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Reflections on Sickness

March 23, 2008

The great Baptist preacher C. H. Spurgeon once gave an address to his ministerial students after a period of great sickness. Amidst his reflections on his illness, Spurgeon remarked,

Men who have had the most touching pathos, the highest spirituality, the most marvellous insight into the deep things of God, have often known little of bodily health. . . . My brethren, physical force is not our strength; it may be our weakness. . . . when we are strong, then we are weak; . . . when we think we have reached perfection, the blue mould of pride is coming over us.
(An All-Round Ministry [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2000], 209-212)

Surely Spurgeon was right. Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, and so many others who were greatly used of God have also suffered greatly in their physical bodies. Although I have not suffered nearly as much as Spurgeon, my family and I have endured illness during the last week. Inspired by Spurgeon and my recent experiences, I thought that I might give some of my own reflections on sickness.

Sickness should first remind us of the Fall. The very experience of pain and suffering reminds us that something is horribly not right with the world. There is something fundamentally wrong with the way the world works. Sickness, although a normal part of human experience, forces us to face the fact that the world is not as it should be. The creation is crying out and groaning under the curse of Adam, waiting its day of redemption when the sons of God will be revealed, the day of the resurrection. Perhaps this is one reason that God allows us to experience sickness – to remind us of the effects of sin. Although each experience of illness is not necessarily the result of our own personal sin, it is still true that sin brings death. Adam and Eve began to die the day they sinned. Even so today, our own personal sin brings disastrous consequences for our own lives. Moreover, we, by our sin, affect untold numbers of other human lives, similar to how the sin of Adam affected the entire race. This should inculcate within us a hatred for sin, the result of which is enmity with its existence in our lives.

The second thing that sickness should remind us of is what has already previously been alluded to – freedom from this curse. Christians are pilgrims in this world on their way to another city. Sickness reminds us of this, because in that city there will be no sickness. We should not be at home in this world, but should ever be longing for our true home. Sickness sanctifies us by weaning us from the pleasures of this world. On this day of celebration of Christ’s resurrection, we should be especially mindful of the Christian’s great hope – the resurrection of the body and the vision of God. On that day there will be a new heavens and a new earth in which there will no longer be any sin or any of the effects of sin.

Finally, sickness is intended by God to remind us of our constant dependency on him. He it is who upholds the universe. Apart from God’s constant sustaining work, all would cease to exist that has been created. Surely this is true with regard to our lives and our health. He it is who fills our lungs with breath and causes our hearts to beat. He can at any time he pleases choose to remove our good health and even to end our lives. We should therefore see our time on this earth as borrowed time, for he owes us nothing, and should seek to redeem the time while we are still able to. Sickness will still come for the Christian who is traveling the path of faith, and this sickness will sometimes end in death. But even so we need not fear death for “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-55)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. tylerray permalink
    April 4, 2008 9:21 am

    Spurgeon’s thoughts are always a pleasure to read. His thoughts on depression helped me a great deal when I was going through that about a year ago. Valuable insights are learned, but how easily they are forgotten!

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