SHEPHERD TO SHEEP
DEALING WITH LONG TERM ILLNESS
(2 Cor 12:8-9) Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Sometimes in life there are surprises. Some of those are good surprises and some of those come unwelcomed. Long term illness is one of those that can crash the party of life and seek to pop every festive balloon. Perhaps you are dealing with being chronically ill. Here is some encouragement from scripture for your health concern.
Let’s talk about the apostle Paul. As far as we know he started out as a healthy young man. He rose through the ranks of Judaism and had the energy to fulfill his zeal by persecuting Christians far and wide. On his way to Damascus a light shone from heaven and he fell to the ground. He was blind for three days until he was prayed for. The Bible records that something like scales fell from his eyes and he received his sight, was filled with the Spirit and was baptized. (Acts 9)
Later on Paul’s first missionary journey it looks like from all accounts (Acts/Galatians) that he suffered some kind of Asian eye disease. He even preached among the Galatian believers with this problem. Later Paul prayed for his thorn in the flesh to be removed from him. It very well could be this chronic and debilitating eye problem that began at his conversion and then was accentuated on his travels. God promised special grace to live with the problem in replacement of his healing. Paul accepted this decision and learned to live on God’s strength instead of his own.
When illness first strikes us we pray for healing. (James 5:14-16) But what if God doesn’t heal right away? We keep on praying (Luke 18:1-8; Eph 6:18). If God still doesn’t heal then like Paul we see it as a thorn in the flesh to cause us to rely on Him for the daily strength we need.
But life doesn’t stop with a long term illness! You might be limited and not be able to do what you did before but that doesn’t mean it’s over for you. Paul kept doing what he could. He couldn’t do it the way he used to but it didn’t stop him from finding ways to press on and accomplish something for Christ. (Phil 4:13) He learned to rely on the Lord and what he accomplished was all for the glory of God. It would also prove inspirational to others who would see him carry on in spite of weakness and infirmity. Here’s a guy who wrote half of the New Testament books, traveled on mission trips, led people to Christ, established churches, and spent time in prison. Missionary to India Amy Carmichael suffered a terrible fall and spent the last twenty years of her life bedridden where she wrote many of her inspirational books. God still wants to use you, and others will be inspired to keep at it despite their weakness.