This last week and a half have been challenging. I’ve been in and out of the hospital trying to get to the bottom of some significant stomach pain. Not exactly how one would expect a post about joy to begin, but I’ve discovered some things (or been reminded of some things) throughout this process that I wanted to jot down (this is being written on my phone so there might be some typos). Let me start with a few basic things to set the stage.
First, no one enjoys being sick or being in pain. That one goes without saying. We all want to live in a general state of comfort, free from pain and illness. That however is not a reality in a broken and fallen world.
Second, God is not absent, doesn’t make mistakes, and sovereignly governs all human affairs, including our sickness and pain.
Third, all pain is temporary for a believer. This is even true of those who live with chronic pain. At one point, pain will end, either through healing or death.
So with all that said, I’ve been reminded that illness, sickness, and pain actually serve joy. Here are a few ways I think this works.
1) Sickness serves joy by reminding us that this world is not our home. We were not created for pain, but sickness and pain are a result of the fall and the residual effects of sin in this world. For a Christian, we should not be at home in this world because our home is a future inheritance that we will receive. One day, all pain, sorrow and sickness will be done away with forever. In the meantime, we do suffer. It’s unavoidable. Sickness reminds the Christian that we are awaiting an eternity with Christ that has not come yet and so it serves our joy by pointing us forward to that reality and patient anticipation of that day.
2) Sickness serves joy by reminding us of the blessing of health. When we are sick or experiencing pain, we have an opportunity to remember to appreciate health when we have it as a good gift rom God. Christ has overcome all of the brokenness of this world and so those times when we are healthy and without pain are a reminder of what awaits us for eternity.
3) Sickness serves joy by reminding us that this “light, momentary affliction is preparing us for the eternal weight of glory”. I can’t say I understand exactly how this works, but I know it’s true. For the Christian, sickness, illness and pain are good gifts from a loving Father that are working something in us to prepare us for eternity. Therefore we can embrace it in faith knowing that it is accomplishing something necessary in us and that god takes bad things and works them for good. Especially when we don’t understand how it works.
4) Sickness serves joy by giving us rest. Your body cannot heal without rest. These last few days have been rough, but they’ve forced me to slow down and rest (something which I don’t do well). The pace slows down. We have time to reflect and think. I’ve found it to be joy producing just in not having things constantly pulling me in different directions.
5) Sickness serves joy by experiencing the blessing of the ministry of others. From people visiting in the hospital to offering to watch our kids, it’s been amazing to experience the prayers, love and practical help of others. Knowing that there are other people who care about my family and are not only willing, but want to help us is a reminder of the importance of the body of Christ in the life of the believer. In addition, some of the nursing staff are members of our church and they have been able to uniquely minister to me with the gifts God has given them while knowing we have the same hope and confidence in the gospel.
6) Sickness serves joy by deepening our reliance upon God. Sure doctors and nurses can help you get to feel better, but ultimately we realize that we are in God’s care and we can trust in his wisdom and ability to heal (or not heal). My health might fail, but my relationship with God cannot. He doesn’t stop being my provider, protector, and healer.
7) Sickness serves joy by giving opportunities to minister to others and display hope. As a Christian in the hospital, I am in a unique position to minister to the staff who are caring for me. I’ve gotten to know the nurses a bit and been able to talk with them throughout my time here and learn about them and how I can pray for them.
8) Sickness serves joy by reminding us of what really matters in this life. Being away from my family and then seeing them walk into the room to visit brings lifts my spirits and is a reminder that the people in my life and being a good husband/father are what really matters. Sickness forces us to re-evaluate how we are doing with stewarding the most important things in our be.
9) Sickness serves joy by giving time of silence and solitude to reflect on my life. These days in the hospital have brought about increased prayer, self-reflection, repentance, resolve, and assessment of different areas of my life where I’ve been relying upon myself too much or where my priorities have not been right. For a Christian, sickness can actually deepen our treasuring and trusting of God through taking advantage of the slowed pace and vulnerability that should drive us to him.
10) Sickness serves joy by re-awakening small joys that can become dull over time. Joys like food, laughter, fellowship, etc can be taken for granted when we have them all the time. I haven’t been able to eat for a few days and that simple act of forced fasting has caused me to be thankful for the taste of food. The fact that God gave us taste buds and we can enjoy something as common as a meal on a regular basis can become lost. Sickness helps me appreciate those things more, the fact that God made them to be enjoyed and that those joys are meant to point me to him as the author and source of that joy.
So so it seems to me that for a Christian, we should have a different perspective on sickness. We should be reminded that we are weak but God is strong. We should delight in God because he is there with us in the midst of our sickness. We should allow sickness to remind us of what matters and not waste our sickness but see it as an avenue to increase our joy in God through seeing the good gifts he has given us while looking forward to the great promises and are sure for those who trust in Christ.
Jon is husband to Carlee, Papa to Finleigh, Ainsley, and Olivia, a pastor at Arbor Drive Community Church in York, Ne, and co-host of The Pastor Discussions Podcast