Blah! For the past three weeks, I’ve traveled around the sun cradled in my worn oversized recliner. My bout with the flu evolved into my first experience with pneumonia. My family has tolerated my occupation of our living room in good humor, even offering me popsicles and jello from time to time.
While I can’t say I’ve enjoyed these days of fever and chills, they have given me time to ponder life and circumstances and trouble. I jotted down a few notes to help me remember things that seemed most significant and worthy to be revisited now and then.
Things like being more empathetic toward those who are habitually sick. I’m not talking about the hypochondriacs who are constantly convincing themselves that they are one step from death, but those who deal with permanent conditions that make breathing difficult or cause the simple act of digestion to produce horrendous pain. My prayers for them will be more than just the recitation that they too often have become, and I will work harder to make them part of an effectual fervent prayer like James prescribed (James 5:16).
I’ve been reminded of the value of having good friends and committed people around you. A few good men shouldered my ministry responsibilities and our congregation lacked for little while I was sick. Great sermons, strong prayers, and quality management pushed things forward while I coughed and napped.
I’ve pondered a bit about the purpose of sickness. Not so much about why or how it comes, but can it have some spiritual usefulness? For instance, if I have a headache, could it be a call for me to pray for those who I know are sick and troubled with pain? Kind of a fight fire with fire notion. Can healing be quickened by looking away from ourselves and showing compassion for others? Can I turn my suffering into a blessing for someone who may be hurting more than I, and at the same time, improve my own situation?
When folks are sick, some of their daily needs go unmet. One thing that worried me was that my lawn mower needs repaired and I couldn’t get it to the shop. Three weeks later, weeds and wild onions are six inches tall in my backyard and my broken mower still sits in the garage. Now that I’m better, I can get it fixed, but another week will go by before the grass will be cut.
I confess that when I ask sick folks what I can do for them, I’m not thinking about mowing lawns or hauling trash or depositing checks or scheduling oil changes. But in the future I will. Life’s pesky little tasks have a way of relentlessly demanding your attention. Removing those can be a huge relief to a man too sick to make them go away on his own.
I don’t recommend getting sick, but the experience is a good reminder of both the brevity and purpose of life. Embrace life, but remember that it’s lived best looking into the eyes of others instead of being occupied solely with your own little world. Remember Job’s trouble? All that changed when he prayed for his friends.
I guess there is value in every situation, but I suggest that you take your vitamins, drink your milk, wash your hands, and stay well!