“as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” Philippians 1:20
For the past two months I have been struggling with a problem in my sinuses. I have seen a nurse practitioner, a family medicine physician, and an emergency room physician. Each of their diagnosis is similar in that they believe there is some sort of allergy causing my symptoms. Each day I wake up and by early morning began to cough. Every time I cough it feels like a knife being stabbed into my sinuses. After a few minutes I have a severe headache that lasts the rest of the day and cannot be relieved by medication.
As I thought through this today, I was reminded of an excellent class that I took at the Masters University on counseling and physiology. It was taught by Dr. Bob Smith. I was able to go back and review my notes and slowly read through Dr. Smith’s wisdom in this area. It did not help my headaches, but it provided needed refreshment for my soul. I’d like to share some of those thoughts here.
First, the basic reason for all illness is the curse of sin on all mankind resulting from the fall of Adam. We see in Ezekiel 18:4, 20, that the soul that sins will die.
“Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
Death is the direct result of sin. Illnesses also will occur as a result of sin. Thus, illness affects both Christians and unbelievers. As in my case, a person may have symptoms for which the physician can find no cause. The body may feel bad and nothing can be found to cause it. And that is to be expected because all the parts of the body are under the curse of sin and so, our bodies will not always be free of symptoms and problems. There is constant deterioration of the body because of sin and so we will be ill.
Second, God may use my illness to produce repentance. My illness may very well be God’s grace in helping me see sin in my life that until now I was blind.
Thirdly, my illness could very well be a result, or consequence, of poor choices in my life. Whatever the reason, Dr. Smith reminded me that God has a purpose for illness, and it is for my benefit. While I very much want these headaches to go away, getting over my condition should not be my primary goal.
The same advice I give others I must give myself in this circumstance. God intends to use my illness for his glory. And what glorifies him is what is best for all his children; therefore what glorifies him is best for me. And as much as I might not like it, getting well is not necessarily the best thing. I must determine what is more important, glorifying God or getting well. I pray that God may give both; but if not, I must keep God’s priorities straight. My hope as a Christian is victory, not relief from illness. And God promises victory in illness and trials, not necessarily deliverance from them. Glory be to God the father and my Savior Jesus Christ.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Peter 4:7-18)