Are you sick of being sick—sick of doctor’s visits, sick of painful treatments, sick of watching life go by, sick of feeling weak, sick of having to be on the receiving end of people’s sympathy, and sick of hopes raised and hopes dashed? The fact is that sickness is no fun whatsoever, but it is a fact. Because of Adam’s disobedience to God, death entered the world, and disease with it (Rom. 5:12). Ours is a world that groans beneath the weight of its fallenness and futility (Rom. 8:22). The Bible would remind us that life is lived in the shadow of death (Psa. 23:4; Luke 1:79). As a result, sickness is a humbling and discouraging reality, but it does not have to be a crushing reality. The case of Lazarus reminds us we can experience God’s love in the midst of the things we hate about our sickness (John 11:3). Our disease, disability, or death can be a means of knowing and showing the glory of God (John 11:4).
C. H. Spurgeon of London, England, was a man greatly used of God (1834–1892). Yet to read his life is to discover that he suffered illness for a good portion of his ministry and died fairly young. On one occasion, this great Baptist preacher wrote, “I have suffered many times from severe sickness and frightful mental depression sinking almost to despair.” On another occasion, he wrote with an increased appreciation of the value of his suffering: “I venture to say that the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness.” Amazingly, it seems that Spurgeon had found more sanctifying benefit in sickness than health. Spurgeon had learned valuable lessons in the school of suffering he would not have learned as well elsewhere. His physical weakness had promoted his spiritual strength.
In running with the thought that sickness has its benefits, let’s reflect on some ways in which illness is good for us. First, it causes us to reflect on our mortality and pushes us to number our days (Eccles. 7:2–4; Psa. 90:12). The thought of death can be an elixir for life and what is truly important. Second, it argues for the comforting doctrine of God’s providence (Psa. 115:3; Eph. 1:11). The doctrine of providence reminds us that there are no accidents in life, only divine appointments, and therefore we can move beyond despair and cold resignation to a belief that God is accomplishing good things through the bad in our lives (Rom. 8:28; James 1:2–4). Third, it makes us more sympathetic and helpful to others who are struggling (2 Cor. 1:3–7; Phil. 2:26–27). God puts us through what we are going through to help others get through what they are going through. Let’s not waste sorrow but use it! Fourth, it magnifies the grace and glory of Christ. Ugly sickness can show us the beauty of Christ—the beauty of His death on our behalf as He was acquainted with grief to save us (Isa. 53:3–5) and the beauty of His surpassing greatness in the midst of our losses and crosses (Phil. 3:8–11)! Christ alone is forever!
Sickness is beneficial when it promotes spiritual health (3 John 2)! The Puritan pastor Abraham Wright wrote, “I am mended by my sickness, enriched by my poverty, and strengthened by my weakness.” “Mended by my sickness.” Now there is a thought!