In Sickness and in Health

I’m slowly emerging from what we in polite society call a head cold from the place of eternal perdition. It’s been 7-10 days of full-out and complete battle against invisible forces, armed in one hand with a box of kleenex and in the other with a fistful of vitamin C—and goodness knows what I took in the middle of the night in my congestion-induced haze.

It’s been rough.

Apparently we’ve been passing it around as a family for several weeks now (this is the third Sunday I’ve been home with little ones) and, while at first it contented itself with drippy noses and whiny coughs, it finally conspired into one massive onslaught. Fever, congestion, watery eyes, coughing—the works.

As you can imagine, when mama’s been transformed into a walking ball of germs, it can take a toll on family life. And while I know we ate last week, I have only vague memories of chicken curry and pasta. What form or shape they took, well…your guess is as good as mine. My mind’s been cluttered too, and the normally lucid conversations with my husband have been reduced to grunts and a universal absence of antecedents.

Me: So…mumble, mumble, snort….she should just tell him how she really feels…cough, wheeze…about what he said to her when she wasn’t around.
Husband: mmmhmm
Me: I mean…cough, snort….don’t you think that it was…..mumble, mumble….for him to tell her….sneeze…she had done?
Husband: uh…
Me: But he…sniffle…that he didn’t actually say….mumble, snort…that she had said when he was talking with her.
Husband: “You’re probably right, honey. But I have just one question…what are you talking about?”

In many ways, I feel like I just lost a week of my life.

Because while my children were busy instructing me in the proper way to sneeze (“Mommy, when we sneeze, we do it into our sleeves.”), my productivity has been nil. Writing projects have been pushed back yet another week, piles of laundry have become towering mountains and Christmas cards have not gone into the mail. Who am I kidding—I haven’t even bought them yet!

And it’s all been very humbling. Because as I stumbled around this last week, barely able to keep our family moving, it reminded me of how vulnerable and weak we really are. And about how silly we are to think otherwise. As this week testified, on a regular basis, organisms we can’t even see interrupt our lives and keep us from accomplishing what we planned—all while there’s very little we can do about it. Medicines, preventions, and immune systems aside, touch the wrong door handle or breathe in the wrong breath of air, and at least for a bit, the only thing you’ll be able to do is rest and wait for your body to heal.

But for some of you, sickness is not simply an inconvenience. It’s a way of life. And while the rest of us may stumble through the occasional head cold, you are sidelined long-term and forced to sit and watch other people move forward, pursue their careers, grow their families, and by all accounts, lead productive lives. All while your strength is devoted to simply surviving.

It must be maddening.

I can’t say that I’ve always been sympathetic to my friends and family who struggle with long-term illness. In fact, I may as well admit the worst—at times, I’ve been downright apathetic. But this week has taught me, among other things, gratitude and perhaps a dose of sympathy. What I experienced this week is nothing compared to what some of you struggle with for a lifetime. And so, if I’m honest, even this bout of illness was grace of a sort. Grace to remind me of my own inability, grace to teach me to rest, and grace to remember to use my good health to serve those who don’t have it.

And to those of you who don’t: please be encouraged that this too is a gift because whether you realize it or not, your often very private struggles are producing “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” While the rest of us are content to make this earth our home and mourn the loss of our bodies as we age, you already know what we’ve yet to learn—instead of clinging to them, it’s so much better to hope in Him and wait for the redemption of them.

[node:bio/handerson body]

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Had a fair amount of sickness myself the last few weeks. Thanks for helping put it in perspective.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Dick Dayton's picture

The Lord often draws my mind to the words of John to Gaius, "I wish that you would prosper, even as your soul prospers." If we read between the lines, it would seem that Gaius was physically afflicted and spiritually vibrant.

Our health is a stewardship issue. We should maintain good health habits because our bodies and our souls belong to and were purchased by Christ. This body is the tool God has given me for my service for Him, and it is right that I do what is possible to maintain it.

But, we must remember Romans 8, that we live in a sin cursed earth, and that all created things groan under the curse. That does not mean we take a fatalistic point of view, but we need to focus upon health of our souls.

This January marks three years from a major health event for me. I had 99% blockage in my main cardiac artery, and three places of 80% blockage in the oithers. I had been maintaining reasonable health habits, but genetics is more powerful.

What are the lessons the Lord brought to us ? 1) The I Corinthians 6 principle that we need to be good stewards of our bodies. Since surgery, my eating and exercise habits have been subjected to a higher level of discipline 2) The great ministry of the local church. During my recovery period, our church family jumped to the plate, and the local church minsitry continued well. They showered us with prayer and love. 3) When I visit a patient in the hospital, I now make my visits short. They are there to recover, not to talk with me. 4) Life is short, and we better be diligent in serving the Lord this side of heaven.

Some years ago, I took a counseling module dealing with Patients With Critical Or Terminal Illness. The thrust is that our goal needs to be to manage our health for the Lord's glory, not necessarily to get better. Even if we "get better," we will still be leaving this earth at some time. A serious illness may CHANGE our venue or activity in ministry, but it need not STOP it. In fact, when we are ill, we may have opportunity to minister to a whole new segment of people.

Dick Dayton

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