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


Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
As Paul had written: everyone who live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution - 2 Timothy 3:12.
I use to believe that "persucution" meant the torture rack, stoned to death, or to be burned at the stake. But after realising the source of the oppression - that is from the adversary - persecution could take any form.
And one of these forms is an attack on our health. Over the last few years, watching my beloved suffer intense pain, hospital visits, the need for heavy medication (for both of us) and the distress all that can cause, has not only drew us closer to God but also strengthened our marriage.
Indeed, we both look forward to see Jesus Christ face-to-face and see the end of all our troubles.
God's blessings to you and Richard.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Amen -- our battles are not carnal, but spiritual, and Satan surely can use physical illness to persecute us, as He did Job. But God can turn all things for good -- as you say, strengthening our faith and marriage through trials.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus! When we see Him face-to-face, we shall be as He is, and He will wipe every tear from our eye.
Thanks as always for sharing your insights and experience. May God bless you and Alex,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
yes, I find that trials - including what we call illness - actually strengthen us, and also build up our immune system. I love the scripture that says that the leaves are for the healing, which is both physical and spiritual. When we lived in Australia the indigenous people, the Aborigines, ate a particular grass which healed them very quickly from what we call gastro enteritis. For born again believers the leaves of the tree of life are our healing. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
As the old saying goes, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I sincerely believe that God has filled the earth and seas with plants that can heal every ailment -- but we haven't discovered most of them, and sadly, we have destroyed many unintentionally. In the Millennial Kingdom the leaves of the tree of life will keep all from disease. Praise God for His many blessings and wondrous promises!
God bless,