Seeking God’s Will, Amidst Chronic Illness
Have you ever asked, Why me? Why am I sick? Well, it could be as simple as the fact that our bodies break down and there is disease in this existence. Sometimes it is just the plain act of nature and the consequences of living in a mortal body, in the midst of our environment.
We tend to think getting a disease or disorder is rare, but in fact, it is quite common. Over 125 million Americans (Partnership for Solutions, 2001) or 2 out of every 10 people have some type of chronic condition. The National Institute of Nursing Research found that 40 million are limited in their daily activities (1997); that is 17% of the population or almost 1 in 5. Really, it is not so uncommon as we may think!
Still, we often ask ourselves if it is just the fate of living on this earth with these bodies or ifGod chose for us to have this infirmity. I do know that God does allow suffering in this world for many reasons.
“It is God’s way of arousing us from spiritual lethargy. Your problems are not punishment; they are wake-up calls from a loving God. God is not mad at you; he’s mad about you, and he will do whatever it takes to bring you back into fellowship with him” Rick Warren examines in his book, The Purpose Driven Life.
Our Lord is aware of our suffering and sometimes allows us to go through very difficult things so we can get our priorities straight. Of course, I would rather be acting, singing, dancing, working, riding horses and on and on. But we all have greater purposes on this earth, other than pleasing ourselves and making our selves look good. God has us here to find Him, worship Him, become more like Him, fellowship with others, missions and ministry. Those are our real purposes and we can choose to do those or choose what society thinks is most important.
It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone (Ephesians 1:11).
We often think our lives should be void of suffering. But the Bible says we WILL suffer here on earth. Just the very fact that we are not with God is suffering. Add our human, selfish behaviors and difficulties with relationships, not to mention our fallible, decaying bodies. Warren expounds:
Life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, earth is not heaven! Many Christians misinterpret Jesus’ promise of the ‘abundant life’ to mean perfect health, a comfortable lifestyle, constant happiness, full realization of your dreams, and instant relief from problems through faith and prayer. In a word, they expect the Christian life to be easy. They expect heaven on earth. This self-absorbed perspective treats God as a genie who simply exists to serve you in your selfish pursuit of personal fulfillment.
But God is not your servant, and if you fall for the idea that life is supposed to be easy, either you will become severely disillusioned or you will live in denial of reality. Never forget that life is not about you! You exist for God’s purposes, not vice versa. Why would God provide heaven on earth when he’s planned the real thing for you in eternity? God gives us our time on earth to build and strengthen our character for heaven.
As a result, a better question than asking, “Will I suffer?” is to ask, “How should I deal with suffering?” God does not allow us to go through difficulty without being there to offer His hand. Honestly, I am not going to say that physical suffering is easy!! But, I will say that when I focus on it and getting my life back, versus what God may be trying to communicate, I am depressed, frustrated and ANGRY!!! On the other hand, when I focus on His Word, His purpose and His will, I am brought comfort and peace and sometimes even thankfulness!
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
When we gain a “big picture” perspective of God’s plan and this earth not being our ultimate home, we can live with hope. “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Moreover, He will bless us with His peace, despite our circumstances. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
He gives us this peace when we seek Him, above ourselves. Focusing on Him and His Word is not always simple – it takes diligence. But, we are like ranting children. If we would just settle down and stop to hear what our parents want us to do, we will be rewarded. “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
However, at times, that peace does not come quickly and easily. So, we must not give up!! Warren reminds us:
God is always present, even when you are unaware of him, and his presence is too profound to be measured by mere emotion. Yes, he wants you to sense his presence, but he’s more concerned that you trust him than that you feel him. Faith, not feelings, pleases God. The situations that will stretch your faith most will be those times when life falls apart and God is nowhere to be found…. How do you keep your eyes on Jesus when they’re full of tears? You do what Job did:
“Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised’” (Job 1:20-21).
Tell God exactly how you feel. Pour out your heart to God. Unload every emotion that you’re feeling. Job did this when he said, ‘I can’t be quiet! I am angry and bitter. I have to speak!’ God can handle your doubt, anger fear, grief, confusion and questions…. So don’t be troubled by trouble. Circumstances cannot change the character of God. God’s grace is still in full force; he is still for you, even when you don’t feel it. In the absence of confirming circumstances, Job held on to God’s Word.
He said, “I have not departed from the commands of his lips; In have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12).
After a period of time and Job persisted in his pursuit of God, He once again heard God’s voice and felt His presence. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time;” (1 Peter, 5:6). “I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?” (Hebrews 13: 5-6).
Luke says, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11: 9).
We all know that passage, but we tend to skip the “seeking” part. Even though we may “ask,” we often fail to “seek” Him out! However, The Bible says that those who do not seek Him, will not understand Him. Yet, when we seek Him, we are given “eyes to see and ears to hear.”
Start asking God to give it to you (passion for him), and keep on asking until you have it. Pray this throughout your day; ‘Dear Jesus, more than anything else, I want to get to know you intimately.’ God told the captives in Babylon,
“When you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed” (Jeremiah 29:13).
Despite our temporary circumstances here on this earth, we never have to ask, “What has God done for me?” Warren points out:
Remember what God has already done for you. If God never did anything else for you, he would still deserve your continual praise for the rest of you life because of what Jesus did for you on the cross. God’s Son died for you! This is the greatest reason for worship…. That alone is worthy of your continual thanks and praise. Never again should you wonder what you have to be thankful for.
Given all of this, we must remember that God is God. He gives us an understanding, but we cannot expect to fully understand. It would be like trying to explain the stock market to a dog. A dog would never have the capacity to comprehend it all. Besides, if we knew everything God knew, we would be equal to Him. Obviously, we are not! What’s more, if He told us everything, then we would not be required to have FAITH. Therefore, we must grasp the knowledge He gives us and trust Him for the rest.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46:1-3).
Copyright 2004 – Where Is God Ministries