Being sick for three days gives you time to think about your frailty. Even if that sickness is only a flu virus that poses little threat to your life, the fact that you must withdraw from being productive to spend time in bed exposes your weakness, and that is not always a bad thing. This has been my experience this week, and three thoughts keep running through my mind as I have been laid up. I am sure some of you who are dealing with more long-term severe diseases could significantly improve upon anything I say. Still, I thought I would put them into writing for my benefit and possibly the benefit of others. Here are my three reflections.
1. Sin is Serious
There would be no sickness if it were not for sin. The reason we have to deal with any of it is that we live in a fallen world. Let me be clear; I am not saying that anytime someone gets sick, it results from some sin they have committed. I am saying sickness exists because sin has entered our world. I have seen disease ravage the lives of some of my friends. I saw it once in a friend who lost his life to a virus that caused him to lose all control of his body for the last several weeks of his life. A couple of months earlier, he was physically fit and working out every day. I saw it in another friend who lost his life to cancer. These two examples are enough to show us that sickness is serious, and though I do not believe these two friends were suffering because of any particular sin in their lives, they were suffering because sin has ravaged our world.
What does this say to me? It says sin is dangerous in any form. We often play with it like a tame pet, but it is a deceptive brutal killer. Every time I play around with sin, I am playing with the very thing that brought not only sickness but death into the world. We must stop taking it lightly.
2. We Are Not Our Own
This life is not our own. This is true for everyone, but it is true in two senses for the Christian. First, it is true for everyone that life is a gift, and tomorrow is promised to no one. We should never take our health for granted. None of us know when our last day of feeling good might be. It can happen overnight; we could instantly lose all of the things we take for granted. We live in a culture that hates reminders like this. We often try to hide sickness and death, keeping them as far away as possible. Being mindful of our frailty, however, is a valuable thing. Even David cried out, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! ( Psalm 39:4)” He wanted God to remind him that his life is a vapor: here today and gone tomorrow. There is a grace in knowing this, as it keeps our vision clear. We must redeem the time. Our sinful hearts are pulling us in so many directions that it is easy to get lost: lose our center. So many things are vying for our attention, and much of it is vanity.
Once sickness puts you on your back, you quickly realize how unimportant many of the things you pursue are. Even if you know that your life is in no real danger, the questions still come. “What if this were it? What if my days of health were behind me? Was I spending it on what mattered?” The interesting thing about these questions is you would think the answers would make you speed up. Instead, they challenge you to slow down. So much of what we are chasing is vanity, and we don’t need to work so hard to have other people be impressed with us. We do not need to put on so many masks to make people believe we are something that we are not. In the end, none of that will matter. Our lives are not our own, and as much as we think we are, we are not in control of when or how they will end.
There is a second sense for the believer that our lives are not our own. Jesus purchased us at a price: the cross of Jesus. Let that cost sink in for a moment. Remember what your Savior suffered to save you. Even knowing this, we rarely sacrifice our time for Him. As Thomas Watson put it, “Christ went more willingly to the cross than we do to the throne of grace.” We are so busy chasing what we think will bring us glory and pleasure that we have little time for the One who is our heart’s desire. We have hardly any time for the Word of God and even less time for prayer. The pursuit of holiness is rarely as enticing as chasing status in this world, and they are often opposed to one another, so it is impossible to go after both. The fact that we have little time for God tends to show us where our treasure is.
3. Suffering is Crucial to our Spiritual Health
The first two reflections leave me with one final thought on the role of Suffering in the Christian life. Suffering is essential to our spiritual health. If our Savior, who had no sin, had to suffer in this fallen world, how do we, who have sinful hearts, think we will escape it. We should neither seek affliction nor run from it. It will find us and accomplish God’s purposes for it in our lives. It will wake us from our slumber. We are naturally drowsy and need to be awakened frequently. Not only do we begin to see the power of sin in these times, but we also grow in empathy for the suffering of others. It is not until we are comforted by the Lord in our times of suffering that we will be truly able to comfort others.
It is all coming to an end one day. What are we doing with the time we have? I, for one, do not want to find myself on my deathbed saying, “I wish I would have spent more time living for my Savior, in His word, in prayer, and showing a suffering world that Jesus is the answer.” Sin, in general and in particular, is our most significant problem, and He bore it on the cross. He has even defeated death by rising again, and though we are sown perishable, we will be raised imperishable. I will live for Him. Everything else will be vanity on the last day, for the things of this world are passing away.
I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. – Philippians 3:8