Saturday, October 7, 2017

Lessons Learned In Illness

The Bible and our own lives overflow with examples of why God allows us to suffer through trials for our ultimate good and His glory (Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:12). They draw us closer to Him in faith and complete reliance on His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9); they give us wisdom, compassion and experience to counsel others going through similar trials (1 Corinthians 10:13), and they mold us into the image of His Son through suffering (Philippians 3:10).

Praise God, my husband Richard and I have been blessed with generally excellent health since being saved, although we have not been immune to other trials. But now as he is recovering from bronchitis, and I far more slowly from pneumonia, we have realized that there are additional lessons to be learned from illness in particular. These include:

Gratitude for blessings we ordinarily take for granted. There is a saying, “What if we had today only those things we thanked God for yesterday?” As the pneumonia grabbed hold, I wished I had thanked God more for the gifts of breathing freely, undisturbed sleep, appetite, and walking across the room without having to cough or get short of breath.

The apostle Paul tells us to give thanks in all things, for this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning us (1 Thessalonians 5:18). In other words, it is God’s will that we have a thankful heart through all trials. In addition, we can have faith that whatever He allows into our life is His perfect will for us – not something we would choose or may even understand, but something He will use for our ultimate good and His glory.

Humility. When I am well, part of my ego and flesh are invested in my worldly accomplishments: teaching, singing, dancing. I have long realized and acknowledged that these are only possible as He allows, and that He has entrusted these gifts to my stewardship provided I am faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).

But nothing drives the point home that without Him, I can’t even take my next breath, when I struggle to do just that. By the grace of God, three weeks ago we completed in four days a series of five physically demanding dance shows (ten dances) to a total audience of more than 5000 people. Today it is a struggle to stand up long enough to brush my teeth, and I am thankful that no one witnesses that struggle.

Without Him I am nothing and can do nothing (John 15:5), but with Him all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26) I pray that He will restore my strength in His perfect will and timing. But in the meantime, praise God that His grace is sufficient, and that His strength is made perfect in my weakness! He gives me reason to glory in the illness, for when I am weak, He is strong, and His power may rest upon me! (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Compassion and intercession for others. It is relatively easy to pray for those who are sick and hurting as their names come up on our prayer list. But sometimes it takes being sick ourselves to have empathy for what these dear ones are going through, empathy that brings them into our heart in the still of the night and leads us to lift them up before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16). If we pray one for another, we will be healed (James 5:16), for when we do that, we are not praying for our own selfish desires (James 4:3).

God finally ended Job’s troubles and restored him completely once he began praying for his friends (Job 42:10). Personal sickness reminds us of what the apostle Paul said about the whole church body being out of joint when a single member hurts (1 Corinthians 12:26-27). It teaches us to pray fervently, not only in our affliction, but once our health is restored, for those brethren in physical need. Only then are we showing God’s love, by bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

I am humbled by expressions of love and kindness, as well as prayers, from those who are chronically ill and have health and other issues far worse than mine, May this illness teach me to follow their Godly example of self-sacrificing love!

Knowing that God is working all things together.  Once we are saved by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), we are His called and chosen people, for whom He has had a specific purpose or mission since before the world began (Ephesians 1:5,11). This illness did not catch Him by surprise, and He made provision to lessen the burden in so many ways.

My husband’s illness began before mine, so that I was able to take care of him at his worst, and to do household chores and order supplies that would simplify our lives once my illness began. When my pneumonia was at its peak, Richard had already begun to recover, and I am truly blessed and humbled by his loving care and attention to me when I need it most.

Because of our extended time away for the dance shows, we had cleaned and organized the house before we left, so the environment was more conducive to healing once we returned. Because of Hurricane Irma, the Missions Conference at our church, to which we ordinarily devote a considerable amount of our time, energy, and resources, was postponed.

At the worst point of the pneumonia God gave me the wisdom to realize that we could not be ready for a major event scheduled at our ballroom in only two weeks, despite our best intentions. Richard was in complete agreement and made all arrangements for it to be rescheduled for early next year, which turned out to be an unexpected blessing for many others involved, as well as a considerable load off our minds and weary bodies.

A traveling family who does Gospel singing and preaching had an unexpected cancellation, allowing them to be in church this Sunday as our pastor recovers from a minor procedure. Of course, nothing is unexpected for God, and our whole church is thankful for His provision. For me personally, it was also a sign from God not to try to attempt to return to teaching or singing before He allows me to be able.

Praying and living moment by moment. As I lay awake one night feverish and unable to sleep, I thoughtlessly prayed, “Dear Lord, Please let me sleep restfully through the night and let me be completely healed in the morning.” We always want what we want, and we want it now!  

But God knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8), even if it is not what we think we want; He answers in the best possible way (Matthew 7:11); and His timing is always perfect (Galatians 4:4). Tribulation gives rise to patience and increased faith as we wait on His perfect solution, and patience in turn leads to experience, hope, and the love of God flowing from our hearts to others (Romans 5:3-5). 

We are not promised tomorrow (James 4:14; Luke 12:16-20), so we should be mindful of and thankful for every moment He allots us. God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and He asks us to pray each day for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11), not for supplies to hoard for the future. When the Israelites attempted to gather manna for the next day, it would spoil (Exodus 16). Praise God that He gives us fresh blessings every moment!

As I thought about my prayer, I realized that in an extreme form, it would be like being born again (John 3:3-8), and then praying: “Dear Lord, Thank You for saving me. Now please let me have a great life serving You, and when I see You face-to-face, I’ll give You all the glory!” A Christian praying such a prayer in isolation could not be a useful vessel to Jesus Christ, as our walk with Him (Colossians 2:6; 1 John 1:7) depends on constantly listening for and following the sound of His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12).

So I modified my sleepless prayer, “Dear Lord, You have promised never to leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), Please enfold me in Your arms for the next hour and give your beloved sleep (Psalm 127:2) that is peaceful, healing, restoring, and renewing. Thank You for the healing You will bring about with Your perfect timing and grace.”

God answered that prayer, and when I awoke in a little over an hour I prayed it again, this time sleeping for more than two hours, for He answers our prayers exceeding abundantly beyond what we could do or think! (Ephesians 3:20). Throughout the night I alternated between refreshing sleep, sweet fellowship with Him, and prayer for others He brought to my heart. In the morning I felt that healing was beginning to be underway.

Under Divine inspiration, the apostle Paul commanded us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 1:9; 2 Timothy 1:3). When life seems to be going as we had planned and hoped, we are less likely to thank God in constant praise and worship and to seek His face regarding His will for our life. But when He brings us to our knees, we are in the best possible position to pray continually to be aligned with His specific mission for us,

This involves not only His overall will for our life, but specific assignments He gives us daily to test our obedience and accomplish His purposes. What would have happened if Jesus, Who had the single most significant God-given destiny, did not take the time or considered Himself too important to be interrupted by the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), or the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43-44), the lepers, the blind, or so many others?

May the lessons learned in illness and other trials stay with us, reminding us to rely solely on Jesus Christ and His perfect plan for our lives; to pray for and help others with sincere, heartfelt compassion; and to live empowered by Him, thank Him and pray to Him moment by moment!

© 2017 Laurie Collett



Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I am glad that both your husband and yourself had made a recovery from your recent illness. It often during those times when we suddenly realise how important our health is to us, and how we are prone to take our health for granted.
Yes, our breathing, our heartbeat, our immune system, our food digestion, and every form of involuntary body function is sustained by God, as with every hair on our heads is numbered.
But as God sends rain to the just and to the unjust alike, so likewise, he sustains both the believer and unbeliever alike, at least where physical life is concerned, his grace is universal.
A thought-provoking post. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Richard is doing much better, praise God, but I still am very weak, have lost 9 lb., and continue to cough, which interrupts sleep. But I do feel the continuous presence of His hand of healing, restoring my health in His perfect timing. Praise God that His mercies are so great that He preserves the health of the unbeliever as well as His child, giving the former a chance to repent and be saved. Thanks as always for your Scripturally based comment, and God bless,

Aritha said...

Thank you for you openess here. I love to read the bibleverses and also about your thoughts during your sickness. God bless you. Share the lesson God learned you.

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Ariella, for your encouraging comment. I'm blessed to hear you enjoyed the post. God bless you too.

Donald Fishgrab said...

As you pointed out, sometimes we need to go through these trials just to be reminded how dependent we are on God, and how much he loves us. Praise Him for his healing, and the way he guides and prepares everything.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Donald! Praise God for His provision through all trials, and for healing in His perfect timing. Thanks for your comment and God bless.