I was reading an article recently by one of my very favorites – J. C. Ryle – entitled simply, “Sickness.” It is a chapter in his wonderful book, Practical Religion. Ryle proposes several reasons why the Lord permits even His own people to suffer sickness (and we can apply these reasons to other kinds of suffering as well). Here is what he proposed:
- Sickness helps to remind people of death and thus the folly of living one’s life as if they were never going to die and stand before God.
- Sickness helps to make men think seriously of God and their souls and the world to come.
- Sickness helps to soften our hearts, and teach us wisdom.
- Sickness helps to humble us.
- Sickness helps to test a person’s religion to demonstrate whether it is true or not.
Now, even though many if not most people fail to see these benefits when they suffer, this only demonstrates the depth of man’s sin and depravity. Sickness, as Ryle says, should be seen as God’s “day of visitation,” to make us think and consider the real and eternal issues of life.
And so, the next time you suffer, do as the old Puritans exhorted us to do – improve upon that suffering. Let the Lord through it improve you and bring you closer to Him.
Often sickness comes because we are out of proper relationship with God, ourselves, or others.
In the case of sickness that comes from being in an abusive relationship, we are out of healthy relationship with all three.
When we live in cognitive and spiritual dissonance we (may) get disease as a result.
In this case it is our body needing us to face reality and cease relationship with abusive people whether they be a spouse, parent, friend, or the church.
I have personally experienced miracles in physical healing by ending an abusive relationship.
And I know many others who have, too.
In these cases, it isn’t God using sickness and torture to bring us closer to Him. It is our own spirit reacting in the way it was designed to when we put ourselves outside of the healthy relationship God wants for us.
This reminds me of a great book I read about how physically sickness often comes from an emotional place – how we can’t separate sickness and disease from the mind or emotions: “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk M.D. p. 2015.
It is a secular book, so there is an element of if you just get everything holistically correct you can heal yourself. Which is not possible for some or many people; but it was helpful to understand sickness from a more holistic perspective instead of just physical.
We live in a fallen world, but our God is al powerful and still uses trauma “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” “Isaiah 61:3
IMHO, These are all true. AND the Lord permits suffering due to the mix of believers and non-believers in this world. After a normal human being passes through suffering, believer or not, the person has empathy for others in a similar situation, thus bringing them together compellingly in a situation where 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 can be lived out in a compelling way. We suffer SO THAT God can comfort us “[SO] THAT we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” [kjv]. And when believers and unbelievers are brought together compellingly via suffering, there is quite often an open door to hearing the next step in the gospel (I planted, apollos waters) and sometimes that leads to salvation for the unbeliever.
Thank you for this encouraging post to “improve upon that suffering”
J. C. Ryle is also one of my favourites.
Such a timely post for me to share … earlier today a friend messaged me for prayer because family members were ill. They agreed that although we pray it is difficult to watch and wait for loved ones to be healed.
Thanking an awesome God for His tender mercies. <3
Also, the human body, although wonderfully made, is fragile and does wear out…