Posts Tagged ‘illness’

Really, I have been spared a good deal of suffering. Oh, I have known emotional apocalypses and stress, but generally, my body has not known deep pain, depravity, or paucity. And yet, I’m still downright cranky about personal injustice and fairness.

I Peter 2:21b-22a
But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, . . .

I’m not exactly sure but it seems that I am fearful that an injustice towards me will diminish me. It’s as though that other person’s opinion will be believed by others and soon, there will be a posse of people corrupting my reputation. But why do I care? If I know that I have done the best I could, if I know I intended well and desired only a good outcome, if I was honest with others and myself and as fair as I could be, what does it matter what other people think? Why do we allow these situations to become a type of “personal suffering.” This is not what is meant in these verses, I’m sure.

No. But I am thinking that sickness and disease, in general, are sufferings extended to both believers and non-believers. Illness is no respecter of persons, and it is only one’s response to afflictions that identifies appropriated grace. In the end, disease, pain, and illness are basically unjust. I really doubt anyone in particular “deserves” to be sick anymore than anyone in particular deserves to be healthy or wealthy or content.

Life is a challenge for everyone.

I tried to teach my children this truth. We all carry some kind of adversity in our lives, whether it’s disabling disease, mental chaos, or other limitations. These are the circumstances of our lives that color our evolution as human. And there are a few givens that are totally out of our control: parents, home, country, race, etc.

Some years ago, a family in our church went from one devastation to another, first the teenaged daughter was in a grotesque one car accident from which she was not supposed to recover. While the girl was in recovery, the mother developed cancer. While the mother was in treatment, the father lost his job. These were lovely people who appeared to have collected much more than their fair share suffering in a span of a couple of years. We cannot know the why. Not really, without our words sounding like so many platitudes.

Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a wonderful book over twenty years ago, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. I consider this a must read for anyone who has suffered physically or emotionally. And I’m sure there are others who have covered this topic.

So, in response to Peter’s words, I can only say, “I have a long way to go.” I am grateful for the work of the Christ, but I am weak in my body and mind in the face of pain or potential pain. Forgive me.

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How many of us are ashamed of the chains of another person? Sometimes it’s a looking away or denial of the mistake someone has made and “paying for it” through imprisonment. But there are other chains, like mental illness, grief, illness, divorce, unemployment, and poverty.

II Timothy 1:16
May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.

I was ashamed of myself today as I realized I had lost touch with a woman who lost her husband last year. When he died suddenly, I had every intention of reaching out, of staying in touch, of being present to my friend as she went through the grieving process. But I didn’t. And now it has been a year. What caused this lack of attention? I wasn’t ashamed of her pain, per se, but I was uncomfortable. Grief is palpable.

And then I thought of other women I have left to bear the chains of their sorrow, my dearest friend whose brother died suddenly in a car accident. I didn’t know what to say or do and so I did next to nothing. Another friend lost her husband to lung cancer and it was months before I even sat at table with her. She was bitter at the desertions, not unlike Paul who names Phygelus and Hermogenes [vs 15].

I have colleagues whose teen and twenty-something children have gotten caught up in dangerous and illegal circumstances that have put them in prisons and detention centers. I know these mothers sorrow and I know it is hard for them to talk about it. What am I doing to ease their pain?

Another blogger wrote of the isolation that comes from mental illness and how people fear it, not unlike an infectious disease. The very thing that is needed is an unfailing and understanding presence.

I know, I shy away from so many things I do not understand but I am caught short today by my frozen inaction. Even though I am not gifted in removing the chains of others, I can still give a cup of water and hold a hand. A pastor friend of mine once said that people in grief generally need little but someone sitting beside them. Talk is often unnecessary. But I am all about the talk and the words. Silence in a group is outside my comfort zone.

It’s back to phrases like “life is in the being not in the doing” or, we are human “beings” not human “doings.” Corny but all true. But all that “being” needs to be in a place, needs to be with others who are struggling with their current state of “being” and could use a little support, like Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses [Exodus 8:12].

For all of those whose chains I ignored, I ask you to forgive me. May this day be a reminder and a call to be present in the lives of those around me, chains and all.

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A popular phrase among the younger generation of believers is that they are following the “way of Jesus.” In essence, Paul asks for the same thing, but simply calls it a way of life . . . “the life.” On that way, we are transformed.

I Corinthians 4:16-17a
Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, . . .

This way is all about our responses: how we react to challenges along that path.

I’d like to say I do well in this regard, but that would really cause my Pinocchio nose to grow. It’s not that I don’t want to be on the way. I do. I can even say with confidence that I am on this way. I just don’t seem to be going in a straight line.

The way includes a lot of the “turn the other cheek” stuff. It includes accepting my current situation and making the best of it. In means “When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly.” [I Cor 4:12b-13a] We love.

