May 15, 2016

Reasons for illness . . .

Anne Lamont wrote an interesting book on prayer. To some, she may seem irreverent in places, but she is refreshingly transparent. The book is titled for how she defines the three types of prayers: HELP, THANKS, WOW.

I’m finished the first section and the take-away for me is that whenever I am asking God for help, I need to come to the Lord with a yielded and trusting attitude. Of course this is true, yet I think how often prayers are more like orders, telling God what to do or at least giving Him suggestions on how to fix the problems.

This A-Fib heart is a test for me. I know the value of doctors, but I also know that God is in charge of my body. I can say ‘help’ to Him, recognizing that He allows illness for reasons. Sometimes it is to bring glory to Himself. Like the blind man in John 9 who was healed “that the works of God might be displayed in him” (9:3), my hubby was healed of an incurable condition. God is glorified as he shares his story with others.

Sometimes we suffer illness so as to experience God’s comfort and empathy that we might be able to share that comfort with others who suffer . . .

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3–4)

Sometimes illness is a corrective, a result of sin or a discipline from the Lord that gets our attention. When Paul wrote instructions for the Lord’s Supper, he said, “Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Corinthians 11:29–30) These people had disobeyed God and were sick and even died because of it. Illness is one of God’s wake-up calls.

A fourth reason for illness is that it is God’s way of taking His people home. We enter eternity through death. It could be the result of an accident, but more often is the result of illness.

As I consider these things, God has not yet revealed to me what this A-fib is for. However, He is telling me where my focus should be. I need to consider and meditate on what I have in Him . . .

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints . . .  (Ephesians 1:15–18)

No matter what situation I am in, sick or healthy, rich or poor, wise or ignorant, God saved me that I should glorify Jesus Christ. As Chambers says, I am to work out my salvation with my tongue, brain and nerves. If I whine, complain, or stay set on my own way, I am not declaring that I am a saved and sanctified person.

Chambers offers a vivid word picture. He says God allows difficulties to see if I can vault over them properly —“By my God have I leaped over a wall” (Psalm 18:29). I am to rise to this occasion and do what He asks of me by allowing Him to manifest Christ in me. In fact, it happens in weakness anyway, not just spiritual weakness, but in physical disabilities.

Paul was given some sort of thorn in the flesh to keep him humble. He pleaded for its removal (just as I asked for this heart to return to normal function) but God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

From this, Paul replied, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10)

Chambers adds these most sensible lines: “May God not find the whine in us anymore, but may He find us full of spiritual pluck and athleticism, ready to face anything He brings. We have to exercise ourselves in order that the Son of God may be manifested in our mortal flesh. God never has museums. The only aim of the life is that the Son of God may be manifested, and all dictation to God vanishes.”

In whatever trial I experience, the Lord wants me to have a yielded, submission spirit, a heart that says yes to His will that He might accomplish whatever he wishes. It might be greater empathy in me, or a healing that brings Him glory. It could be that He is slowing me down to correct me, or even to take me home. Whatever it is, I cannot guess. My response is to yield and obey, whether or not He reveals His reasons.

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