A friend who knows I’m sick at the moment has passed on a deep theological question, probably just to keep me busy and distracted from the headcold and sore throat. Here is the question: is God teaching us stuff in sickness always, or is sickness just bad stuff that happens as a result of being in a sin filled world, or is it both? Well I could just say ‘both ‘and be done with it! But let’s ponder for a little while.
It seems that we all have become convinced that the default setting of our body should be 100% health. We think that eternal youth is possible if we just eat well, sleep well, exercise and use the right face cream. From the moment we are born our bodies begin to visibly grow and blossom, but at the same time we are degrading! Skin cells die and flake off even on those cute little babies. And there are a thousand other processes of repair (and warfare) going on behind the scenes, minute by minute, day after day, year after year, that we are not even aware of.
Sciencemuseum.org.uk says: “A cell can die in many ways – through infection, poisoning, overheating or lack of oxygen. An uncontrolled death is messy: the cell swells up, and its contents leak away. This may damage surrounding cells. But there is another, tidier way to go – programmed self-destruction, or apoptosis. It seems that cells often choose to kill themselves. We now know that controlled cell death is crucial for normal human development and good health throughout life.”
Yet strangely it is only when this ‘cell death and repair’ process inconveniences us (or threatens our very existence) that we notice it and label it ‘sickness’. The pain in the throat, the headache and the runny nose all represent an unseen and amazing battle being fought in our bodies. They are simply doing what God designed them with the ability to do – fight off intruding viruses and other random elements. Now this is cheery isn’t it!
If sin had never entered the world through the first Adam, would people still have had to endure sickness? Probably? Their immortal bodies, that were NOT going to have to experience death, surely would have to repair themselves, and sometimes that fight to repair would mean ‘sickness’. (This is all supposition, please understand). Sickness is perhaps not so abnormal afterall, but a mechanism designed by God to sustain and repair us. And as it is part of normal life (though perhaps made more difficult by fall of man and the groanings of the imperfect world around us) it is something we must learn to be content with and glorify God in.
Paul’s words in Philippians 4 perhaps apply here: 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Being sick brings a greater need, for sleep, for relief from pain, for someone to go to the shops and buy more tissues and panadol. Yet this is just part of the normal daily challenge to look to God and see this world and ourselves from His gracious perspective. He IS teaching us everyday, but could we say especially in days of sickness we LEARN more? Perhaps we are more teachable when it is a greater challenge to be content in Him. We learn more because our self-reliance, on our own abilities and physical strength, is sorely challenged.
But in Christ, who gives us strength, we can be content even in sickness. It will be a battle, as we remind ourselves that we are in Him, and seek to rest on His strength, not ours.
Sickness also helps imprint in our hearts and minds this truth from Romans 8:28 (NLT)
“. . . God causes everything to work togetherfor the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them”.
Sickness teaches us to trust Him more – and rest in Him.
You may also like:
How to suffer well