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.