BY DR. RICHARD D. DOBBINS
At some time in our lives most of us will suffer from an illness that does not respond to divine healing.
CARING FOR THE REQUIRE A THEOLOGY OF SUFFERING
If you live long enough, you will need to care for people you love during their times of illness.
For those of us who believe in divine healing, these circumstances pose complex and difficult questions. Why do godly people get sick and suffer? Why aren’t all sick believers healed? We don’t know the answer to these questions.
However, in Philippians 3:10, Paul prays: “THAT I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” Here, Paul is praying that he may be able to enter into a fellowship of suffering with Christ. Only when we suffer can we begin to understand what Jesus experienced in His body when He took our sins on himself.
Before the Fall there was no suffering. Sin introduced suffering. As long as we are in our present state we will suffer. It is a normal part of the fallen life. The fall of Adam made the suffering and death of Christ necessary. In suffering we come to terms with our fallen nature. It reminds us of who we are and it reminds us of who God is.
Peter teaches believers that it is helpful to normalize their suffering rather than to catastrophize it (see 1 Peter 4:12,13). Peter says that fiery trials of life are really not strange or unusual. They are just a normal part of life. And they are life’s way of teaching us patience, for Peter says that our suffering is an instrument God uses to purify our faith.
James admonishes the sick to pray, engage in self-examination, and confess their sins (see James 5:13-16). The purpose of that prayer is to keep us from bringing on ourselves any illness or suffering because we are living in a state of disobedience. Once we examine ourselves and confess our sins, we know the blood of Christ cleanses us. We certainly do not need to condemn ourselves when we are ill. Suffering the illness is enough.
Paul shares with us another dimension of the theology of suffering in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, where he tells about a “thorn in the flesh” that he had. He asked God to remove it, and the Lord told him His grace was sufficient for him and His strength would be made perfect in Paul’s weakness.
CARING FOR THE SICK CREATES COMPASSION
Matthew 9:36 says that when Jesus saw the crowds He was moved with compassion for them.
Compassion is a deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the desire to relieve that suffering. People who are aware of the suffering of others but have no wish to relieve it are only
capable of pity. But people of compassion want to do something about the suffering they observe.
The communication of this compassion alone has the power to alleviate the suffering of those you are caring for. Not all medical professionals are people of compassion. However, those who have close
and continuing contact with patients must be compassionate if they are to maximize the healing impact of their work.
Compassion in itself carries tremendous healing potential. Just the touch or presence of a compassionate person enhances the healing potential of the human body. People with gifts of healing are usually people of great compassion.
It is my obligation to have compassion when I approach the sick to pray for them. God does not want us to become indifferent to the suffering around us. He wants to move us with compassion to do something to relieve sickness and suffering. Whenever possible, we should pray for the sick. We never know when our prayer will be the means God uses to heal them.
CARING FOR THE SICK INSPIRES APPRECIATION FOR HEALING
Those in the area of faith and science need to be humbled by the fact that eventually every person we pray for or treat will die. Healing that extends quality life is a gift from God regardless of how it comes to us. And in many instances it is the product of both faith and science.
Many illnesses are stress related. So if you have deeply ingrained mental, spiritual, and emotional ways of reacting to stress that predispose you to illness, the fact that you are healed from one illness is not going to protect you from the invisible way you make yourself vulnerable to the disease process.
The person who knows the Lord and the peace and joy of the Lord is maximizing his or her defenses against stress and putting himself in a strong position for health and healing.
Jesus points to the things we retain in memory the “abundance of the heart” (see Matthew 12:34, 35)-the attitudes, feelings, the way we deal with life, flexibility or rigidity, and says all these factors have an influence on what we choose to talk about.
When God admonishes us to be holy like Him (see Leviticus 11:45), He is challenging us to be as healthy as He is. He is totally alive and totally healthy. So living in a right relationship with God will maximize the body’s potential for life and healing.
CARING FOR THE SICK MAKES ONE GRATEFUL FOR HEALTH
It does not matter how much money you have, you cannot buy your health. Health is a wonderful gift from God.
The enemy wants to make the inevitability of death a myth to us. He does not want us to live in the awareness that our life is limited. Because he knows that if we do, we will begin to value our days, value
our health, and these issues will open us to God.
Caring for the sick is a way of shattering the myth of the enemy. When you see your loved ones experience a lingering illness, the frailty of life and the blessing of health come into clear focus. As long as I know my time here is limited, that I am gripped with a terminal illness called sin and humanity, then God has me where He can talk to me, bring grace to me, and help me to make the most of my days.
Jesus’ command for us to visit the sick (see Matthew 25:31-46) is not only given to help us become compassionate and to bring healing and restoration to them, but also to make us better stewards of our lives and our time. It helps us live our lives for Him and not ourselves.
CARING FOR THE SICK REVEALS THE STRENGTH OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT
One of the amazing things you discover when caring for the sick is the strength of the human spirit. When I was a pastor what amazed me the most was how often I would go into homes hoping to be a blessing to
the sick and leave feeling blessed by the sick.
The strength of the human spirit is awesome, especially when reinforced by God’s amazing grace. I often found better attitudes at the bedside of the sick than I found in the sanctuary on Sunday morning.
People who are physically healthy but spiritually bitter are to be pitied more than the people who are crippled in body but strong in spirit. When you care for the sick you discover the true person. Sickness has a way of revealing who you are.
I remember being so crippled from rheumatoid arthritis that I was unable to put on my own coat or drive my own car. I was only 28 years old. But someone touched God for me. I awoke one morning without pain,
totally free from rheumatoid arthritis.
Jesus is still in the healing business. Just as He has touched others, He can touch you. Open your heart to Him. Acknowledge that your body belongs to Him. Ask Jesus to be glorified in your body.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY GUIDELINES FOR GOOD LIVING, A PUBLICATION OF THE MEDIA MINISTRIES OF THE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD, VOL. VII, NO. 84. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESARCH PURPOSES ONLY.