I don’t believe that God makes people sick. I would never say that God took someone’s life because the Creator needs another angel in heaven. But I do think that God can use times of sickness to teach us important lessons.
In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul spoke of a time of suffering in his life and his requests to God for relief:
Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.2 Corinthians 12:7b
Notice that he doesn’t say that this thorn was given to him by God; it was actually a messenger of Satan, but Paul found a way to turn this unfortunate experience into a lesson. Whether this thorn in the flesh was his poor eyesight or the rejection of the gospel by his countrymen, I don’t know, but Paul learned to be content even in this weakness.
Before that he learned to look at this messenger of Satan through different eyes, he prayed to Jesus (is that authorized?) three times:
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”2 Corinthians 12:8-9a
Jesus knew firsthand that power is made perfect in weakness because of what he went through on the cross (Hebrews 5:8-9). The pain, death, and rejection Jesus faced on the cross (rejection by man, not God – Psalm 22:24) gave way to resurrection three days later. Yet, before Jesus “learned” this, as the reference to Hebrews says, he too prayed three times for his thorn in the flesh to be taken away (Matthew 26:36-46).
Like James, Paul had to learn to count his trials as joy. Here’s his conclusion:
So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 9:b-10
Being stripped of his health, welfare, and security in this world, Paul had to learn to depend upon God. This messenger of Satan, whose goal was to destroy Paul’s missionary work, turned out to be a blessing to Paul. This way of wisdom, this way of learning to be content, is a difficult one to learn because it calls us to look for happiness God, even when our normal avenues for happiness are closed off to us.
These past three weeks have been difficult. Three weeks ago, I had a cold and lost my voice. The next week, Cayden had pinkeye, so I had to miss a few days of work to take care of him. And this week I’ve had a sinus infection and have missed more work. Thankfully, most of what I can do can be done from home, but even then I haven’t been able to do much because of feeling so worn down by the infection.
I think this is a sign I need to slow down. Since I’ve finished school, I haven’t given myself a chance to take a step back and relax for a moment. My friend and coworker LeAnne reminded me to “lay aside every weight” and take some time to myself. These past few weeks, I’ve had to learn to practice what I preached on Sunday: my happiness and peace in Christ isn’t dependent upon me being productive and busy; it’s dependent upon me releasing the need to be productive and busy and resting in the knowledge that I am known and loved by God.
So on one hand, I would have loved to do all of the things I would have gotten to do this week: read my books, go to a end of the school year bash with my youth group, work on new projects, go on my runs, take a hike, and do all of my normal church work. Instead, I’ve had to take time to rest so my body, and soul, can heal.
I look forward to being well and returning to the things I love, but I also look forward to taking time to rest before my body forces me to though another round of coughing, chills, and aches. Perhaps you can pick up something useful from the lesson I’ve had to learn here recently. You also might like to read my sermon from Sunday on Matthew 11:28-30: