Saturday, January 22, 2022

Lessons Learned In Illness


Our love and prayers go out to all those who are currently suffering with illness, whether from Covid-19 or other issues. Many in our personal circle are afflicted, and the sheer numbers of those who are ill in our state, country and the world are staggering. Sickness of any kind is a heavy burden that weighs on the individual themselves, their family, and their communities, physically, spiritually, and economically. 

Although my husband is still undergoing cancer treatment, we are blessed that he is tolerating it well and that we enjoy good health and energy levels overall and an active lifestyle. But as the Lord gives, He can also take away (Job 1:21), and we know that circumstances could change at any moment according to His perfect will (James 4:14). When we were both acutely ill with respiratory issues in 2017, I wrote the blog post below, and I felt led to edit and repost it now in hopes that it might bless someone currently struggling with 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 in the fall of  2017,as he was recovering from bronchitis, and I far more slowly from pneumonia, we  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 struggled to do just that. By the grace of God, in 2017 before getting sick we completed in four days a series of five physically demanding dance shows (ten dances) to a total audience of more than 5000 people. Yet once I became ill, it was a struggle to stand up long enough to brush my teeth, and I am thankful that no one witnessed 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 prayed that He would restore my strength in His perfect will and timing, and He answered that prayer! But while awaiting recovery, I praised God that His grace is sufficient, and that His strength is made perfect in my weakness! He gave 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).

When I was ill, I was humbled by expressions of love and kindness, as well as prayers, from those who were chronically ill and had health and other issues far worse than mine. My prayer was that this illness would 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 needed 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 2018, which turned out to be an unexpected blessing for many others involved, as well as a considerable load off our minds and weary bodies.

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 loveof 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
Edited and reposted from the archives

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Treasures of the Snow

 


This time of year, my mind drifts back to Pennsylvania winters of my childhood, and the wonder of snow falling all around. Like an angel’s kiss floating to my mittened palm, each snowflake would linger for a moment before vanishing into thin air. Later I learned that each snowflake was unique, symmetrical, like a six-pointed star, an ice crystal that could melt into water or sublimate into vapor.

Before scientists invented magnifying lenses, the beautiful, delicate crystalline shape of the snowflake could be fully appreciated only by God Himself, which may be why He, in illustrating His great power, asked Job if he had ever entered into the treasures of the snow (Job 38:22).

Six, like the sides of the snowflake, is the number of man (Revelation 13:18), for God created man on the sixth day to be the crowning jewel of His creation, made in His image (Genesis 1:26-31). How amazing that Creator God has a distinct design for every snowflake, even though we don’t usually see it because the flakes clump together or dissolve before our eyes.

Small wonder, then, that the Creator Who devoted so much attention to the snowflake also created each of us to be unique. Each of us is special, not only physically based on our DNA structure (Psalm 139:14), but in terms of the soul that motivates us and the plan He has predestinated for each of His children since before the beginning of time (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:5,11).

Like the snowflake, our physical existence is all too short, like a warm breath that escapes our lips only to disappear into the frosty air (James 4:14). The snowflake may transform from a crystal to vapor, or it may compact with others into a glacier of tremendous power, sculpting the earth and depositing precious soil where it is needed. Or it may melt, becoming part of a mountain stream that nourishes the earth in early spring, not only with water, but with dissolved minerals.

Whether melted or evaporated, the snowflake enters the never-ending water cycle that hydrates the earth, a fact that was supernaturally recorded in the book of Job, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, thousands of years before science had discovered it (Job 6:15-17; 24:19; 37:6,9-12; 15-22; 38:22-37). If we are born again (John 3:3-8) by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), we may mingle together in rivers of His Living Water, bringing spiritual refreshment to all whose lives we touch (John 4:10-11; 7:37-38; Song of Solomon 4:15; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; Revelation 7:17).

Snow does not last long in the form it originally appears, and our time on earth is also limited (Job 14:1). Once the curse of sin entered the Garden of Eden through Adam and Eve’s disobedience (Genesis 3), death and dying entered too, so man could no longer live forever in his earthly body.

But the apostle Paul tells of the amazing transformation that occurs once our corrupt, mortal body enters the earth. Although it decays, like a snowflake melts or a seed appears to shrivel away, it awaits God’s awakening power. When Jesus Christ returns for His children, the bodies of those saints who have died will be resurrected into glorified, immortal bodies, never again to age; to feel pain, sickness or sorrow; to sin or to die (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).

And like the snowflake that vanishes or sublimates, God’s children who are still alive when Christ returns will disappear from the sight of those who are left behind, for we too will be changed into immortal bodies that are caught up into the air to meet with Jesus Christ and live forever with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

When snow blankets the grime-covered, muddy streets, all appears new, fresh and pure, reminding me of the new beginnings God gives us every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Job speaks of cleansing his hands in snow water (Job 9:30). But true, complete cleansing comes only from the shed blood of Jesus, which has washed away our sins, turning them from scarlet to the pure white of driven snow (Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 1:18).

When we trust Him as Lord and Savior, He clothes us with the whitest robes of His righteousness (Job 29:14; Psalm 132:9; Isaiah 61:10) and remembers our sins no more (Psalm 103:12). One day we will see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12) and perceive that His clothing and even His head and hair are white as snow (Daniel 7:9; Matthew 28:3; Mark 9:3; Revelation 1:14).

May those of us who are blessed to see snowflakes this winter take the time to reflect on their pristine beauty and to admire the handiwork of the Master Designer, with His infinite attention to every detail. May we thank Him for the cleansing power of His shed blood. May we remember that He created each of us uniquely beautiful, to fulfill the perfect plan He has for each of us until He raptures us to live forever with Him!

© 2016 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, January 8, 2022

In God’s Army

I dreamed that I was being conscripted into the Armed Forces and sent to a different country for boot camp. My husband is helping me pack. I take three pairs of ballroom dance shoes, made of cloth rather than leather, and am pleased that they fold up compactly and fit easily in my duffel bag. I realize that I don’t have a military ID, but my husband says I can use his, because “they’ll never check.”

Upon awakening and thinking about the meaning of the dream, I realized that once we are saved and born again (John 3:3-8) by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), we are not meant to be passive bystanders, but to be soldiers in God’s army. He has designed each of us specifically for His unique purpose, each individual assigned their own rate and rank, working together corporately under the command of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12).

Yet He also has a general plan that applies to the life of every believer – our marching orders, if you will. We are to seek God’s kingdom first, and His righteousness, and then He will supply each of us with all our needs (Matthew 6:33). Each of us is to spread the Good News, or Gospel message, so that others can be recruited into His ranks (Matthew 28:18-20). Each of us is to love Him and one another (Luke 10:27), following His commandments (John 14:15), which is only possible through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 7). Each of us is to study and follow His Word (2 Timothy 2:15), which is the code of conduct we must live by.

The dance shoes in this dream could represent the talent of dance God has given me to serve Him through our dance ministry, with the three pairs reflecting both the Trinity (Galatians 4:6) and man’s number (6; the total number of shoes). Their being made of cloth, easily folded and packed, could indicate my desire to carry this gift with me into my service in God’s army, to be flexible in its use even in what seems to be an incongruous situation.

Dance shoes would seem to be a strange weapon of choice. Yet throughout Scripture, God has used not only ordinary people, but ordinary things, to accomplish His purpose. David carried five smooth stones to the battle in which God used him to fell Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40-51); a small boy gave his lunch for Jesus to transform into a feast for thousands (John 6:5-13); and Christ’s followers used palm fronds to worship Him (Matthew 21:1-9). What matters is not what we bring to the battle, but whether we yield ourselves and what He has given us to His command.

Yet the dance shoes may represent not only our dance ministry, but also a personal passion of mine to express myself through dance. This could be a warning not to be encumbered with personal desires as we seek to follow and obey Him. The shoes in the dream were not made of the customary supportive and durable leather, but rather of cloth that could easily wear out or even cause blisters or a twisted ankle.

Not exactly combat boots! While dancers strive to have pretty feet, with flexibility and line enhanced by proper footwear (Song of Solomon 7:1), Scripture refers to beautiful feet as belonging to those who preach the Gospel (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15). Christ’s disciples and missionaries throughout the ages have trod on dusty, rocky roads, no doubt with calloused, bleeding feet, lacking physical attractiveness but reflecting the spiritual beauty of the truth of salvation.

In His second letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul warned his young protégé to endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, and not to get entangled with the affairs of this life; that he may please Christ, who chose him to be a soldier (2 Timothy 2:2-3). Like Timothy, all believers are to fight the good fight of faith so that we may lay hold of eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7).

The centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant sick with the palsy recognized that His authority far exceeded his own over the many soldiers he commanded, and that His spoken Word was sufficient to bring about the healing he desired. In turn, Jesus commended him for his great faith and granted his request by merely speaking it as a fait accompli. (Matthew 8:9-13; Luke 7:1-10). May we have such faith!   

Not having my own military ID in the dream, and considering using my husband’s ID, was a reminder that each of us must pledge our own allegiance to our Supreme Commander. We must each have our own identity in Christ by personally asking Him to be Lord and Savior of our life.

We can’t depend on church membership, or being born into a Godly family, or associating with Christians to get us into Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9). If that is our only claim to salvation, we will be sorely disappointed. It’s not enough to talk the talk -- we have to walk the walk, not only in the good works that spring from our salvation (James 2:18-26), but in our heart attitude of trusting and obeying Christ.

Those without that personal allegiance to Him face an eternal future in hell rather than in Heaven, as Christ bars them from the gates of pearl (Revelation 21:21) with the words, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.”  (Matthew 7:21-23).

But those of us with legitimate credentials – those who trust only in the blood of Christ to wash away our sins (Romans 3:25, Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14) and have been sealed with the Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13, 4:30) – will be enlisted in the most glorious army of all time.

After the Rapture of believers (1 Corinthians 15:52-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) and Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16), will return to earth to defeat the enemies of Israel, Antichrist, the false prophet, and Satan, with the Word of His mouth. Accompanying Him will be an army of all believers of every time and nation, each in fine white linen, riding a powerful white horse (Revelation 19:11-21).

In my dream, I was packing for boot camp in a different country. In a way, our life on earth is like the boot camp where we are being trained for that great ultimate battle, which will take place once we have attained citizenship in a new, heavenly country.

May we be willing to endure the hardness of battle for the blessing and honor of being in God’s army, not only in this life, but when Jesus Christ comes again! 

© 2022 Laurie Collett