There must be a moment of transcendence when things like persecution or even success no longer matter, when Spirit trumps 3-D.

But right now, all my cares and troubles and disappointments are causing tremendous stress. A woman friend I have know since I was three years old called me the other day. She told me she has stage 3 breast cancer. She’s fighting hard. The thing that makes her most angry, she said, was that she was so damn “healthy” up until then. She didn’t smoke or drink. She worked out regularly. She was happily married. She had a good job and a successful son. She had wealth and security. And yet, her life was filled with stress: staying on top of it all, doing the right thing at the right moment, working 7 days a week and long hours, juggling family and work, and racing from one thing to another. She believes the stress made her sick.

This is not the life. This is not the way.

Practicing the presence of God is an exchange: replacing the normal brain hi-jinks with Spirit.

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Acts 9:40
Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.

Some say that the person who is sick must have faith in order to receive a healing. But doesn’t this story contradict that idea? Tabitha could not have had anything in mind–she was dead. Well, then, they say, the person praying must have great faith. But there are examples in scripture where a person is healed only by touching the garment of Jesus or one of the disciples.

Let’s face it. Healing is a mystery. And so is death and illness.

Why do some get sick and some not? Why do some die from their illness and some not? We will never know.

It is God who heals and not we, ourselves, no matter how much faith we have. God is sovereign and God chooses. In most cases, healing and resurrection have a longer reach than just a benefit for the person healed or raised from the dead. Either Jesus was building faith in his followers or he was removing the veil from the eyes of the unbelievers that they might see and believe.

There are a few instances when Jesus specifically told the healed person not to tell. My guess would be that these healings were for the witnesses present and would not serve to rouse faith in non-believers. In other words, there was no point in telling because nothing would come out of it.

What does all this mean for me today? I wish I knew. I know in my heart if I could consistently hear God’s voice within, I would know how to pray for those who are sick (emotionally and physically). But, heck, I can’t even hear His voice to find a misplaced book, much less broker health.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of my favorite photographers, said that he would hear the word “yes” in his mind whenever he was looking through the viewfinder. And in that moment, he would know that he had captured something meaningful. I believe this “yes” is the same voice for healing.

Lord, as I pray for others, speak your “yes” that I might hear and the sick made well. Give me confidence to pray. And may every healing bring your kingdom closer to our hearts.

I pray again today for Kim G, Vanessa M, Anne W, Sarah W, Rebecca M, Becky T, Jeff B, Chelsea A, John, Janis U, and Lily B.

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Matthew 6:17-18
But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Facing the challenge of walking with a child, even a teenager, through the tests and doctor visits and more tests and more doctor visits searching for answers, takes everything and more. It is the parents who must be strong for the sake of the child, who must carry hope like a light in a very dark place, who must model faith. This is the “unknown” time when no one knows for sure what is causing the symptoms. There are theories and suspicions, there are whispered conversations in the hall, and there are scrutinizing questions. But the answers remain elusive. And so we keep going. We keep searching.

This is a faith building time. I know it. But I also know I need a way to focus that faith on the circumstances at hand without anxiety. And so, I choose the fast. May this small gesture propel me into the “secret place.”

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The story of Daniel has many mysteries, but one of the most well known is the revelations that God gave him about the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2). I have not had any mysterious dreams, but I do wonder today why things work the way they do. The juxtaposition of events is always a bit peculiar. This past weekend, my children all went on a Chrysalis weekend, a mountain top if not life-changing one for all of them. And then, they all got sick (virus heaven on the weekend I suppose) and then, I too, became ill, but with a more mysterious ailment than just a cold.

I am currently in a lot of discomfort along with some pain below my sternum and so far, in a week of tests and doctor appointments, no one knows the source or cause of my problem. It’s a mystery. In my heart I believe that God is in this, but I don’t know yet, in what way. In verse 2:18, Daniel says to his friends, plead for mercy from God concerning this mystery… he was asking for revelation, a supernatural understanding of what Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was and what it meant. Note… they needed to discover what it was before it’s meaning could be discerned.

There are actually many mysteries in our lives like this… and I think we don’t spend enough time asking God for the mercy of revelation. We are too busy using our own knowledge or the knowledge of others to reveal truth, when we should be asking God for it.

We don’t spend enough time identifying what is actually happening. We don’t look deeply enough into the nature of the events. We assume too much. We interpret before we know. We interpret the symptoms… the outward expressions of what is.

Today, I ask… I plead oh God, for an understanding of what is…

I remember my salvation story a true expression of this idea… when I came to the Lord, it was because a classmate challenged me to read the New Testament the same way we were being instructed in acting school to read scripts. For the first read-through, we were told to put the phrase, “If this were true…” and only after taking all the words at face value … to get the full intent of what they words actually say … could we begin to interpret. It was this reading of the Word that brought me to my knees before God, alone, on Christmas Eve, 1979.

There is a core truth to every event.

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