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In Sickness and in Health

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

(This post was originally written in January of 2010, but it applies to this time we’re in now.)

It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mark 2:17b NIV)

There’s nothing like being sick to make you appreciate how good it feels to be well! I hope you never find yourself sitting on the toilet and hugging the trash can at the same time, but if you do, know that you have my complete sympathy. After two days of lying on the couch with barely enough energy to drink soda, I was grateful just to be able to eat solid food. I woke up last Thursday thinking, “Ahh, thank goodness, I can put that behind me!” But I was still in need of a lot more sleep than usual, even after I was eating again. I felt better before I was really back to normal.

A spiritual crisis—or even just a period of questioning or soul-searching—can be a lot like a bout with the stomach flu. We have a strong need, and so we seek and pray, often finding fellowship with others as we work through it. Then it’s over: the decision is made, the hurts are healed or at least behind us, the doubts are allayed. We breathe a sigh of relief, grateful that we can get back to our regularly scheduled lives.

But if you’re like me, when we go “back to normal,” we may also go back to the cursory relationship with God that had characterized our pre-trauma lives. In my “normal” life, I lose the motivation I had for spending meaningful time in prayer or reading the Bible. I forget that while I’m on earth, I’m never really “well”—I am still a sinner in need of grace.

For just that reason, strange as it sounds, God’s material blessing is a dangerous prospect! The children of Israel experienced it. They struggled to be faithful during times of prosperity, often returning to God only when they needed to be rescued again. American Christians face this very real risk: that we will become absorbed by our wealth and miss out on the most meaningful part of life. We should not underestimate how difficult it is to maintain our thirst for knowing God.

Jesus himself warned that wealth makes it hard to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25). In this context, it seems amazing that the Psalmist was able to say, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1). The disciples were also dismayed, asking, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answered, “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:26-27).

Though I hope that you are never brought low with a crisis, because I don’t wish anyone pain, I also know that times of spiritual struggle can often be the most rewarding. Remember that we were never without the need for God, even when we felt well. That’s why if suffering finds us, we can, in Christ, rejoice in it (1 Peter 4:13). In tough times, we learn how to be near to God, habits we can use and build on after God has rescued us. Because even though we still always need God, he delights in blessing his children, too.

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