reliant or worse self-promoting of who we are. Sickness has a way of directly attacking our pride and humbling us to a level of reality. Yes, when I am healthy I can accomplish many things, but what the Lord taught me through sickness is that my every breath comes from Him. As sovereign God (Is. 46:10) He determines my health therefore I must entrust myself to Him at all times. Writing about young men specifically and the health they take for granted, John Charles Ryle says,
“Young man, your time is short. Your days are but a span long, a shadow, a vapor, a tale that is soon told. Your bodies are not brass. “Even the young men,” says Isaiah, “shall utterly fall” (Is. 40:30). Your health may be taken from you in a moment: it only takes a fall, a fever an inflammation, a broken blood-vessel, and the worm would soon feed upon you. There is but a step between you and death.”
(Thoughts for Young Men. Pg. 8-9)
2. I Realized my Need for Christ.
The second thing that the Lord taught me was that I am dependent on Him for everything. Sickness usually brings about reflection (what else are you going to do all day?), I know it does for me. While sick, it is easy for one to quickly become dependent on medication, a doctor, or any number of things to stay afloat. There is a natural drive in us for good health and therefore we desire to depend on anything to help us reach that goal. This week I was thinking that in the same a person may depend on medicine to relieve them from physical illness, so too one should depend on Christ to relieve them from spiritual illness (sin).
We are all in a state of sickness spiritually. Actually it is far worse than that; we are all dead, the cancer has already worked its way through our body and brought about our demise. Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you were dad in your trespasses and sins…”, Romans 3:23 says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”. What can a dead man do? Nothing! He cannot save himself, he is dead. Sickness, and death especially, points us to our great need then, for life (Jn. 10:10), our need for revival (Eph. 5:14), and our need for regeneration (1 Pet. 3:18)! Our weakness drives us to Christ, because in our helplessness we realize that He alone can truly help. As I was sick, I was reminded gently by the Lord that I need Him, not only in weakness but also in strength for apart from Him I am never truly strong. Sickness reminds you of your need for Christ.
3. Sickness Reminds Me That I Will One Day be Sick Again.
Getter better after a sickness is perhaps one of the nicest feelings in the world. Especially being able to eat, drink, and see your body once again grow strong. That is truly a blessing. But like sin, sickness will only return in the future to plague me once again. It will come back to remind me that I am weak, it will come back to remind me that I am not invincible and it will come back to show me that I cannot do life on my own, no matter how much I like to think that I can.
Sickness is a benefit when you look at it this way. Sickness is another opportunity to realize that I am weak and Christ alone is strong. Even though it is a result of the curse, it can be used as a blessing. Sickness drives me to Christ and that is the greatest lesson anyone can learn from it. It reminds me that God is working for my good (Rom. 8:28-29) and that even though it may not be according to my plan or my way, God’s way is best. What I must realize is that He uses everything in this life to change me into the image of His Son. Molding, shaping, growing…day by day, moment by moment, in every situation, for His purpose and His glory. One day I will be sick again, it may be with the cold, the flu, or perhaps something far more severe. Whatever it is, it must drive me to Christ. That is what glories the Lord, that is how even sickness can be a benefit, that is what makes me realize even though I am weak, He alone in strong.