Author’s Note: This is the second part in a series on mankind’s search for the ideal — the perfect, the mature, the right. I m convinced that every human being, Christian or not, has at some depth a desire for things to “be right” in the world. This longing drives us to seek answers. Some look internally, some look to religion, and others look to a higher power. Lately, I’ve been deeply craving for certain areas of life to be perfect, complete and ideal. This series explores some of my longings. Maybe you can relate!
I’ve honestly never run across someone who wished to be sick. Oh, sure, when I was seven or eight I desired to have have a wee cold or cough just to keep from going to school, but did I actually want to be sick? No way! Being sick just plain sucks. There’s no other way to say it. But no matter how hard we try to avoid germs and bacteria, no matter how many wet wipes we buy or vitamin C pills we consume, sickness still finds us.
It’s just a part of living in a fallen world. Germs happen.
Living with the common cold, or even the flu, is something that I think I can live with. The chronic conditions are the illnesses that bother me. Diseases are a real downer. I personally have three of them. I consider them “my collection.” And as I have struggled somewhat with managing the illnesses the past few years I can tell you that my thoughts have often turned towards a yearning for the healthy ideal. I want to be whole! I tell that to my therapist every week. (Of course, I also tell her that when I’m done with balance therapy I should be able to walk a tightrope, ride a BMX stunt bike, skydive and do other insane vestibular things…)
Speaking of therapy, for those who have prayed/thought of me the past year I’ll give you a quick health update. I now live in mountainous southern New Mexico where I am receiving physical therapy for my Meniere’s Disease. It is a long, slow process that is testing my balance abilities but I am seeing wonderful results. I just have to keep on keeping on! I also have seen improvement in my back pain thanks to routine physical labor at my property here (I bought land in July). However, last February I received some startling news when my chiropractor saw arthritis in my vertebrae and evidence of at least two breaks that had healed. My back has deteriorated significantly in recent years. But even though the back is a mess, God has worked to eliminate a lot of my pain, which is wonderful. The third condition, a sinus disorder, is also being treated right now with prescriptions and a change in my allergy meds. In D/FW the humidity and pollen made it a chore to breathe and I struggled every night. Here, the altitude and climate is much better.
Back to the ideal…
Illness is a part of the fallen condition mankind finds itself in. As part of the curse of Genesis 3 on Adam and Eve, physical death came to humankind and, I assume, sickness and pain. The ideal of fleshly immortality that God created in Eden disappeared and people have been coughing, wheezing, sneezing and itching ever since.
I think this is why Jesus came with healing power in his hands. All four gospels make clear that Jesus’ mission as He began His earthly ministry was one of restoration — broken people with broken bodies in need of healing. It was a foreshadowing of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus, the King, came to institute. John Mark calls it, “the Gospel.” Look at Mark chapter 1:
“Now as soon as they left the synagogue, they entered Simon and Andrewʼs house, with James and John. Simonʼs mother-in-law was lying down, sick with a fever, so they spoke to Jesus at once about her. He came and raised her up by gently taking her hand. Then the fever left her and she began to serve them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered by the door. So he healed many who were sick with various diseases and drove out many demons. (Mark 1:29-34 NET)”
Jesus has been called The Great Physician and this title is well-earned. Throughout His earthly ministry, the Lord sought to bring about the ideal of physical health. He did not refuse a needy person, no matter how tired He was. The Gospel is about bringing salvation to the condemned, light to the darkness, and hope to the lost. Jesus Christ came to save sinners, Paul boldly writes in 1 Timothy 1:15.
As for me, I’ve wondered how I should properly think in regards to my health. One big part of me wants complete healing. To be honest, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be illness-free. I don’t remember! But there is another part of me that wants God to use my brokenness to encourage or otherwise minister to other people.
Paul had an affliction that he suffered from throughout his later ministry. Its exact diagnosis is still unknown but some believe it was an eye issue, maybe blurriness, cataracts or glaucoma. Paul speaks of his illness as a “thorn in his flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12:7. Did Paul want healing? You betcha! Yet, here is Paul’s attitude towards his affliction:
“I asked the Lord three times about this, that it would depart from me. But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NET).”
Now there’s an attitude to adopt! So seeing how the Lord has not healed me of my diseases, I really should seek to show God’s strength and power at work through me — me, a cracked vessel, a paper boat, a frayed string. I’m not sure how to show this strength. Maybe others see it in me. I hope they can. I may never know if they do, though! Maybe I’m supposed to do something. You know, go on a speaking circuit or write a book or something.
The ideal is to be made whole, to have no more sickness and no more pain. To be able to stand near drop-offs once again without great fear of falling down, or to be able to lift more than 40 pounds. And one day, when I’m on Canaan’s other shore, I’ll be healed. Until then, I need to seek ways to glorify God in my weakness — without conceit — and keep my mind fixed on The Great Physician, from whom my hope derives. That’s my lesson to myself!